On the Water

Ship's Medicine Chest

Starting in 1790, American merchant ships larger than 150 tons and with more than 10 crew members were required to have medicine chests with contents assembled by an “apothecary of known reputation.” These had to be accompanied by instructions for the administration of each medicine. Most commonly, either the captain or first mate administered pharmaceutical products to any crew in need.

This example has labels from the ports of Baltimore, Maryland; Mamaroneck, New York, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, indicating it was replenished more than once over its useful life.

ID Number:
Gray Telephone Pay Station Co.
wood, metal, glass
19th Century
18.3858 x 14.5669 x 7.3622 in.; 46.7 x 37 x 18.7 cm
Gift from the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland