William Helfand began buying medically themed collectibles in the 1950s when he started working for Merck & Co. Over his 30-year career with the company, Helfand amassed thousands of posters and other old marketing paraphernalia, which were commissioned by pharmacists to promote the supposed medical benefits of products they had developed. The collection includes works depicting the "social plague" of syphilis, the benefits of aspirin, and the dangers of marijuana—the "Weed with Roots in Hell."

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