Charles Rudolph Walgreen

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Charles Rudolph Walgreen
Charles R. Walgreen.jpg
Walgreen, pictured above, is the founder of Walgreens.
Born (1873-10-09)October 9, 1873
Knoxville, Illinois
Died December 11, 1939(1939-12-11) (aged 66)
Cause of death malaria and yellow fever
Nationality American
Alma mater Dixon Business College
Occupation Founder of Walgreens
Spouse(s) Myrtle Norton Walgreen[1]
Children Charles Rudolph Walgreen, Jr.
Ruth Walgreen
Parent(s) Carl Magnus Olofsson

Charles Rudolph Walgreen (October 9, 1873 – December 11, 1939) was an American businessman who founded Walgreens.


He was born in Knoxville, Illinois before moving to Galesburg, Illinois at a young age. He is the son of Swedish immigrants.

In the 1790s, Charles's great-great-great-grandfather, Sven Olofsson, adopted the surname Wahlgren, Swedish pronunciation: [vɑːlgreːn] during his military service, a family fact passed down over the generations. When Charles's father, Carl Magnus Olofsson, came to America from Sweden, he decided to change the family name Walgreen.[2] When Charles was still quite young he and his family relocated to Dixon, Illinois in 1887. He attended Dixon High School, Dixon, IL (1889) and Dixon Business College. He was a member of the international fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon.[3]

As a young adult, he lost part of a finger in an accident at a shoe factory. The doctor who treated him persuaded him to become an apprentice for a local druggist. His interest in pharmacy dated from the time he was employed by D.S. Horton, a druggist in Dixon where he was apprenticed as a pharmacist. In 1893, Walgreen went to Chicago and became a registered pharmacist.[4] At the start of the Spanish–American War, Walgreen enlisted with the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. While serving in Cuba, he contracted malaria and yellow fever, which continued to plague him for the rest of his life.[5]


After his discharge, Walgreen returned to Chicago and worked as a pharmacist for Isaac Blood. In 1901, when Blood retired, Walgreen bought the store from him. He opened a second store in 1909, and by 1916 owned nine drug stores, which he incorporated as Walgreen Co. Walgreens was one of the first chains to carry non-pharmaceuticals as a mainstay of the store's retail selection. Walgreens offered low-priced lunch counters, built its own ice cream factory, and introduced the malted milk shake in 1922. By 1927, Walgreen had established 110 stores.

His son Charles Rudolph Walgreen, Jr. (March 4, 1906 – February 10, 2007) and grandson Charles R. Walgreen III both shared his name and played prominent roles in the company he founded. His daughter, Ruth Walgreen, married Justin Whitlock Dart, Sr.. Dart left the Walgreens company after they divorced, and went on to control rival Rexall Drug Stores in 1943.[6] Ruth, in her adult years a published poet, eventually remarried and began spending winters in Tucson, Arizona, where in the early 1960s she was instrumental in establishing the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona.

He is a member of the Labor Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ [1] Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ America's Corner Store: Walgreen's Prescription for Success Google Books
  3. ^ "BACKTRACKING". Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "LEE COUNTY ILLINOIS GENEALOGY AND HISTORY". Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  6. ^ [2] Archived April 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.


  • Griffin, Marie. Industry 'Legends' Deserve Recognition (Drug Store News, 9 October 1995)
  • Ingham, John N. Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983)
  • Van Doren, Charles, ed. Webster's American Biographies (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1979)

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