Stephanie Mackin / Pharmacy Museum
Little-known fact: New Orleans was the first place in North America to license pharmacists (starting in 1769, when the city was still under Spanish rule). After Louisiana became a territory, the U.S. governor extended the requirement, also decreeing that pharmacists take a three-hour licensing exam in order to practice. And no wonder illness got such attention—the city was arguably the least healthy place to live on the continent; it was riddled with yellow fever, malaria, and dysentery. This dark but fascinating history is explored in this atmospheric 1822 town house, which was once the home and shop of Louis J. Dufilho, the first licensed pharmacist in the city—and hence in the country. Exhibits include apothecary jars, tools of the trade, and leeches. (Yes. Leeches.)
A Unique Museum with Voodoo and Love Potion #9
This is not the only museum in New Orleans, but it felt like the most unique. Home to the apothecary of America’s first licensed pharmacist, this museum brims with old healthcare gems including the unconventional New Orleans voodoo past and the real love potion number nine. The Museum shows a pharmacy from past to present in an interesting and unique New Orleans way.
Discovering the "Old"
Even though it’s located in the middle of the French Quarter, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is one of those “off-the-beaten-track” kind of places. Sure, a colorful display of vintage glass urns gracing the shopfront’s windows quickly mesmerizes you. But even after countless trips up and down Chartres, we had never bothered to stop in and see what lay behind the moth-eaten curtains. That abstinence finally ended on a recent visit to NOLA when we finally put two-and-two together: a museum devoted to the history of pharmacology and housed inside the aging apothecary of America’s first licensed pharmacist? We’re so there! Upon on our arrival on a Tuesday morn, we were quickly greeted by a steampunk seated behind the antique cash register who appeared to have lost himself inside a thick Victorian-era spellbook! We paid the dandy a nominal admission fee and took some of his literature to help navigate us through the two-story space now listed on the National Register of Historic Places! This place is literally rammed to the pufferfish gills of Voodoo syrups, perfume and tincture bottles, bizarre patents for questionable medical practices and tonics - even a soda fountain! We loved checking out the inhumane surgical instruments (leeches anyone?), and learning how opium was once used in tampons to treat symptoms of female hysteria! At times funny, and at others stomach-cringing, this collection is sure to raise questions of morality - and your eyebrows - time and time again!
Explore New Orleans' Myriad Museums
New Orleans’ museum district includes the Contemporary Art Center, a hub for experimental, multi-disciplinary art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, where works run the gamut from Clementine Hunter’s plantation paintings to Gina Philip’s quilted tapestries, and the Smithsonian-affiliated National WWII Museum. The highlight of the New Orleans Museum of Art is the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, where towering oaks, pine groves, and magnolias are as much a draw as masterpieces by the likes of Renoir, Magritte, and Oldenburg. Tucked in a former apothecary in the French Quarter, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is an off-the-beaten-path find and you can ogle Mardi Gras floats in various stages of creation at Mardi Gras World.