Recently three business ledgers used in Kentville drugstores in the 19th century were donated to the Kings Historical Society by the Gerrard family. The ledgers were found some 20 year ago in the basement of a house on Main Street that was once used as a pharmacy. Archivists currently are cataloguing the contents of the ledgers and a conservator is tidying them up as much as possible. The archivists working on the ledgers hail them as an “amazing look at the state of pharmacology in the mid-19th to early 20th century in Kentville.” Here’s more about them:
In his blog on the Kings Historical Society web page, conservator Kelly Bourassa describes the old ledgers as mouldy, musty, water stained, riddled with insect holes and “representing a considerable challenge” when it comes to conserving them.
Archivists Merrily Aubrey and Ken Kaiser, who are cataloguing the ledgers for the Kings Historical Society collection, note that that they indeed are “incredibly fragile.”
The condition of the ledgers is understandable since they date back to the 19th century, to a time when Kentville only had a few stores and was a struggling county village known widely as Horton Corner.
Actually the ledgers are in reasonably good condition given their age. The dates when the ledgers were used have been determined as 1868 to 1874, 1884 to 1896 and 1887 to 1906. The oldest ledger was originally used in Kentville’s first drugstore which was opened by Leander J. Cogswell in 1868. According to Kings County Museum curator Bria Stokesbury, the 1884-1896 ledger belonged to the Kentville Drugstore, operated by R. S. Masters.
Basically, the three books are pharmacy ledgers. However, one of them originally was used as a register from 1897 until 1898 by a Kentville hotel, the Porter House, and then turned into a “scrapbook for prescriptions” (Stokesbury) by Dr. W. S. Woodworth. Actual prescriptions were pasted onto the pages of the register over lists of guests who stayed at the hotel between January 1, 1897, and February 26, 1898, but there are pages where guests’ names, addresses and dates of stay can clearly be seen.
Kelly Bourassa, who is president of the Kings Historical Society, says that the ledgers contain hundreds of prescriptions filled by the earliest drug stores in Kentville. As such, “they represent an import record of medical practise at the time, which was much different from modern times,” Bourassa said. “They’re a fascinating read of (19th century) drugstore dispensing practises.”
Once cleaned and catalogued, the ledgers will be stored in the vaults of the Kings County Museum until funding can be found to properly restore and preserve them. “They represent a considerable challenge in conservation,” Bourassa says, “since they require rebinding, which essentially is restructuring each ledger.”
Once the ledgers have been restored the long range plan is to digitize them. Bria Stokesbury said that digital copies of some of the more interesting contents of the ledgers will eventually be viewable on the Museum website.