Pharmacists, grocers, and many others sold immensely popular patent medicines during the nineteenth century. Premixed patent medicines came with instruction for use and often advertised that they did not contain chemicals commonly used in prescription medications. Neither the United States nor the State of New York had any laws regulating the creation or sale of patent medicines.
Physicians often made house calls to care for their patients. Since many physicians traveled by horseback, these saddlebags allowed doctors to transport their medicines and equipment safely. The saddlebags are made of leather and could be put over the back of a horse or over the doctor’s shoulder.
Pharmacists often advertised their services in local newspapers. Freeborn G. Thrall advertised his shop in the Freeman’s Journal in Cooperstown, New York. Like many other pharmacists at the time, and like today, Thrall carried a variety of goods in addition to prescription medications.
While dental cavities were sometimes filled with gold or silver during the early nineteenth century, decaying teeth were often removed. This item is called a tooth key and was used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to remove molars, the large back teeth. The small, curved, metal arms at the base were set around the affected tooth, and the doctor or dentist grasped the wooden handle at the top. They then twisted and pulled until the tooth loosened and came out.
This stethoscope is made from wood and ivory. While it looks very different from what doctors use to listen to patients’ hearts today, they function in similar ways. The ivory section of the device would be pressed against the patient’s body while the physician would listen to a heartbeat or breathing patterns through the other end.
Doctors and independent pharmacists had to mix their own medicines during the nineteenth century. Solid ingredients could be ground into powders and mixed with other ingredients using a mortar and pestle. Powders could be mixed with liquids to make liquid medicines, or rolled into pills and lozenges.