M930.50.3.123 | W. D. McLaren, Grocery

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W. D. McLaren, Grocery
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
6.1 x 8.9 cm
Gift from David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , commercial (1771) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Beginning in the mid-1800s, more and more pharmacists diversified their business to compete with other merchants. But the competition worked both ways.

Grocers were eating into the pharmacy trade with a host of patent remedies and medicinal wines. Quinine and coca wines were the biggest sellers.

In rural areas, especially those without pharmacies, therapeutic products were available over the counter at the general store, which stocked groceries, hardware and drugs. Prescription medicines were sold by the village doctor, who either made them up or purchased them from manufacturers.

There was also the peddler, an itinerant druggist of sorts, whose village visits were announced from the pulpit by the pastor or priest. His assorted secret remedies were much in demand. Peddlers often traveled as a team with a bonesetter, who specialized in reducing fractures and dislocations. These excruciatingly painful treatments earned the bonesetter a reputation as a bogeyman, immortalized in Quebec legend as the terrifying "Bonhomme sept heures" (transliteration of "bonesetter").

Source : Cures and Quackery: The Rise of Patent Medicines [Web tour], by Denis Goulet, Université de Sherbrooke (see Links)

  • What

    This engraved illustration by John Henry Walker, dating to the late 1900s, depicts the front of a Montreal grocery store.

  • Where

    Some Montreal groceries carried patent remedy products for over-the-counter sale, but the practice was more widespread in small towns and villages.

  • When

    In the latter half of the 19th century, the medicine business in rural areas was not yet controlled by licensed pharmacists.

  • Who

    The owner of this grocery store was W. D. McLaren. At the time, grocers, shop owners and general store operators made deals with various companies to promote their remedies.