Station: [6] Dispensing Containers

Once again, look out for a surprise behind the closed doors – a hint of nostalgia in the cupboard. 

The colourful cardboard boxes and jars are dispensing containers. Patients received their medicines in them. Dispensing containers were disposable, which is why the products exhibited here are genuinely rare. They were mostly discarded after use, or reused for a different purpose – to store buttons and screws, for example. Only a few vials and boxes have survived from the time when the pharmacy was founded, and they’re on display here. 

So what have we got? Powder dispensers made of sheet metal; cardboard and splint boxes for teas or powders; and porcelain ointment jars. These days, they’re mostly made of plastic. In the past, eye ointments were always sold in black porcelain jars, ensuring that they were unmistakable.

The middle shelf holds glass bottles for medicinal liquids. Since the end of the 19th century, the standard shape in Germany was a hexagonal bottle with three smooth and three ribbed surfaces. An embossed skull and crossbones warned of poisonous or harmful contents. Medicine bottles were usually made of amber glass to protect the contents from light.

The bottles were sealed with corks made from the bark of the cork oak. The cork was covered with a paper cap called a Tektur. This was fastened with a length of thread to which a label was attached.

A special form of closure is the shrink capsule – made of a type of plastic that expands in hot water to two or three times its original size. When placed over the neck of a bottle, it dries and produces a closure that resembles sealing wax.

Bottles with remedies for external use were identified with red labels, while containers with medicines taken orally were given white labels.

The next stop at the end of the corridor is all about poisons and narcotics.

All depictions: © Trüpschuch