The history of pharmacy on display at the Guthrie Museum
A few people have been coming by lately while I was in different parts of the state and asking for a few places to visit that would be indoors and cool. Besides the obvious answers, including all the different museums in the state and different unique businesses, I also mention one particular destination in Guthrie.
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Although it might be considered a “small” museum, it is big in terms of the information it provides! The Oklahoma Frontier Drug Store Museum in Guthrie is also one of those places where you can spend a few minutes, but end up staying for hours.
Put simply, there is plenty to see as the museum is floor to ceiling with the pills, salves and potions that kept the pioneers healthy and seemingly a little numb at times. The first time I visited the museum, there were several “Wow” moments. One of the most interesting things about the museum is its controlled drug cabinet, which shows that between 1900 and 1915 a person could walk into the pharmacy and buy cocaine, morphine or laudanum by simply signing what they called a poison registry. You would have to list the purpose of what you were going to use, and on that list people would indicate that the purpose of buying cocaine was habit. In the museum you can also find a bottle with heroin tablets.
There were prescriptions for whiskey during prohibition for medical purposes only. For asthma at the time, they had patches and inhalers but also Asthmador cigarettes, medicinal cigarettes used for the treatment of asthma. Yes, they had asthma cigarettes to treat…well…asthma! Indeed, there seemed to be a cure for just about everything, including a tonic that promised a baby in every bottle. You have to wonder how people could fall for these claims, but again, desperate people are trying desperate things. But, as silly as some things may seem, they were widely accepted more than 100 years ago.
Back in the day, let’s say you wanted to buy your wife or girlfriend cosmetics, you could actually buy arsenic complexion pills! Another shocking element was a particular element. Many have heard of something called asafetida, which was a very smelly herb. A remedy or preventative for the common cold was to carry a bag of asafetida. So when children rode horses or walked to school, their mothers would insist that they take the bag and hang it around their necks. It smelled bad enough to keep everyone away so they wouldn’t catch a cold.
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Before leaving the museum, enjoy the beautiful apothecary garden next door. It’s a reminder that most medicines we know today come from plants and herbs. And while you enjoy the peace and beauty of the garden, you can reflect on the value of the museum, which is to see how far medicine has come over the last 50 to 100 years.
For a complete list of the different types of museums across the state, go to travelok.com.
Dino Lalli is the co-host and one of the reporters for the weekly “Discover Oklahoma” television show.