Ceramic medicine pots

Sometime ago I wrote about the paucity of decorative ceramic medicine pots in Australia.

These pots, usually with a nicely printed lid are quite common overseas, but seem to be less common in Australia, and at the time of my initial post I hypothesized that the pots were manufactured and printed overseas, and the expense of importing them made it not worth the effort.

So, just as bottles were valuable and attracted a deposit 

C19 bottle of Whale Oil and 4d deposit label on rear

we might guess that the same applied to ceramic pots.

And that was just a hypothesis until yesterday when I was cataloguing a plain ceramic medicine pot from Duerdin and Sainsbury, a wholesale druggist in Melbourne, who were around from at least the 1860’s until they merged into DHA – Drug Houses of Australia – in 1930.

The pot is quite unremarkable and a little battered


as with all such items an exact date is difficult but stylistically the paper label looks to be late nineteenth rather than early twentieth century


but the real find is a deposit sticker on the base of the pot


which means that Duerdin and Sainsbury considered the pot relatively valuable, and what’s more wanted the pot back for reuse – and 4d was a reasonable sum – using the RBA’s pre decimal inflation calculator, 4d in 1901 comes out at a little over $2.50 today

Annotation 2019-08-01 095521

and closer to $3.50 if it dated from the 1860’s – so, given we don’t know the exact date of the pot, we can wave our hands and say that the 4d deposit was worth around $3 in today’s money – not massive, but certainly enough to make you think twice about throwing the empty item away …

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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