showglobes

One of the first things visitors notice when they walk into the NL Pharmacy Museum are the two show globes which flank our entrance. These golden eagles suspend large glass orbs filled with coloured water. While no longer widely displayed in pharmacies, they were once the universal symbol of the pharmacy profession. Think of them as the pharmacist’s version of the barber’s striped pole.

The exact history of show globes is somewhat murky and much that is known about them springs from myths and guesswork. What we do know is that they have been in use in England since the 17th century, although legend claims that their origin may go back as far as the Roman invasion of Britain. Show globes served an important practical function, as they allowed a population that was largely illiterate to recognize which shops could offer them pharmaceutical aid.

The two show globes in our museum (affectionately nicknamed Belladonna and Hexamina) were produced by the Whitall Tatum Company, one of the first glass factories in the United States to manufacture a variety of pharmaceutical equipment.