Apothecary Collection

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The John K. & Mary Jean White Apothecary Collection

Collecting antiques has been an interest of John and his late wife, Mary Jean White, since they began building a life together in 1945. John’s mother and father were collectors and he inherited their love of antiques. Apothecary items were a natural extension of the hobby after John (JK) graduated from the The Ohio State University School of Pharmacy in 1949.

Whether antiques or, as seen here, apothecary and drug store items, this compilation captures a lifetime of passion for collecting, and serves as an emblem of the pharmaceutical profession and its place in our community.

This album is divided into three main sections: Apothecary, Patent Medicines and Odds and Ends.

For almost 60 years and in three different locations, White’s Pharmacy has been a staple on the east side of Columbus. It remains today as one of the last few independent drug stores in Ohio. Attention to detail, friendly staff and free delivery service are the cornerstones to what makes White’s a treasure. Many customer’s have been coming to White’s for over 50 years.

Patent Medicines

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Patent medicine refers to medical compounds of questionable effectiveness sold under a variety of names and labels. The phrase is somewhat misleading because for the most part these products were trademarked, not patented (most avoided the patent process so as not to reveal products’ often hazardous and questionable ingredients). In ancient times, such medicine was called nostrum remedium; “our remedy” in Latin. The name patent medicine has become particularly associated with the sale of drug compounds in the nineteenth century under an array of colorful names and even more colorful claims.

The promotion of patent medicines was one of the first major products highlighted by the advertising industry, and many advertising and sales techniques were pioneered by patent medicine promoters. Patent medicine advertising often talked-up exotic ingredients, even if their actual effects came from more prosaic drugs. One memorable group of patent medicines — liniments that allegedly contained snake oil, supposedly a panacea — made snake oil salesman a lasting synonym for a charlatan.

Source: Wikipedia

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Humphrey’s’ Homeopathic

In 1853, Dr. Humphrey’s became one of the leading homeopathic physicians in New York. As one of his most pivotal and significant contributions to homeopathic medicine, Dr. Humphrey’s introduced his finding of homeopathic “combinations” and coined the term “Homeopathic Specifics.” The value of combination preparations was that they offered, in a single dose, what traditional homeopathic physicians would prescribe by the individual ingredient, or “singles.”

This approach made it easy for homeopaths to diagnose and self-prescribe without the need to worry about a host of traditional concerns, including content or potency selection.

Source: humphreysusa.com

Apothecary

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The White’s started collecting various apothecary items after JK received his degree from The Ohio State University’s School of Pharmacy in 1949. John and his wife Mary Jean were already collecting antiques for there home. Their dealer, Pick Richardson initiated the interest in Apothecary from antiques he had obtained from his annual trips to the east.

Pick would drive his station wagon and trailer through New England every fall and attend auctions, buying items he thought would be of interest to his customers. Many of the apothecary bottles in the collection were purchased by Pick in one hundred bottle lots for .50 a piece. The Whites purchased the entire collection.

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Sea Chests

The White’s started collecting various apothecary items after JK received his degree from The Ohio State University’s School of Pharmacy in 1949. John and his wife Mary Jean were already collecting antiques for there home. Their dealer, Pick Richardson initiated the interest in Apothecary from antiques he had obtained from his annual trips to the east.

Pick would drive his station wagon and trailer through New England every fall and attend auctions, buying items he thought would be of interest to his customers. Many of the apothecary bottles in the collection were purchased by Pick in one hundred bottle lots for .50 a piece. The Whites purchased the entire collection.

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Show Globes

In the past, apothecary Show Globes were the symbol for pharmacy much like the barber pole was for the barber. From the early 1880’s until the
1950’s most pharmacies would hang or display a show globe to identify
their drugstore.

Inside the show globe the pharmacist would add colored water by mixing chemicals together to give the globe great beauty. Back then, every pharmacist had his own special colaration formula to color the water
inside the show globe and they took great pride in creating and showing
off their ability to mix the perfect color.

The only reason pharmacists used show globes was to display their chemical prowess. Often the globe contained layered colors so it looked striped. The druggist would use various liquids of differing densities to cause the layered effect. When show globes were in use drugs were extracted from plants more often than they were triturated with a mortar and pestle.

Most pharmacists would take the crude drug, like digitalis, and add cold, warm or hot water to the plants and let them steep. Often he would use alcohol for the extraction process. Once the extraction was done he would place the tincture or extract into bottles waiting to be mixed into
a concoction of some type.

The ability to properly extract and mix was the sign of a competent druggist. Therefore, coloring the water of a show globe would display this ability. Remember that prior to the early 1900’s most states didn’t even require a college degree to be licensed as a pharmacist. That being said, prior to 1900 most states didn’t even require pharmacists to be licensed to practice medicine.

Many articles appear even into the 1930’s speaking of “two by four” drugstores being opened by unscrupulous practitioners. A man could come to town and basically go into the drugstore business without much inventory, knowledge or skill. The show globe was a way an educated and skilled druggist could be recognized by his community.

source: drugstoremuseum.com

Prescriptions

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The concept of prescriptions dates back to the beginning of history. So long as there were medications and a writing system to capture directions for preparation and usage, there were prescriptions.

Modern prescriptions are actually “extemporaneous prescriptions” from the Latin (ex tempore) for “at/from time”. “Extemporaneous” means the prescription is written on the spot for a specific patient with a specific ailment. This is distinguished from a non-extemporaneous prescription which is a generic recipe for a general ailment. Modern prescriptions evolved with the separation of the role of the pharmacists from that of the physician. Today the term “extemporaneous prescriptions” is reserved for “compound prescriptions” which requires the pharmacist to mix or “compound” the medication in the pharmacy for the specific needs of the patient.

source: wikipedia

 

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Prescriptions were commonly strung on wires or pasted into larger books prior to the development of modern files in the early 1900’s.

Prescriptions were commonly strung on wires or pasted into larger books prior to the development of modern files in the early 1900’s.

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Mortar and Pestles

Mortar and Pestles are the cornerstone of pharmacy compounding. Their versatility extends across the board to virtually almost any compound imaginable. They are useful for mixing and grinding powders together. The resulting powders can be used in capsules, oral liquids, topical creams and ointments just to name a few. The mortar and pestle, along with the Rod of Asclepius, the Green Cross, and others, is one of the most pervasive symbols of pharmacology. For pharmaceutical use, the mortar and the head of the pestle are usually made of porcelain, while the handle of the pestle is made of wood. This is known as a Wedgwood mortar and pestle and originated in 1779. Today the act of mixing ingredients or reducing the particle size is known as trituration.

Good pestle and mortar-making materials must be hard enough to crush the substance rather than be worn away by it. They cannot be too brittle either, or they will break during the pounding and grinding. The material should also be cohesive, so that small bits of the mortar or pestle do not get mixed in with the ingredients. Smooth and non-porous materials are chosen that will not absorb or trap the substances being ground. In food preparation, a rough or absorbent material may cause the strong flavor of a past ingredient to be tasted in food prepared later. Also, the food particles left in the mortar and on the pestle may support the growth of microorganisms. When dealing with medications, the previous prepared drugs may interact or mix, contaminating the currently used ingredients.

Rough ceramic mortar and pestle sets can be used to reduce substances to very fine powders, but stain easily and are brittle. Porcelain mortars are sometimes conditioned for use by grinding some sand to give them a rougher surface which helps to reduce the particle size. Glass mortars and pestles are fragile, but stain-resistant and suitable for use with liquids. However, like the porcelain type, they do not grind as finely as the ceramic type. Other materials used include marble, stone, wood (highly absorbent), bamboo, iron, steel, brass, and basalt. Mortar & Pestle sets made from the wood of old grape vines have proved reliable for grinding salt & pepper at the dinner table. Uncooked rice is sometimes ground in mortars to clean them. This process must be repeated until the rice comes out completely white. Some stones, such as molcajete, need to be seasoned first before use. Metal mortars are kept lightly oiled.

Odds and Ends

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Some items in the collection are a little harder to classify. Personal interests, trends, changing times all were reasons some things were set aside for posterity. The following pages contain a few of the items that the Whites have collected over the years—some valuable, most not—but all of them fascinating.

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