by Leigh Westphal, Museum Coordinator
The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center recently acquired a lovely collection of cigar boxes from, what might seem today, a very unlikely source. The boxes were found in the basement of the former City Drug building at the southwest corner of College and Mountain Avenues when City Drug moved to their new location. The old builing was being prepared for renovation and they found cigar boxes. A LOT of cigar boxes.
However, this was not just a simple collection of novelty boxes (nor the trail of a cigar afficianado), because inside each box was a stack of papers and the exterior of each box was labeled with a strip of tape with a set of numbers hand-written on it. This was the filing system for the drug store’s filled prescriptions dating all the way back to 1919. Genius! In an age when computers were non-existant, someone came up with a cohesive, compact, and organized fashion of storing these documents.
So, why did City Drug keep the prescription slips in the first place and why would the museum want them now? The slips contain private medical information about individuals within the community that would have been difficult to disposed of in a discreet manner. Moreover, as fellow collections staff member Ashley Houston and I cleared the dust off this collection – literally – we also uncovered trends for Fort Collins, such as population growth, the appearance of female doctors, spikes in prescriptions in relation to certain times/months/seasons of the year, and the popularity of certain drugs during specific time periods.
As lovely as the cigar boxes may have been, the prescription slips were removed, cleaned and rehoused in archival boxes to be stored in the museum.