Monday, 29 June 2009

Label love

I love old ephemera and spent some time today sorting through this stash of vintage chemist labels. They are from Claud Manfull of "The Botanic Pharmacy" in Sneinton, Nottingham. The store closed down about 30 years ago and the old pharmacist apparently left nearly half a million labels! Claud had several premises over the years as his labels show a number of addresses in Sneinton (which is a very small area) and he is variously described as a "Medical Herbalist", a "Herbal Practitioner", and a "Qualified Optician". As time marched on it appears his son took over as "Dispensing and Family Chemist". Interestingly this store was very close to the very first "Boots the Chemist" store which I suspect had a lot to do with the closure of Manfulls becoming, as it did, the biggest Chemist in the country.

The labels are fascinating. In addition to all the usual tinctures and liniments Claud made up his own fruit cordials and wines with their bright, colourful labels. The herbal labels are a much more serious affair. All the poisonous substances have their labels printed in red with the less dangerous chemical labels printed in black on white. There are some lovely reminders of the cures of yesteryear. How many of you remember having wounds dabbed by a handkerchief soaked in iodine? That made you squeal! What about the foul taste of Cod Liver Oil? And I was regularly dosed with Sanatogen as I "had nerves" according to my father - and that was in the seventies!

Carbolic acid has notes to all its uses helpfully printed - including one suggesting its usefulness in removing risk of infection from dead bodies by wrapping them in sheets saturated in the solution! It could also be used to clean stables, sick rooms and to clear lice in dogs.

I like the one for influenza (wonder whether it would work on swine flu?) - "Pour one pint of boiling water upon contents of this packet; let it stand five minutes , strain, and drink immediately when in bed." I love the fact that the patient is instructed to drink it "when in bed"!

And in the spirit of helping the poor old housewife of the first half of the last century, he made up "Laundry Gloss " "to save time and labour" in "rendering linen and other fabrics glossy and stiff". I do wonder how much time and labour it actually saved...

Some of the labels are much smaller and don't give any indication as to their use. I could always research the uses of "Tincture of Myrrh", "Dill Seed Water" and "Syrup of Violets" but sometimes its nice just to wonder...

Love Wend


  1. What a super post, and a lovely, lovely blog. Am going out to work in a minute but will sit tonight and read your older posts.

  2. what a wonderful wallpaper they'd make.

  3. I lived close by to Manfulls in Sneinton. It would have closed in the late fifties.
    Gazing through their window, it was like going back in time.

    Love your blog & your interests.