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The First Golden Age of Cannabis Medicines, 1830 – 1937

18 photographs proving the accepted use of Cannabis medicines in American apothecaries and pharmacies before the 1937 prohibition

hemp seed specie jar

Hemp Seed Specie Jar

For tens of thousands of years, hemp seed has been in continuous use in the form of a protein, oil and a mineral rich food source. The seeds were also used medicinally for a range of prescriptions, laxatives, corn plasters and dyes.

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Oil of Hemp Carboy

Hemp oil, or hemp seed oil, is pressed from seeds of varieties of Cannabis that are low in the active principal chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil is clear light green to dark green in color with a nutty flavor

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Cannabis Herb Apothecaries

Cannabis, the generic term for the dried flowers of the Cannabis plant, is commonly used in ancient folk remedies from many cultures. Cannabis remained one of the top half dozen compounding herbs until its U.S. prohibition in 1937. These compounded medicines were measured, reproducible blends of naturally occurring plants, or parts of those plants.

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cannabis collection

Hashish Apothecaries

Hashish, or hasheesh, is a powdered or compressed concentrate of the Cannabis flower. Hashish making is an ancient practice with a long social history in India, Turkey, Egypt and other Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

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Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Semen, with Enameled Caps

 Cannabis is believed to have originated as a single species in Central Asia. It may have been the first cultivated crop.

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Milk Glass Jars


The terms “sativa” and “Indica” are used quite differently today than they were one hundred years ago. Though it was not understood at the time, the established Sativa varieties provided predominantly cannabidiol (CBD), whereas the newly introduced Indica varieties provided predominantly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

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Inverted Cannabis Show Bottles

When Indica varieties were first introduced, customers became curious and wanted to understand the differences between sativa and Indica variety medicines.

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Cannabis Americana Apothecaries

In the late nineteenth century, Cannabis indica, imported primarily from India, was considered a superior product for medicinal purposes.

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Assortment of Cannabis Tincture Bottles

Tincture of Cannabis is extracted by soaking the female flowers of the plant in a solvent, most often alcohol, although vinegars were originally used.
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Cannabis as an Ingredient in Patent Medicines

The turn of the twentieth century brought great technical innovations, including the light bulb, radios and mechanical bottle making. Glass products went from being hand blown and precious to stamped out and cheap.

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Cannabis Concentrates in Blue Poison Bottles

Cannabis in herbal form was known to be safe to use, but the concentrations that began to become available in the second half of the nineteenth century were respected for their power.

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Shelf Ware Set of Cannabis Apothecary Jars

These five jars constitute a complete compounding Cannabis pharmacy typical of early twentieth century America.

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Cannabis Medicine with Red Poison Labels

Apothecary dispensing errors became scandalous in 1858 after a candy maker in Bradford, England poisoned himself and 200 customers with toxic peppermint sweets.

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Corn Cures, Cannabis for Skin Care

Cannabis has a long, documented history of topical use. Our ancestors ground fresh leaves into a mass they applied to wounds, soreness, inflammation and other conditions. Initially, a length of cloth was used to hold the poultice in place.

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Aphrodisiacs Included Cannabis Extracts

Aphrodisiacs increase libido and may treat fertility issues such as impotence or sexual dysfunction. The name comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

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Herbal Use of Cannabis Spread Northward

In the early twentieth century, herbal Cannabis was available in almost every corner drugstore, and was often less expensive than decent tobacco.

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Cannabis Becomes a Standardized Medicine

The U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 imposed regulations requiring labeling of the contents in drug products. The Sherley Act of 1912 prohibited labeling of medicines with false therapeutic claims intended to defraud the purchaser.

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Generally Accepted, Mainstream Medicine Banned

Dr. William Erastus Upjohn solved this problem with his invention of the “friable” (crush-able) tablet that was designed to be easily digestible. The Upjohn Company became a leading innovator in drug development and manufacturing.

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Collector Sets

We provide complete sets of our images to museums and private collectors on both paper and aluminum. Styles include:

  • 18 images on 12” x 18” dye sublimation aluminum plates, with hanging system and includes 100 Museum Compendium booklets.
  • 18 images on 20” x 30” dye sublimation aluminum plates, with hanging system and includes 100 Museum Compendium booklets.
  • Unframed sets of 18 paper 12” x 18” fine art prints presented in an archival art portfolio, this also includes 100 copies of the Museum Compendium booklets


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