Apothecary jar, WMA 78_1892


Work is underway at Waitaki Museum on refitting the permanent exhibition area. The Museum has over 30,000 items in its care. Each item has its own story. They can’t all fit in the new displays so staff and volunteers have been researching the tales behind some of the objects to ensure those with the most interesting and relevant stories make the cut.

These stunning apothecary jars were displayed in the window of Lane’s chemist shop on Tees Street, Oamaru from the late 1860s. Can you spot them in this photo

An apothecary is a person who prepares and sells medicines and drugs. Apothecary jars were used for storing medicines and their ingredients. These jars however probably never held medicines, the large size of jars indicates they were most likely advertising pieces made to go in the window to attract the attention of customers. The jars are made of glass and the design is painted inside the jars.

One jar is labelled Peruv. Bark. Peruvian Bark was a historical name for a remedy used to treat all forms of malaria. The other jar is labelled Magnesia. Above this is the Royal Coat of Arms with the lion and the unicorn. The jars were made by the York Glass Company who specialised in medical and pharmacy glassware.

The first owner of Lane’s chemist and druggist was Edward Lane (1826-1909) was born in Middlesex England. He immigrated to Oamaru after spending time in Australia, Port Chambers, Waikouaiti and Dunedin. He opened his shop on Tees Street in 1868. It was his son, also Edward Lane (1868-1947) who invented the famous Lane’s Emulsion. 

After over 150 years the jars are a little worse for wear. Recently conservation staff from Otago Museum have been checking and cleaning these jars so they are ready to go on display later this year.

Chloe Searle