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© McCord Museum
About 1860, 19th century
19.5 x 17.5 cm
Gift of Byers
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The products prepared in pharmacies were stored in glazed earthenware, porcelain, glass or clay jars. Some were richly decorated, like the one seen here, and most of them were imported from Europe.

Each jar was designed for a specific product, such as arsenic, hashish, cannabis, morphine, opium, turpentine, or camphor. Some contained more peculiar substances now rarely seen in industrialized countries: sow bug powder, crayfish eyes, caribou horn oil, rattlesnake venom, etc.

Today, these objets d'art are collectors items that bear witness to the importance of the pharmacy in past centuries.

J. Collin and D. Béliveau, Histoire de la pharmacie au Québec (Montreal: Musée de la pharmacie du Québec, 1994), pp. 99-103.

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


This ceramic pharmacy jar is richly decorated. As the lettering indicates, it was meant to hold only iron carbonate, a mineral also called siderite.


Although the exact provenance of this jar cannot be determined, it was likely imported from Europe. Most pharmacy jars of this sort used in Canada were locally made or European imports.


Glazed earthenware and porcelain jars were widely used in Canada in the 18th century and much of the 19th. Around 1870, pharmacists began using less costly jars of heavy glass.


Apothecaries, apothecary nuns, druggists and pharmacists working in dispensaries were the principal users of pharmacy jars.

© Musée McCord Museum