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Please raise your hand if you are a little confused regarding authentic apothecaries compared to drawer boxes. It appears that most everyone seems to use the word “apothecary” to describe all boxes that retain a drawer construction but this may not actually be the case. Original apothecary furniture pieces dating from the 18th and 19th centuries consisted of small and large drawers to hold a wide variety of medicinal spices, herbs and medicines (sold by the pharmacist). The larger drawers may have held accessories such as spoons, scales along with a handy mortar and pestle. These drawers may have been marked on the outside with the contents they contained and apothecaries were mass produced up until the 20th century.
I only used the word apothecary in the title for the benefit of a (meta tag search) that will cater to people who still may call these boxes apothecaries…..so please “don’t shoot the messenger”!
This storage box boasting nine drawers was fashioned from wooden cast off fish boxes, (similar to cheese boxes) that were used in the 1920 to the 40’s era. This piece has fabulous wear and sports areas of apple green paint as shown on the right side as well as the inside where the drawers rest. Drawer boxes such as this one were fashioned by a handy person to serve a purpose…..perhaps to store small items such as nails in the barn.
The overall surface appearance is delicious and the small wooden knobs that accommodate a middle screw on each drawer also have a great worn look. The box is in good solid condition and was hand fashioned from pine using round head nails. The top, back corner does exhibit a very small, half-moon circle indentation but is hard to detect. There is a tight horizontal crack located on the back of the box in the middle that travels three quarters of the way near the end. See image 8. A knot worked its way out of the wood causing an open hole also located on the back as shown in image 9. Another crack is visible on the bottom located near the top where the first nail appears and also just below this area as referenced in images 14 & 15.
All of the drawers are divided except for one. The face on this drawer does not match the rest and may have been constructed later as a replacement for the original drawer that could have been lost, as shown in images 20 through 23. There was a white knob used on the replacement drawer that looked hideous! I called on Harry once again to help fashion a replacement that is traditionally in keeping with the rest of the knobs appearance. I antiqued it to look old so it would match the rest of the knobs and all is well!
A couple of the bottom drawers (on the far right and left locations) are a little fussy and difficult to open but with persuasiveness a little wiggle here and there will get the job done. One of the drawers on the immediate left, near the top does have a couple nails that protrude beyond the wood located on the inside (behind the drawer face) as referenced in image 30. Some of the drawers have dry stains located at the bottom as referenced in image 31.
”Fathom Fish” wooden crates seem to be the makers choice for the nine drawers he constructed. Please see the last picture of a clever advertisement I found that depicts a women in her kitchen holding a fishing pole that is supposed to relay a message of how fresh this variety of fish really is!
This interesting piece really has great character and delightful wear that only time can lend. I can envision this box displayed on top of a table in your kitchen, using a collection of either mortar and pestles on top, pantry boxes or even butter molds that would make a showy presentation. You can also use this piece in your bathroom too with perhaps glass bottles gracing the top filled with bath salts, cotton balls and like. Don’t forget about the holidays as fresh greens and berries can be tucked inside the drawers along with small mercury glass ornaments. The top of this box adds yet another decorating area for you to have fun with by creating a theme of your choosing! I just love the versatility this piece has to offer! Enjoy!
Drawer Box stands 10” tall, measures 17” across the top that extends beyond the drawer area and measures 7” deep which also extends the drawer area. Drawers measure 4” across (right to left), measures 5 1/5” deep and the height is 2”.