University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center
The Story of Natural Drugs, 1937
University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, College of Pharmacy, rooms 32 and 36
These brightly painted and highly decorative murals hang as framed panels on the walls of two large basement lecture halls in the College of Pharmacy. The subject matter is appropriate for pharmacological students, although the placement of the murals, moved from the original location for which they were commissioned, is not ideal. They illustrate the use of the indigenous Native American remedies, derived from natural sources, by Spanish explorers in the New World and their subsequent adoption into European medical practice. The two large murals in room 32 are arranged to be "read" chronologically from top to bottom, with more recent times given the most prominent position in the composition. In one the New World drug quinine is traced from the gathering of bark by Peruvian Indians, to manufacture by Spanish explorers and Jesuits, to transport to Europe in the seventeenth century. In the second, early settlers are being taught by Native Americans to identify and collect plants and bark, and an elaborately fitted out nineteenth-century apothecary shop is pictured, with a pharmacist, clerks, and two elegantly dressed women customers. In room 36 three narrower panels show foxglove plants being transformed into digitalis to treat sufferers from heart disease, mood-altering drugs manufactured from coca plants and cactus, and opium made from poppies and used to treat World War I soldiers.
University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, College of Pharmacy, The Story of Natural Drugs, one of five panels. Photograph © by Don DuBroff, courtesy of the University of Illinois at Chicago, murals commissioned by the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project.
An image from A Guide to Chicago's Murals by Mary Lackritz Gray