Black Gotham Stories

Men of Science

Philip White, pharmacist

P. A. White advertisement

James McCune Smith, doctor

Peter Williams Ray, doctor

Peter Guignon who
took over Peter W.
Ray's pharmacy

Dr. John Van Surley DeGrasse

Most astonishing was the number of men of science, undoubtedly drawn to medicine and pharmacy for a variety of reasons: the money to be made, the skills demanded, the prestige accrued, and most importantly the power to heal.  James McCune Smith received his medical degree from the University of Glasgow in the late 1830s and then returned to the city of his birth to establish a medical and pharmaceutical practice on West Broadway.  In 1840, he brought Philip White into in pharmacy as an apprentice.  After receiving his degreee from the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York, Philip set up his own drugstore on the corner of Frankfort and Gold Streets. 

Two other young men soon joined the medical ranks: John DeGrasse, the youngest son of George and Maria DeGrasse, and Peter Williams Ray, the brother of Peter Guignon's second wife Cornelia.  By the mid-1850s, Peter Guignon seemed to be struggling as a hairdresser so Ray took his new brother-in-law Peter Guignon into his pharmacy and put him to work as a druggist.