I went to a local historical park recently, and I became interested in the display at their pharmacy. I was wondering how much of the medicine from the early 20th century would still be considered medicine today. My conclusion was basically they have bismuth compounds for diarrhea, and that’s about it. They also had homeopathic remedies that are presumably unchanged, but I’m not counting that as medicine.
In the course of this investigation, I noticed a pack of vaginal cones:
Curious what they were, I asked my husband (who was not so patiently waiting for me to move on). He came closer to take a look, then said “Picric acid – that’s explosive”. I snickered, took a picture and moved on.
The next day I actually looked this stuff up, and found out he meant REALLY explosive. If the solution dries out, it is more powerful and less stable than TNT. Sensitive to shock, heat and friction. Pharmacies have had to call in bomb disposal units to dispose of dried out picric acid containers. But how much could really be in that little packet? The whole thing probably only weighs a few grams. So maybe a gram of unstable TNT behind a glass window in a room frequently filled with schoolchildren…
Next thing I know I’m on the phone with the park trying to explain the hazard. But they keep hanging up on me. Probably because even when I’m concerned about children being in danger I still can’t get the phrase “I’m concerned that the vaginal suppositories on display in your pharmacy may be explosive” out without giggling.
Finally I decide to send an e-mail. The park got back to me right away.The response included the rather terrifying sentence: “We have one of the largest collections of artifacts on display in North America, and its safety is largely made possible by our vigilant, respectful and caring visitors.” The curators investigated the display to see if the package was a replica or an original and confirmed that it did indeed contain picric acid. They “contacted the appropriate bodies and have arranged for immediate removal from the display.” Which in my imagination looked something like this:
(Actually, they probably sent one guy with a pair of safety goggles for the picric acid, they brought in the shields and robots when they heard it was a vaginal suppository.)
Anyway, when they were done “It was concluded that the minimal amount in the product and the passage of time had led to negligible danger with the product.”
Not that anything can compete with explosive vaginal suppositories for amusement value, but here are the other highlights from the pharmacy: