Medicine Chest

Nathan Starkey, Philadelphia
Date: c. 1835
Maker / Manufacturer: Nathan Starkey, Philadelphia
Medium: Mahogany and brass chest with glass bottles and paper labels
Dimensions: 14 H x 9 1/2 W x 6 1/2 D
Chest has paper label pasted inside sliding door on back of chest. Label reads: "N. Starkey / Manufacturer of Portable Desks / Dressing Cases, Medicine Chests, / and / Ladies Work Boxes, / No. 52 Walnut Street, / Opposite the Exchange / Philadelphia"
Bottles have various labels, several for A. Parsons Wholesale and Retail Drug Store at the Eagle, No. 8 Gibbon’s Range, Savannah.
Credit: Gift of Martha, Elisa (McManus), Peter, and Christopher Twichell in memory of Phyllis Jones Twichell
Accession Number: 2020.31

This small medicine chest unfolds to reveal shelves with glass drug bottles and drawers for additional storage. The chest belonged to Anson Parsons (1791–1872), who originally lived in Savannah, Georgia, where he owned and operated A. Parsons Wholesale and Retail Drug Store at the Eagle, No. 8 Gibbon’s Range, Savannah.

Parsons was still in Georgia in 1830, the year he signed two deeds for the purchase of two slaves (now part of the Albany Institute's library). Sometime after 1830, Parsons moved to Lebanon Springs, New York, in Columbia County. Lebanon Springs was long known for its mineral springs, which attracted visitors since the eighteenth century. Parsons eventually purchased Columbia Hall, a large hotel that accommodated tourists and health seekers. Parsons’s drug business may have taken him to Lebanon Springs but it's also possible that he was one of the numerous southerners who stayed there during the summer months. He married Louisa H. Hull, daughter of former Columbia Hall owner, Henry Hull (b. 1761). Louisa and Anson had their first of six children in 1842, Lewis E. Parsons (1842–1885). In 1855, Parsons was a partner in the Lebanon Springs Aqueduct Company with a purpose of “supplying the village of New-Lebanon Springs, Columbia county, with good and wholesome water, by means of conduits and aqueducts.”

Parsons sold Columbia Hall in 1866 as referenced in an 1873 report for a New York Supreme Court case that involved Louisa Parsons, Anson’s widow, versus Henry Tilden, Uri Hazard, Daniel Gale, and John Gale.