The first licensed pharmacist in the United States was Louis Joseph Dufilho, Jr. He received his license in 1816, and opened up the first U.S. pharmacy on Chartres Street in New Orleans in 1823. As was the case with most businesses, the store was on the street level, and living quarters were on the upper two stories.
Mr. Dufilho compounded all kinds of medications, for humans and animals alike. As was typical of the time, he also sold a great many patent remedies … which had varying levels of efficacy. Some of the items you might find for sale are still used today (did you know that leeches are still used in hand surgery?) and some, thankfully, are not … such as opium-soaked tampons to treat menstrual cramps. He also sold various beauty treatments, some of them safe and some of them not so safe.
One of the most interesting things I learned about old pharmacy customs was about the bottles of colored water in the windows. They were referred to as show globes, and each color meant something specific. For example, red represented quarantine, which was not an unusual situation in New Orleans due to yellow fever and other illnesses
Mr. Dufilho’s pharmacy can still be visited today; it’s the home of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. The first floor looks pretty much as it would have during Mr. Dufilho’s time; the upper stories show what a doctor’s study would have looked like, as well as a childbirthing room and various special exhibitions. When I visited in May 2016, there was a fascinating exhibit of spectacles. If you enjoy oddity museums, as I do, this is one of the best.
(All photos of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum were taken by the author.)