Piscataway Museum Plans Medical Lecture Series

PISCATAWAY — On Wednesday, Oct. 13, Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Cornelius Low House/Middlesex County Museum will present a lecture on the history of patent medicines, with historian Frank Pinchak.

This lecture is the first in a four-part series based on the exhibit, “Call the Doctor! Call the Nurse! History of Medicine in New Jersey, 1775 – 1975,” currently on display at the Cornelius Low House Museum. Beginning at 7 p.m., this lecture will take place in the Indian Queen Tavern at East Jersey Olde Towne Village, 1050 River Road, Piscataway. The lecture series is free and open to the public.


Americans self-medicated themselves from the earliest days into the first half of the 20th century and beyond. These preparations were usually based on the roots, stems and leaves of native plants. Many potions contained a high content of alcohol and sometimes dangerous drugs. Today, advertising for modern patent medicines reaches millions of people through the mass-media of television, newspapers and magazines.

Frank Pinchak, R. Ph, is curator of medicine and pharmacy at the Paterson Museum. He graduated Rutgers University College of Pharmacy in 1943, and is a registered pharmacist in New Jersey.

Pinchak entered his father’s pharmacy practice in 1946, took over the establishment in 1962, and sold it in 1988. In 1958, as president of the NJ Pharmacists Association, he led the organization to form control centers in many New Jersey hospitals, eventually leading to the creation of the State of NJ poison control center in Newark.

In 1996 Pinchak installed a pharmacy exhibit at the Paterson Museum containing over 700 patent medicines of the 1920s. The items were from the pharmacy founded in 1919 by his father Morris Pinchak.

The exhibition, “Call the Doctor! Call the Nurse! History of Medicine in New Jersey, 1775 – 1975, is on display through June 26, 2011 at the Cornelius Low House Museum, 1225 River Road, Piscataway. It is open to the public Tuesday through Friday and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

The first three lectures take place at East Jersey Olde Towne Village. The final lecture in May 2011 will be held on the Cornelius Low House grounds. Future lectures include:

Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. – “Deadly Epidemic Strikes New Jersey! The History Behind the Headlines,” presented by Karen Reeds, guest curator

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 7 p.m. – “Archaeo-Forensics,” presented by Anna N. Dhody, curator, Mütter Museum

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 6 p.m. – “A Yardful of Remedies! A Walking Tour of Medicinal Plants,” presented by Karen Reeds, guest curator

To register for the lectures, please call 732.745.4489. Persons with hearing disabilities may dial 732.745.3888 (TTY users only) or 711, the New Jersey Relay System. East Jersey Olde Towne Village and the Cornelius Low House Museum are fully accessible sites. An Assistive Listening System is available and will be in use during the programs. An American Sign Language interpreter can be provided without charge with a two-week advance request. Wheelchairs are also available upon request for visitors who may need assistance from the parking lot to the program. Funded in part by Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission and New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

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