The tin featured once held ointment containing boric acid, which is derived from boron. The acid is an odourless white solid with mild antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Here it is contained in an ointment, but it can also be used in powder form and as a liquid.
Here are some of the conditions it has been used to treat: minor skin irritations, scratches, burns, acne, athletes foot and vaginal yeast. It is added as an antiseptic to dressings in the form of boric or boracic lint. It has also been used as an eye wash and even to control cockroaches. It is poisonous and has to be used with care. The concentration of boric acid in ointment is approximately 4%. Safer alternatives are available.
The letters B.P.C. featured on the tin show that boric acid features in the British Pharmaceutical Codex, a massive volume of chemicals that can be used by pharmacists.
The tin in The Memory Box was manufactured by Maws Pharmacy Supplies Ltd. The firm has its roots in 1814, when George Maw purchased a surgical plaster company in Whitecross Street, London. The factory produced surgical instruments, and then a range of surgical and pharmaceutical products. The firm became firmly established as a family business with consequent name changes. It became a limited company in 1918 and in 1920 moved much of the manufacturing to a 22 acre site in Barnet. The company was renamed Maws Pharmacy Supplies Ltd in 1940. It was sold to an American company in 1973. This firm, International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation Inc. had no background in pharmaceuticals! This history reveals that the ointment tin featured here was produced after 1940 and before 1973. For many years the name Maw’s was associated with the manufacture of glass feeding bottles for babies.
The term boracic lint, shortened to brassic, is used in Cockney rhyming slang for someone without money: boracic lint = skint.