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Model alligator, England, 1801-1900

Alligators such as this one were once commonly hung from the ceilings of apothecary shops. They appear to have been symbols associated with the profession and one was even mentioned by William Shakespeare who, in Romeo and Juliet, describes an apothecary in which hangs “An alligator stuff’d, and other skins of ill-shaped fishes”. Apothecaries and barber-surgeons were close professions and the latter also had similar creatures on display in their premises.

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Glossary: apothecary

A term used until about 1800 to describe someone who prepares and sells drugs or compounds for medicinal purposes. Today the term ‘pharmacist’ or ‘pharmaceutical chemist’ is used instead.

Glossary: alligator

Broad-snouted crocodile-like reptile found in the USA and China.