This exhibit includes historical materials that may contain negative
stereotypes or language reflecting the culture or viewpoint of a people at
a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the
The prints in this exhibit are representative of the gifts sent directly
to OHSU from pharmaceutical companies or that individuals have donated to
the OHSU Historical Collections & Archives. Throughout the years they have
been preserved as a colorful component of the history of medicine. They
were produced and distributed by companies with names that are familiar to
all of us: Armour Laboratories, Squibb, Abbott, Upjohn, CIBA, Burroughs
Wellcome and Parke, Davis and Company.
Although these may not appear to be overt pharmaceutical company or
specific drug advertisements, businesses find various and creative ways to
increase sales. Just as baking powder manufacturers, for example,
published complimentary cookbooks, and insurance companies still today
give away calendars, drug companies produced these prints with the express
intent to compete for the consumer dollar.
The composition of the exhibit is in keeping with the sentiment that the
artifacts of any given era can and do reflect a society's perceptions,
philosophies, prejudices, economy, technologies and so forth. They are
vital to the study of social, political, cultural and economic history.
Printed materials, in the form of posters, pamphlets, broadsides, trade
cards, show bills, programs and calendars, are some of the richest primary
resources for the study of modern society.
Ephemera, although difficult to define, is a term used to describe
materials of a fleeting existence. Even though these prints are not
"museum quality", unlike many other forms of ephemera, the manufacturers
of these prints intended that they be framed and even included
instructions for framing. The prints are reproductions of works by often
well-known artists such as James Chapin, Robert A. Thom and Currier and
Upjohn, in its introductory letter, states that its gift is intended as
an educational tool… to bring better health to more people… to develop a
close rapport between physician and patient… to further confidence of the
public in the medical profession. Parke, Davis and Company commissioned
the original oil paintings represented "...in an endeavor to
portray the rich heritage of scientific and humanistic endeavor, which forms the
foundation from which today's medical service arises."
If not altogether altruistic in their advertising endeavors,
pharmaceutical companies have, besides funding research, provided us a
window into the past. The study of giveaways or other types of
pharmaceutical or medical ephemera can remind today's health professionals
of past practices and perceptions.
More information on medical ephemera can be found at these websites:
Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Varieties of Medical Ephemera.
An exhibit of the National Library of Medicine
History of Pharmacy Resources
Emergence of Advertising in America
The Ephemera Society of America