From a small town apothecary to one of the most successful drug wholesalers, the Morris Dickson pharmaceutical building on Travis St. is one of the most iconic to grace the downtown cityscape. Founded in 1841, this historic building practically grew up with Shreveport and is one of the city’s first established businesses that is still operating today.
These days, Morris Dickson is the oldest family-owned pharmaceutical distributor in the country. It all started out with humble beginnings and a dream, but with a little ingenuity and perseverance, the company turned its meager prospects into a lifetime legacy.
A Fortuitous Meeting
In 1838, John W. Morris and Thomas Henry Morris, two brothers from Wales, received degrees in pharmacy and chemistry. Later that year, the duo made the trip from England to the United States to meet with Bishop Leonidas Polk on the recommendation of the Church of England. Polk told them Shreveport—then known as Shreve Town—was destined to be one of the most prosperous towns on the upper banks of the Red River.
The brothers took his advice, and a few years later, Morris & Co. opened shop.
The late 1800s brought about hardship for folks in the South thanks to a series of catastrophic events that threatened the economy. The effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction in particular were felt all across the South, but even more so in thriving port cities. During the war, Shreveport served as Confederate headquarters—and, for a brief time, the Confederate capital—and at one point was the target for a large-scale attack that went awry. The Red River, north Louisiana’s most attractive feature, quickly turned into a focal point of attack for Union leaders.
The trials did not stop with the war, however. In 1873, a yellow fever epidemic swept over the region, threatening to wipe Shreveport off the map. “Graves were filled as fast as they could be dug,” one survivor remarked. By the end of the summer, a quarter of the residents had died.
From Small-Town Apothecary to Worldwide Distributor
Shreveport prevailed, growing its financial base in the process. Timber, cotton and commerce industries flourished, and Morris & Co. grew along with it.
Decades after opening its doors, Morris & Co. attracted the attention of Dr. Samuel Dickson and his brother, who bought interest in the company. A few decades and a handful of name changes later, the company eventually came to be known as Morris & Dickson Co., LTD. To this day, the Dickson family still owns and oversees operations.
The Dickson brothers brought with them modern innovation to enhance operations. By the early 1900s, the company leveraged automation techniques that allowed them to maintain a competitive edge in the industry. In 1985, Morris & Dickson moved from its downtown warehouse to a spacious location on the outskirts of Shreveport.
Learning and Have A Drink or Two with History on Tap
On March 10, tour downtown Shreveport’s beautiful historic buildings and learn all about the city’s colorful past—all with a cold beer in hand. History on Tap pairs old buildings with unique brews and might even teach you a thing or two.