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.


Key theme(s):

HealthHome & Garden

More information:

Date 1950s
Material(s) Metal
Item number MBPO307

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Do you recall ever using boric acid ointment?
  • Which ointments do you currently have at home?
  • Which other ointments can you remember using?
  • Boracic lint is used in cockney rhyming slang. What other rhyming slang can you remember?
  • Have you ever used a Maw's feeding bottle?

User Stories

Estimating a date for a product is helped if the manufacturer’s name or location changes and if contents or prices are in imperial measures.

Here is a Maw’s early glass feeding bottle. The name of the company is shown as S Maws Son and Sons Ltd. This name was used between 1918 and 1940. The bottle was manufactured prior to the company’s move to Barnet in 1920.

Below is a tin, which is earlier than the one featured in Memory Box. Production commenced in Barnet after 1920. The chances are the tin of poison dates from the 1930s.

The following box of boric acid lint is in The Science Museum. It looks more modern than the tin above, as the company has a logo, but the name is still S. Maw, Son and Sons, Ltd. and this dates it before 1940.


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