Monday, March 30, 2020

THE NEW ORLEANS PHARMACY MUSEUM Guest post by Caroline Hatton

The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited New Orleans, Louisiana, in December 2017. She took all the photos in this post. For more information about her, visit

After I was born in 1950s Normandy and before I could walk, I caught my earliest glimpses of the outside world when I crawled to the floor-to-ceiling window of my parents’ countryside village pharmacy. Wicker shopping baskets came and went, heavier on the way back. Muddy rubber boots splashed by on rainy days. Across the Route Nationale and village plaza, the church bell clanged the hours away. I grew up playing and doing homework in the back room at the pharmacy, hearing pharmaceutical tales at the dinner table. Later, as a pharmacy school student, I worked as an intern at my parents’ pharmacy in Paris until I graduated in 1979. No wonder I simply have to see old pharmacies and collect photos of antique potion vials when I travel.
By 1979, such sights had disappeared from pharmacies in France.

The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum was no exception, especially since the pharmacist who first set up shop there in 1823, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr., was born in France—just like me! As a teen, he moved to New Orleans with his family and grew up in the family pharmacy. He went back to France and attended pharmacy school in Paris—just like me! He made history when he became America’s first licensed pharmacist.
There were none of these in 1979 France.

Today, the museum exhibits fill two floors. Guided tours are available. The courtyard can be rented for special events. In the 19th century, additional buildings housed the family home, slave quarters, stables, and carriage house.
As a pharmacy intern in 1979 Paris, I once carried a doctor’s prescription to a leech shop to bring back “2 medium leeches” for a patient!
I used an identical item to compound prescription pills in 1979 Paris.

Upstairs at the museum.
A vintage poster for Vin Mariani (Mariani Wine), claimed that it fortified body and brain, and restored vitality. That’s not hard to believe, considering that it contained cocaine from brewed coca leaves. 

Fortifies and Refreshes Body & brain
Restores Health and Vitality

What the museum info failed to disclose, though, is that Mariani Wine is the French ancestor of Coca-Cola. The story goes like this: after the French inventor of Mariani Wine (a chemist born to a pharmacist family) started marketing it in 1863 and achieved international success, in 1885, an American pharmacist by the name of J.S. Pemberton concocted a mere imitation, a “French wine of coca, ideal tonic.” Soon, Pemberton altered the formula, replacing the alcohol with cola extract and the plain water with fizzy water. A few years later, another American pharmacist, A.G. Candler, bought the formula and founded the Coca-Cola company. In 1903, cocaine was removed from the ingredients. And today, the French for Diet Coke is “Coca Light.”

1 comment:

drjanebolton said...

Fascinating article, Caroline. Thank you, Francophile, Jane