Husband’s Calcined Magnesia, Philadelphia, PA

Unlike many patent medicine creators of the 19th century, Thomas J. Husband, creator of Husband’s Calcined Magnesia, seems to have been well liked and highly respected by all, with a product that seemed both effective and free of controversy.

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Bottle embossed: Husband’s / Calcined / Magnesia / Philada

According to BayBottles, Mr. Husband was born in Maryland in 1813, and while quite young came to Philadelphia and apprenticed himself to Thomas McClintock at Fifth Street and Callowhill. He was a graduate of the P. C. P. (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy), Class of 1832, and for fifty years carried on the store at Third and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia.

Mr. Husband was the originator of “Husband’s Magnesia,” an American invention that competed with the highly esteemed, though expensive, English product Henry’s Genuine Calcined Magnesia. According to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, referencing the original bottle label, “Calcined magnesia is highly beneficial in all diseases of the stomach and bowels which are attended with acidity, and gives immediate relief to heartburn. The effects of excess in eating or drinking are generally relieved by it, and it affords one of the mildest and most pleasant aperients, especially to persons who from a sedentary life or other causes, are under the frequent necessity of having recourse to laxatives.”

A profile about him in American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, 1898, noted that he was a member of the Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers.  All biographical details I can find about him hold him in very high regard, and some are quite affectionate. According to BayBottles, one obituary of him states, “He was one of Nature’s noblemen,” said a close friend of his. “No one could leave his presence without an uplift of mind. He shed around him a halo of truth and honesty, which the dullest could feel. He was an ideal pharmacist, a rare man, and I loved him.”


Bottle wrapped with original labels. Reid Drugstore collection of Smithsonian National Museum of American History.


Bottles wrapped with original labels. Reid Drugstore collection of Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
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