Bottles, pills and potions

Currently on the project I’m documenting a whole pile of medicines form the 1950’s and 60’s – mostly but not exclusively medications in tubes and creams, something that simply doesn’t exist in the pre-war items.

Now it’s all a bit hand wavy, as the old boy seems never to have thrown anything out – we even have empty bottle of Johnnie Walker from the 1950’s – we can date it securely due to the label style and lack of a royal warrant sticker, but obviously he must have thrown out stuff that was useless.

However, on the basis of what I’ve documented so far I think we can make the following generalisations:

Pre world war 1:

  • Medications mostly made up from materia medica and mostly plant based.
  • Some patent medicines such as cough cures

Between the wars:

  • The gradual appearance of packaged medicines, mostly in pill form
  • The appearance of homeopathic medications for retail sale
  • The appearance of early vitamin like supplements such as liver pills and Pink pills for pale people

After world war 2:

  • Vitamins and multivitamins for retail sale
  • Most perscription medicines packaged, if only in big ‘trade’ size bottles
  • Ointments and creams usually in metal tubes
  • Medicines with antibiotic contents

And of course an increasing consolidation of the pharmaceutical industry. Old Mr Dow of course locked the door for the last time in 1968, so later developements, such as medicines in bubble packs, or the disappearance of film in the early part of this century don’t show up.

What is interesting is that our modern fixation with vitamin pills goes back a long way – certainly to the mid 1950’s …

[update 08 August 2018]

Having spent the last two or three days documenting a whole pile of suppository based medications, most of which date from the 1950’s, we perhaps tend to forget that suppositories predated pills and gelatine capsules as a way of ingesting medication ….

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About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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