This will be a short, sweet little article, but in my opinion, there’s nothing that beats finding little gems of weird history around your home town and surrounding areas. And that’s exactly how I found the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A friend recommended we go when we re-connected last week, and I’m so glad we stepped into this hidden gem. It’s roughly an hour away from where I grew up, and I had never known until now.
The Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop Museum is part of the Washington Heritage Museums throughout the Fredericksburg area, and admission for this small museum is only $10 per person. The building is an authentic 18th century building that was restored into the apothecary shop and museum of medicine and pharmacy. Dr. Mercer was a real physician who served in Fredericksburg (whose clientele included Mary Washington) who left his practice to join in the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, he died in the Battle of Princeton after becoming a Brigadier General.
This building was restored to showcase what his apothecary shop and medicinal practice would have looked like in the late 1700s, and the reason I so easily call it ‘weird’ (in the most loving way) is because your tour guides are reenactors who talk you through some of the medical practices of the late 1700s. And let me tell you, we should all be glad we were not alive to receive medical attention in that time. A few of my favorites included sticking tobacco up the nose to plug any ‘brain goo from coming out’ in response to a runny nose, sedating your wife if she’s acting emotional, using collected spiderwebs to stop the bleeping, ingesting mercury to cure things, and well, leechings!
Not only will they give you a full breakdown of amputations in that time (complete with statistics of survival), but they also showcase the leeches they would use to bleed people. Yes, you heard right, there are real leeches they show off as a part of their display, and it’s just wonderful. The staff is full of knowledge, the reenactors give an exceptional performance, and overall, it’s just a quick, weird, good time for everyone. If you’re in the Fredericksburg area, I highly suggest you check out the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop Museum.