Amputations, Birthday Cake, and Leeches
This past weekend, the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop in Fredericksburg, Virginia hosted a birthday celebration for Hugh Mercer’s 293rd birthday. Usually there is an entrance fee for the museum, but there was free admission for the celebration. As I’ve said before, I definitely try to find inexpensive or free events to attend because Adventuring shouldn’t require loads of money. The event had been postponed from the previous weekend because of the inclement weather. I was excited because I wasn’t sure what I would see inside the shop, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the leeches…
One of the most interesting aspects about my visit was the different medical explanations. There were different characters in period costumes, including Hugh Mercer himself. Mr. Mercer offered me some birthday cake as he explained how he was killed on the battlefield. Definitely the most interesting birthday cake conversation that I’ve ever had. Inside the front area of the shop where Mr. Mercer was explaining how he was slaughtered, there was a full array of medicinal jars and herbs. I wasn’t able to get a full shot of the entire wall because of all the people.
There was a woman at the shop that was in period dress as well. She explained how the doctor would perform tooth extractions and use the various tools for amputations. There was even a box on the floor to catch the limb. YIKES! She explained that after the amputation was complete, they would wrap the limb and send it home with the patient so that they could bury it on their property. The belief was that you would want all of your limbs when you pass on to the afterlife. And unfortunately for amputation patients, that happened sooner rather than later. A patient had a 50/50 chance of survival. Listening to her really made me grateful for modern medical practices.
One of the other oddities that she explained was how the leeches were used. There was even jars with live leeches. She was extremely knowledgeable and spoke as though we were presently in the past. Sounds odd, but it made sense at the time.
The shop was extremely small, but that’s not uncommon for the homes and the shops of the area and for the era. Upstairs there was a small bedroom that was cordoned off and several other doors that were locked. I’m not sure if the items in the room were originals or not, there didn’t seem to be signage saying one way or the other. I would have to assume they were since it was cordoned off. If they weren’t Hugh Mercer originals, they were probably period pieces. Unfortunately there wasn’t much else to see inside the shop, and it started to get quite crowded. Definitely not a good combo.
In the rear of the shop, there was a garden with several different herbs and medicinal ingredients. Unfortunately the winter cold has set in so most of the herbs were dead or dry. I’m going to return during the spring to get a better look at the garden.
I’m glad that I got the opportunity to visit the shop, it was definitely an added bonus that it was free. I’m pretty sure the cost is minimal on normal operating days. If you want more info on this museum or any of the others, their website is: www.washingtonheritagemuseums.org As I’ve said in other posts, Adventures don’t have to cost anything you just have to be willing to seek things out. Use social media to find events in your local area. Not only will you find something fun to do, you might help support the local community. As always, thank you for reading my Adventuring ramblings. I look forward to reading your feedback.
Until the Next Adventure,