Index of Medicines

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Supplies Purchased from Gillaspy & Strong, druggists1,
by Israel Whelan for Meriwether Lewis, Philadelphia, 26 May 18032

In the following list, an italicized figure in parentheses indicates the number of times a medicine was mentioned in the expedition's journals. Those that were never mentioned are indicated by an asterisk. Whalen's invoice lists 28 botanical and chemical medicaments purchased in Philadelphia. More may have been requisitioned at Forts Massac and Kaskaskia, or in St. Louis in the spring of 1804. Those may have included flowers of sulfur, which is not on Whelan's invoice but was mentioned several times by the journalists. Nowhere, however, are these items listed.

Of the original botanicals and chemicals, 12 were never mentioned in the journals. By no means should we infer they were never used, only that none of the journalists saw any point in documenting them. For instance, mercury ointment was mentioned only two or three times in the journals, but considering the number of cases of venereal disease that apparently afflicted the company, that salve would have been in high demand. We are told, too, that some of their medicinal supplies were ruined by water, but not which ones. After all, Lewis had not been instructed to keep track of that inventory. Nevertheless, we know that some medicines were still on hand at the end of the expedition, when Clark shipped a tin box of leftovers to Louisville from St. Louis.3

Global Medical Supply

To see a description, point to the moving medicines.

Most of the medicines Lewis purchased in Philadelphia came from suppliers in England, who had imported them from the far-flung sources shown on this map.

Jalap, powdered, 1/2 pound (1)
"Rhei," (rhubarb*), powdered, 1/2 pound
"Pulv. Ipecacuan.," Ipecac*, powdered, 4 ounces
"Pulv. Crem. Tart.," Cream of Tartar (potassium bitartrate), 2 pounds (4)
"Gum Camphor," Camphor, 2 ounces (2)
"Pulv. Asafoetid.," Asafetida*, powdered, 1 pound
"Pulv. Opii Turk. opt.," Opium, powdered, 1/2 pound (5)
"Pulv. Tragacanth," Tragacanth*, powdered, 1/4 pound
"Sal Glauber," Glauber's Salts (sodium sulfate), 6 pounds (11)
"Sal Nitri," Saltpeter (potassium nitrate), 2 pounds (2)
"Copperas,"* (ferrous sulfate), 2 pounds
"Sacchar. Saturn. opt.," Sugar of Lead (lead acetate), 6 ounces (3)
"Calomel,"* (mercurous chloride), 4 ounces
"Tartar Emetic," (antimony potassium tartrate), 1 ounce (1)
"Vitriol Alb.," White Vitriol* (zinc sulfate), 4 ounces (1)
"Rad. Columbo," Columbo Root*, 1/2 pound
"Elix. Vitriol," Elixir of Vitriol* (aromatic dilute sulfuric acid), 1/4 pound
"Laudanum," (tincture of opium), 4 ounces (7)
"Ung. Basilic Flav.," Basilicon Ointment* (cerate of rosin), 2 pounds (3)
"Ung. Calimin," Calamine Ointment*, 1 pound
"Ung. Epispastric," Unguent Epispastric* (Blistering Ointment), 1 pound
"Ung. Mercuriale," Mercury Ointment, 1 pound (3)
"Emplast. Diach. S.," Plaster of Diachylon Simple* (lead oleate), one piece
"Ess. Menth. pip.," Essence of Peppermint, 1/4 pound (1)
"Bals. Copaiboe," Balsam Copaiba, 1/4 pound (1)
"Bals. Traumat.," Balsam Traumaticum* (compound benzoin tincture), 1/4 pound
"Magnesia,"* (magnesium oxide), 2 ounces
Rush's (Anti-) (calomel/jalap), 600
Pocket Surgical Kit
Pocket Dental Kit
Enema Syringe
Penile Syringes, 4
Lancets, 3
Patent Lint, 2 ounces
Tin Canisters, 6
8 ounce Ground Stoppered Bottles, 3
4 ounce Tincture bottles, 5
4-ounce Salt Mouth bottles, 6
Gum Elastic, 2 ounces
Cinnamon, 4 ounces
Nutmeg, 2 ounces
Cloves, 2 ounces

Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service's Challenge Cost Share Program

  • 1. See also This Discovery Path Why Gillaspy and Strong?.
  • 2. Adapted from Donald Jackson, ed., Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents 1783-1854, 2nd ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 1:80-81.
  • 3. Moulton, Journals, 8:419.