Drug Salesman Sample Case


Physicians and surgeons are not only healers, but to pharmaceutical companies they are customers. These  salesmen, were known as “detail men”, and for much of the past century, they would visit doctor’s offices offering free samples of their latest drugs.  Sometimes, they even presented their products in case like this one.  This one is marked with the stylized signature of Colonel Eli Lilly, the founder of the drug manufacturer.

This salesman’s sample case was produced and distributed by Eli Lilly, a well-known manufacturer of drugs and medical supplies.  Eli Lilly and Company remains in business and is still headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana where it was founded shortly after the Civil War. Eli Lilly was the first company to mass-produce the Salk Polio vaccine and developed and produced insulin for the treatment of diabetes. The case likely dates from the early 20th Century based on the drugs in the case.  The firm still uses Colonel Lilly’s signature as it’s company trademark.

We can’t link this salesman sample case to a particular physician.  They were produced by the tens of thousands over the years and the style changed little.  Often doctors would reuse them as pocket sized containers for commonly used drugs on “house calls”.

Some of the drugs in the case are still used in the treatment of disease while others are no longer produced.

Location in Museum

Medicine in the New South case


Circa 1890-1930
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