“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Luebbert’s Phamarcy – A story that’s so much more than Just an old Shanghai ad – The Travails of a Shanghailander Family

Posted: September 5th, 2016 | 7 Comments »

Sometimes an advert from old Shanghai leads you to a tale of old Shanghai life that is both fantastic, inspiring, dramatic and tragic. This advert, from 1930, for Luebbert’s Pharmacy is one such…

Luebberts Pharmacy - Nanking Rd - 1930

In 1920 33-year-old Edward G. Luebbert of New York State turns up in Shanghai. He’s graduated from the Union College of Pharmacy in Albany, NY; he’s a Great War veteran who saw service in Europe. He’s come to Shanghai to work for the American Drug Company. Things work out for Ed – around 1925 he starts his own business, Luebbert’s American Pharmacy with a prestige location on Nanking Road at the Junction of Kiangse Road (Nanjing and Jiangxi today). It moves locations a few times, but is always prominent. The business does well; everyone recognises the Luebbert’s liveried trucks delivering medicines around town. Ed marries a White Russian girl in Shanghai called Mania. It’s a good marriage; they have three kids – two girls and a boy.

Early in 1937 Ed had to return to the USA for an operation. He was worried about the worsening political situation with Japan and the possibility of war in Shanghai so he sent Mania and the children to Manila. War did break out in July 1937 and Luebbert’s store was destroyed in the bombing. Ed couldn’t get Mania to the US as the immigration quotas for stateless Russians were full up. She, with the children, had to stay in Manila.

On May 6th 1942 the Japanese occupied Manila and Mania and her children were trapped in the occupied city. They managed to survive, along with other Russian refugees considered non-combatants and neutrals, in the city. However, when the liberation of Manila came in 1945 they were caught between the fighting American and Japanese armies. The Russian sector of Manila was No Mans Land, much of the city was firebombed. Mania was fatally wounded by shrapnel from an American bomb and her two daughters badly burnt in the fires that raged. The children were taken to an American Army Field Hospital for treatment and then transferred to San Tomas internment camp to await transfer to the USA. They were eventually reunited with their father in Newark where he was living.

Ed Luebbert’s son, Edward H. eventually joined the Marine Corps (below) when he was 17 and fought in Korea. Edward G Luebbert worked as a pharmacist in Newark, he did eventually remarry, and died in 1960, aged 62.

Democrat_and_Chronicle_Thu__Sep_13__1951_

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7 Comments on “Luebbert’s Phamarcy – A story that’s so much more than Just an old Shanghai ad – The Travails of a Shanghailander Family”

  1. 1 Laura Chase Martin said at 6:23 am on April 22nd, 2017:

    This is the story of my grandfather! My Mother is one of Edward’s two daughters. Mania died in the arms of my Mom in Manila. Thank you for posting this article. My Mom – who is 91 – read it and found it very interesting.

  2. 2 Paul French said at 6:00 pm on April 26th, 2017:

    any family photos from Shanghai?? that’s the holy grail for me!!

  3. 3 Anne Atkinson said at 3:29 pm on October 8th, 2017:

    My grandmother, Rebecca Katya Burak, used to work in a pharmacy called the American Pharmacy in Nanking Road from the late 1920s to 1940. She dispensed prescriptions meds and served at the counter, finally becoming head buyer.
    My grandmother (A Russian Jew) was born in Berdichev in 1900 and moved with her family to Harbin in 1908. She entered the Tomsk University Medical school in 1917 and completed half a degree before the Red Army closed the university in 1919and she had to return to Harbin. The family moved to Shanghai in 1920 – from then it is a long story.
    I have the family’s original photo albums from about 1915 through to 1960s which I dont let out of my sight, but happy to send a few scanned photos if you can be specific on what you want.
    Unfortunately, there are no photos of the American pharmacy, although one she owned in Tientsin in the mid-1920s.

  4. 4 Cy Stanley said at 8:02 am on November 25th, 2017:

    My mother had a silver match box with an engraving dated June 18, 37 in French that ends “sincere et cordials Mania Luebbert”

    My grandfather was an editor on the North Daily Star in Shanghai and my mother was born there in 1925. His last name was Zimnisky. They lived in the French Concession area till 1945 when the allies liberated Shanghai and my mother met my father at a party on a battleship. Small world

  5. 5 Laura Chase Martin said at 7:27 am on November 26th, 2017:

    Anne Atkinson -this means your grandmother worked in my grandfather’s pharmacy! Isn’t that amazing? I’d love to see any photos you have of Shanhai from that era. My Mom has no photos except one of her and her nanny at about 3 years old. Nothing else. I look forward to your posts!

  6. 6 Anne Atkinson said at 2:10 pm on November 27th, 2017:

    Laura Chase Martin – I was looking up the advertisement for the pharmacy because I had just listened to the interview on tape that I made with my grandmother in the early 1970s. It must be your grandfather’s pharmacy because she mentioned losing her job in 1937 when the pharmacy was bombed.
    She was a buyer for the pharmacy and requested that she start work early – at 7 am to open the shop – and leave at 4 pm so she could socialise with her friends and play bridge before going home for dinner with her husband and three children. Since doing more research I found out that her first partner (my biological grandfather) bought the California Pharmacy at 155 Avenue Joffre. He was the proprietor and employed a manager and two assistants. I have photos of that pharmacy but not one of your grandfathers.
    She started working for your grandfather in about 1927 or 28.
    Are there any other aspects of Shanghai that you are interested in so I could share some photos?
    If anyone is interested in Fire stations in Shanghai from the mid 1920s until 1941, I have heaps of photos. My adoptive grandfather was the head officer of the Ichang Fire station and before that spent time in each of the others. There are numerous photos of work, play and all manner of fire related events – including him making insurance assessments of bomb damage during the Japanese bombings of Shanghai. And if there is anyone interested, I will be placing his story on a dedicated website in February I hope.

  7. 7 Trista said at 12:08 pm on September 12th, 2021:

    Ed’s son, Edward H. Luebbert is my grandpa! So awesome to stumble upon this article & learn about my family’s history!


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