As the global threat of drug- and antibiotic-resistant bacteria continues to rise, new strategies are required to advance the drug discovery process. This work describes the construction of an array of Escherichia coli strains for use in whole-cell screens to identify new antimicrobial compounds. We used the recombination systems from bacteriophages lambda and P1 to engineer each strain in the array for low-level expression of a single, essential gene product, thus making each strain hypersusceptible to specific inhibitors of that gene target. Screening of nine strains from the array in parallel against a large chemical library permitted identification of new inhibitors of bacterial growth. As an example of the target specificity of the approach, compounds identified in the whole-cell screen for MurA inhibitors were also found to block the biochemical function of the target when tested in vitro.