|The medicine spoon
is one of the most popular collectibles of the medical antiques category other
than antique surgical instruments. The earliest known antique medicine spoon was invented by Londoner goldsmith, Charles Gibson, in about 1828. An example of one of his earliest spoons is housed in the Wellcome Institute of the History of
Medicine in London. Gibson's medical spoons are also referred to as "castor oil spoons," varying from one ounce to one-half ounce.
Another British spoon maker, James Dixon & Sons of Sheffield, England, introduced small, medium, and large medicine spoons in 1839,
followed by a multitude of designs by physicians, pharmaceutical houses, and others in an attempt to solve dosing problems.
Many varieties of antique medicine spoons can be found, unified in their
purpose of administering medicines, but varied in their abilities to meet
the multiple needs of the doctor, nurse, administrator and patient. Spoon
designers attempted to address the ease of dispensing desired by the
administrator, while also addressing the desire to reach the uncompromising will of the resistant patient.
Some medicine spoons were designed with a corkscrew end for the
convenience of attaching to the cork of the medicine bottle. Some spoon designs were made with two separate compartments for mixing
medicine, and some with sliding tops or activated by piston to push the medicine into the patient's mouth. Flat bottom designs helped stabilize
the spoon for filling, and to prevent rocking. Glass medicine spoons, stamped with the pharmacist name, some with graduations marked on
the inside of the bowl, and distributed as advertisement were offered as late as 1900. For the traveler, a two-sided, folding antique medicine
spoon with leather case was available - these were popular at the turn of the twentieth century until World War I. Although efforts were made to
establish regulated measures of medicine spoons, there were no universal measures ever adopted.
Vintage advertisements often give excellent insight to the origin, purpose
and detailed description of antique medicine spoons, as well as many
collectible antiques in general. Jacque R. Stettheimer's Patent Medicine
Spoon measured one fluid Drachma (a unit of liquid equivalent to one-eigth fluid ounce) with a cover that when drawn open by a thumb
catch could be filled with medication, and then closed and inverted, ready for use. The spoon's directions for use included the following
advertising summary by C. Rogers & Bros. of Meiden, Connecticut.
"We would respectfully invite your attention to the new patent Standard
Medicine Spoon, an article indispensible in private families as well as in
hospitals. With the use of the Standard Medicine Spoon, the administering of medicine becomes simple even in the hands of the
unskilled. The advantages are numerous; the most prominent are as follows: The medicine can be given in just the prescribed quantity (as
the spoon will hold one fluid drachm [dram], without losing its contents in administering to the most rebellious patients, and also without producing
to the most delicate person any disagreeable odor or taste of medicine, not injuring the teeth, as the medicine does not come in contact with
them. Its advantages are great in all contagious diseases, such as measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, etc., wherre it is highly necessary to
use one partiular spoon for the patients, to prevent the spreading of the disease to any other member of the family.
Furthermore, nauseating medicines are agreeably taken by putting the spoon on the back of the tongue, when the medicine can be readily
swallowed without the disagreeable taste.
Each spoon is heavily silver plated and packed in a neat case. Retail
price, $1.50. For sale by all leading druggists.
We will send a sample spoon free to any part of the United States on
receipt of $1.50."