Oldest Store Museum Experience
St. Augustine, Florida, USA
- The proprietor: Meet Mr. C.F. Hamblen and his clever crew as they turn doubters into buyers of the new century's must-have inventions, concoctions and cure-alls.
- The pitch: With their encyclopedic knowledge of dubious, often dangerous devices and patent medicines, you won't be able to resist these charming hucksters.
- Display: Travel back in time to see more than 100,000 obscure items – worm syrup, "health underwear," steam-powered tractors, even a gas-powered iron.
About this St. Augustine, Florida tour
In 1875, Charles Ferdinand Hamblen closed his general store in Stillwater, Maine, and relocated to St. Augustine to open C.F. Hamblen Hardware, where, as a supplier for Henry Flagler's entrepreneurial ventures throughout Florida, his store grew with the city.
By 1960 it had passed into the hands of Fred Green, who discovered that Hamblen was what we now call a hoarder. In 1963, Green turned Hamblen's hoard of screwy inventions and hazardous "medicines," many of which had spurred the government to create the Food and Drug Administration in 1906, into the Oldest Store Museum, and it's been drawing crowds ever since.
Wander in and you'll find you've entered a time warp, taking you back over a hundred years to elixirs like Dr. Barker's Blood Builder, all with one common ingredient: fraud.
Some of these products aren't that far removed from what you might see on a home-shopping channel or late-night infomercial. Who wouldn't be swayed by the pitch for underwear that, thanks to a mild and perfectly safe electrical charge, restores the joys and health benefits of vigorous intimate relations? Long before "As seen on TV," there was "As seen at Hamblen's."
Hype, hucksters, and hoaxes
Cure-all panacea elixirs and patent medicines (which had no patent) got their start in England, in 1712. They made their way to America's unregulated frontier, where skilled charlatans hyped their dubious potions to the gullible masses. Two notable products survived from that era, and you've probably used them: Vicks VapoRub and Alka-Seltzer.
Please proceed to the Oldest Store located on the same site as the Old Jail at 167 San Marco Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32084.
Closed on Christmas Day.
To fully participate may require leisurely walking over primarily even surfaces. There may be a limited number of steps and some standing for extended periods of time. Wheelchair friendly.
Family Friendly, Cultural
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated mild. To participate fully, you may be required to walk over primarily even surfaces at a leisurely pace. You may encounter a limited number of steps, cobblestones, or uneven surfaces, and you may have to stand for extended periods of time.
Suitable for all ages. Children 5 years of age and younger participate free of charge.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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