30 Mar 2020

Apothecary Anecdotes: Hysteria and a Health Alphabet

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

We often get donations to the Apothecary Hall

Some can go on display immediately, but a lot of bottles and packets will be stored away, with the hope that they be found a use for in the future. ( I rarely throw things way).

Some of these bottles came in very useful shortly after we received a book from one of our members.
The book, which looked to have been well loved and had been repaired several times, was called “Medicine for the Million” and was dated 1906. Quite a few of the entries look a bit dated, sexist,  and sometimes even dangerous. For example “Most hysterical people are girls in their teens……….hysterical fits can be helped by dashing cold  water in her face!”.  Or how about the use of Grey Powder to alleviate diarrhoea in children – the powder is Mercury with chalk!
There is a section with suggestions for a home medicine chest,  containing about 50 items, including scales, eye baths, laxatives, painkillers, disinfectants.  My own medicine chest at home is inside a plastic takeaway box and contains some sticking plasters, lemsips, and a mild painkiller.!
I decided to make up a display containing most of the items in the book’s medicine chest – it is in the centre cabinets opposite the counter.
The bottles and packets that I had saved were very useful, all I had to do was make up labels and add 4 shelves ( using wood from another project).
An entry from the book that attracts a lot of interest from the public is a poem originally published by the Ladies Sanitary Association.  I have made quite a few copies for visitors!
The Health Alphabet
As soon as you are up, shake blanket and sheet.
Better be without shoes than sit with damp feet.
Children if healthy are active, not still.
Damp beds and damp clothes will both make you ill.
Eat slowly and always chew your food well.
Freshen the air in the house where you dwell.
Garments must never be worn too tight.
Homes should be cheerful , and airy and light.
If you wish to keep well, as you do I’ve no doubt,
Just ope’ all the windows before you go out.
Keep all the dark corners most carefully clean,
Let dust on the furniture never be seen.
Much illness is caused by the lack of fresh air –
Now to ventilate properly must be your care.
Old rubbish and rags must be burnt and not kept.
People should see that their floors are well kept.
Quick movements in children are healthy and right.
Remember the young cannot thrive without light.
See that the cistern is clean to the brim.
Take care that your dress in the morning is trim.
Use your nose to find out if there be a bad drain,
Very sad are the fevers that come in its train.
Walk as much as you can without over-fatigue.
Xerxes could walk for full many a league.
Your health is your wealth which your wisdom should keep.
Zeal will help a good cause and the good you will keep