Pandemic Postscript – Show Globes

A pandemic postscript on the blog today. Let’s talk about show globes. From the late 1800s until the 1950s, the show globe was a symbol for pharmacies. This way they could be easily recognized by shoppers on the streets. These glass globes ranged from simple to ornate. Like the barber pole outside every barber shop, show globes identified drugstores.

Pharmacists added chemicals to water to create colors and displayed that in their show globes. Some were solid colors but some pharmacists would even create stripes of colors in their displays. Most drugs in the 1800s came from steeping plants in hot water then extracting and mixing the contents. The more elaborate the show globe the more competent the druggist. Varying color layers translated to the ability to extract and mix better medicines. Also, prior to 1900 most states didn’t require a license to practice pharmacy. The show globes gave credibility to the pharmacist. In fact, the first licensed pharmacist in the United States was Louis Dufilho Jr. and he practiced right here in New Orleans.

Pandemic Postscript - Show Globes
Pandemic Postscript – Show Globes  – “Three Old Bottles of Oils” by ShebleyCL

Let’s Get Real

It has been rumored that pharmacists used to put a red color in their show globes to warn their community of an epidemic. Therefore, green signaled the all clear. An interesting tale but just a myth. During an epidemic signs were posted outside quarantined homes. Warnings were also posted in newspapers and at town limits. Although since much of the economy at the time relied on trade with others many New Orleans newspapers would not print news of epidemics until it was too late for people to escape. World papers sometimes printed about cholera and yellow fever outbreaks in New Orleans before the local papers.

We hope you have enjoyed our blog series on pandemics showing how resilient the city of New Orleans is. We look forward to resuming tours soon and again welcoming travelers to the greatest city in the world!

The Savvy Native is a group of experienced local tour guides who were either born in New Orleans or wish they had been.

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