Displaying items by tag: medicine

Wednesday, 24 January 2024 19:57

The Dill Company

One question people often ask me is "How do you research some of the items in HSMC's collection?" This depends a lot on the type of item in question and what we already know about it from the donor's records. For example, there are some items, like this medicine bottle pictured below, that come to us with limited information.

dill 3

Medicine Bottle, The Dill Co., HSMC Collection, 2013.016.020

For this piece, we can see that it is labeled "The Dill Co." on one side and "Norristown, PA" on the other. Based on its size and shape, we can guess it was likely a medicine bottle from either the late 1800s or early 1900s. Beyond that, we really did not know anything about this Dill Company.

Since it was a business, the best place to start searching was our Norristown City Directories. Sure enough, from 1908 to 1931 I found references to Dill Co. and Dill Medicine Co. under the "Patent Medicines" section. The directories list C. H. Alderfer as the president.

dill 5

Medicine Bottle, The Dill Medicine Co., HSMC Collection, 2013.016.009

Now the question remains, who started this business? Based on my searches, I know there was a Dr. Wallace W. Dill (1877-1953) living in Norristown at the same time the company operated. We also have two other medicine bottles connected to this company. One is labeled "Prof. W. W. Dill" and the other is labeled "The Dill Medicine Co." The one with Prof. Dill's label is my personal favorite because the bottle was supposed to hold something called the "Balm of Life". I wonder what could have originally been held in that bottle.

dill 2

Medicine Bottle, Balm of Life, HSMC Collection, 2013.016.010

Anyway, although Dr. Wallace W. Dill's address was not the same as the Dill Company's address, it is still very possible that he was the creator of this company. As for C. H. Alderfer, if I found the correct person, Clayton H. Alderfer served in the Norristown Banking industry at this time. Perhaps he helped Dr. Dill with a loan or money matters and was thus made the president of the company.


Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 27 October 2022 19:57

A Raid of Body Snatchers

In this blog post we will discuss an article we uncovered in an old scrapbook. Please note, this story may not be suitable for all audiences.


Harriton House, HSMC Photo Collection

The story was dated February 26, 1923. Which paper it is from is unknown, but given the topic, it was likely a local paper. The story starts with the title "A Raid of Body Snatchers". There was an incident of body snatching at the Harriton burial ground in 1838. The persons involved were attempting to take Charles Thomson, former secretary of the Continental Congress, to Laurel Hill Cemetery. According to a quick internet search, it does appear that Charles and his wife Hannah were taken by a relative and reburied at Laurel Hill around that time. 

2 26 23

Article about Body Snatching, HSMC Scrapbook Collection

The article goes on to describe another incident of body snatching, but this time the purpose was not for reburial. A Conshohocken shoemaker named John May killed his daughter and then committed suicide around 1884. May's body was buried at what was then known as the potter's field at Sandy and Violet Streets in Norristown. This cemetery was for people who either did not have any decedents or money for burial. 

Shortly after May was buried, someone dug up his body. Various organs were found around trees and fences nearby. Later, more of his remains were found along the banks of the Schuylkill River, near the Albertson Glass Works. It appeared that the culprits were looking to extract his skeleton. It turned out the culprits were two students from the Philadelphia medical college. The article claims they had influential friends and were able to get their sentences adjusted to avoid being sent to prison. The names of these students were not disclosed in the article.


Almshouse Painting, HSMC Collection

By 1890, the potter's field in Norristown was no longer an active burial site. Eventually, all of the people buried there were reburied at the Montgomery County Almshouse. This site still remains, but is only marked by a single stone monument that reads, "In Memory of the Dead". It is located on Black Rock Road in Royersford, PA.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 27 May 2021 17:12

The Polio Vaccine


Although poliomyelitis has been around for thousands of years (images of polio victims appear in ancient Egyptian carvings), in the early 20th century it took on new urgency. In the early 1950’s the US averaged about 25,000 cases each year, spiking at 58,000 in 1952. Most people infected recovered, but about 1% of cases led to some paralysis . The chances of paralysis increased with the age of the patient.


Montgomery Hospital Collection

Polio was common enough in the early 20th century that Montgomery County had a Polio Parents' Club. According to this 1948 article in the Times-Herald, they held a special once a week summer camp for child paralyzed by polio which included arts and crafts as well as a trip to the YMCA pool.

polio camp

The county rallied around its youngsters in other ways. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (better known as the March of Dimes) paid medical expenses for families that couldn’t afford them. They concentrated the children in the polio ward of Montgomery Hospital (children whose families could afford to pay for treatment were treated at other local hospitals). Many county clubs, such as the Lions and Kiwanis clubs, and Women’s Clubs from around the county helped the March of Dimes raise money. These clubs also donated equipment such as glass domes and sponge mattresses for iron lungs.

polio ward

Montgomery Hospital Collection

Sharp Dohme

TImes-Herald, April 12, 1955

So when the announcement came on April 12, 1955 that a successful polio vaccine had been developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, Montgomery County was ready to jump into the action. Both Wyeth Laboratories and Sharp & Dohme in West Point produced the vaccine. Montgomery county schools rolled out the vaccine for all first and second graders in public, private, and parochial schools in the county.

polio 6


polio2 5x7

Undated photo of polio vaccine at Conshohocken High School, Review Archive Collection

Published in Found in Collection