The FDA Artifact Collection
Since its founding, the FDA History Office has collected artifacts that are representative of the Agency's history. Porter and Lofsvold began the artifact collection by soliciting submissions of significant artifacts from the field offices. These, along with a wide variety of objects representing self-contained individual collections and miscellaneous acquisitions gathered from unknown sources over the past decades, make up the artifact collection of the FDA History Office. All the objects, which total several thousand individual items, illustrate products the FDA regulates, and many document key enforcement cases in the history of the agency. In addition to these, the Smithsonian Institution, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Science Museum of Minnesota have a significant number of objects on loan from the FDA.
For example, the collection includes a box of Pillsbury Blueberry Pancake Mix, which the FDA seized in 1959 for misbranding. Contrary to the listed ingredients and the picture on the box, this product had no blueberries. The collection also includes bogus bust developers such as Lady Ample, seized in the 1960s, and misbranded and dangerous faux exercise devices including different models of the Relaxacizor, against which FDA took action several times in the 1970s.
Other notable items included in this collection are samples of Elixir Sulfanilamide and Kevadon (thalidomide), the culprits that killed or maimed many patients in this country and thereby revolutionized drug laws in 1938 and 1962, respectively, as well as Lash Lure, a synthetic aniline eyelash dye in which a number of women suffered injuries to their eyes, including one confirmed case of permanent blindness, before cosmetics came under regulation. The museum collection also includes about 4000 reference samples of pharmaceuticals from the 1950s to the 1980s, including products that accompanied new drug applications and reference standards issued for the United States Pharmacopoeia.
The objects are organized under many categories and subcategories, determined by the agency's regulatory jurisdictions: pharmaceuticals (including labels, promotional matter, drug containers, and weight loss pharmaceuticals--the latter because of the volume of such objects), biologic agents, foods (including vitamins, labels, and promotional items), medical devices, cosmetics, veterinary feed and drugs, equipment used for inspections and for laboratory analyses (mostly chemical and microbiological), quack products (including devices, pharmaceuticals, foods, biologics, and cosmetics), pesticides, and colors. Finally, the collection includes ephemeral objects, including awards that employees or offices received and unusual company promotional items not included elsewhere, such as paperweights, letter openers, and pill trays.