By William Bork

Harry Brisley, a native of London, England, came to Prescott and set up his drugstore on Whiskey Row in 1893.  He remained in business until the sale of the store to W.S. Bontag in 1925. From early on, he was a big booster of the climate, scenic beauties of the area, and of other attractions.  A native of London, where he had completed a rigorous apprenticeship, he was joined by a cousin, T. Ed Litt, a Canadian, born in Stratford, Ontario, who soon chose to move to Tucson, where he was in business at the corner of Congress and Stone in the downtown until 1949.  It appears that Brisley came to Arizona by way of Canada and many people thought both men were Canadians.  A true Canadian, E.A. Kastner, a grocer, who introduced the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket to Prescott, came here at about the same time.


Of great interest, historically, is the scope of Brisley's business as described in the small type on the face of the envelope below the firm's name. "Harry Brisley, Leading Prescription Pharmacists and General Merchants. Orders at Wholesale Solicited and Receive Prompt Attention and Close Prices. Our Lines Embrace "Everything Curative" and Large Assortments of Stationary, Toilet Goods, Cigars, Liquors, Garden Seeds, Etc., Etc.". It shows the spread of the drugstore from the classic prescription druggist's and its patent medicines (the "chemist's shop" in Britain) into sundry other activities. 


A 1907 postcard reads: 
" PRESCOTT, ARIZONA, 'Best Town on the Map'". Our 'Mountain City', situated 5304 feet above sea level and surrounded by forests of pine and juniper, is the hub of the mining industry of Northern Arizona and the central point of several railroads developing and opening up her vast mineral regions and resources. The sun is seen 360 days in the year. Here the sick and the robust inhale the purest air--dry, bracing and ozone laden by its passage over desert ranges and rocky mountain peaks. In refined homes, intelligent and moral citizens, fine buildings, public schools, electric lighting, telephones, electric car service, municipal water system, sewerage and other evidences of an advanced civilization, she is unsurpassed by any city of equal population in these broad United States. 


"PRESCOTT is known as the truly American city of Arizona??the best city of residence in the Southwest??into whose lap pours much of the wealth of her surrounding gold and copper mines, a spring continually flowing and destined to become a truly artesian by later development. When home-seeking, seek PRESCOTT; when searching for health, rest beneath our sunny skies. If desirous of coming west and 'growing up with the country', no citizens will give you a warmer welcome, no country a kindlier smile. 


"Ours is 'The song of the Deed in the Doing of the Work still hot from the Hand; of the yoke of man laid friendly-wise on the neck of a Tameless Land'. 


"We invite you to join us or address PRESCOTT PUBLICITY COMMITTEE." 


From this, it appears that Brisley's Prescott Publicity Committee may have been the precursor of the Chamber of Commerce. It may also be assumed that he was also creator of many of the slogans and nicknames, such as the "Mountain City". Brisley's enthusiasm for Prescott was part of his advertising. He was one of the organizers, evidently, of the precursor of the Chamber of Commerce, for he invites people to join or write to the Prescott Publicity Committee. 


This trend in Brisley's business brought the commentary, "You can get it at Brisley's BAZAAR" from Warren E. Day, M.D., the Civil War surgeon, who practiced medicine in Prescott from 1877 to the late 1920's. One wonders what he would think of drugstores nowadays. 


As the largest and most continuous purveyor of picture postcards which preceded the promotions of early automobile clubs and were present decades before ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, he was accompanied by other Prescott drugstores, such as Corbin & Bork (later the Owl Drug & Candy Company), W.H. Timerhoff, Heil's Drugstore, A.W. Robinson's Newstand, and the post?WWI stationers, Peterson, Brooke and Steiner in community and state promotion of Arizona's attractions. 


Brisley also did a little commenting, in his postcard selections, on our local post-pioneer social attitudes regarding the indigenous population, pioneer prospecting and mining, bounty hunting, and the administration of justice. The last mentioned was a set of four cards showing the last hanging by the county sheriff on the town plaza. 


Harry Brisley and his wife had a daughter, Mabel, and a son, Harold, who grew up in Prescott and graduated from Prescott High School. Harold became a respected mining engineer with Phelps Dodge in Douglas, Arizona. Harry Brisley retired to Orange County, California, where he had a small orange grove. This writer once visited him there in the mid 30s. 


One photo preserved in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives shows Harry Brisley sitting by one of the waterfalls on Aspen Creek, probably engaged in an effort to catch one of the fish which were found there in the early 1900s. He sold a postcard of the same site and similar falls on Butte Creek. 


William Bork is a long time resident of Prescott.

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (bui139p). Reuse only by permission.
Inside the Brisley Drug Store is Harry Brisley, second from right (in the background) and his children seated in the front. The store was located on the northwest corner of Gurley and Cortez streets. Brisley was one of Prescott's earliest boosters.