The carboy: a pharmacy icon

Large-scale production of the glass carboys used to advertise pharmacy began with improvements of the glass-making process in the 1700s.

museum treasures Carboy

The carboy is one of pharmacy’s most iconic objects. As glass production developed in the 1700s and 1800s, allowing larger panes to be used in shop windows, these pieces of display glassware started to appear in the displays of chemists’ shops. Filled with coloured water mimicking chemical substances in solution, they advertised the trade that went on inside.

Some pharmacies still proudly display their carboys, but the original colours used hundreds of years ago are hard to replicate, as many of the chemicals used were of a hazardous nature. Instead, food colourings are the usual choice today.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2019, Vol 303, No 7930;303(7930):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207123

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