Mid-Month Memo 03: Beauty and Homecare Recipes

L0031645 Edwards’ “Harlene” for the hair Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Edwards’ “Harlene” for the hair: the great hair dressing. Print. London: Edwards’ “Harlene” Co., [1890’s]. 1890s? Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Back to Great-Granny’s recipe book for more home recipes. Some of the ingredients had us scratching our heads in bemusement, but we’ll share the recipes here anyway. You’ll never know when you need to mention one of these in a story sometime!

Measurements are usually given in drams or drachms (same thing, different spelling), which is shown as ‘dr’ and a number. The Britannica encyclopaedia defines as this “An apothecaries’ dram contains 3 scruples (3.888 grams) of 20 grains each and is equal to one-eighth apothecaries’ ounce of 480 grains.”

Other measures used are ordinary ounce (oz) and pound (lb). Liquid measures used are pints and gills (a gill is ¼ of a pint).

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Beauty Products

We’re used to buying whatever beauty products we want, when we want. For most Victorian women, these were too expensive or difficult to come by. So, being inventive and clever, they created their own:

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Cold Cream

1 oz pure wase (?)
2 oz spermaceti
1 pint almond oil.

Melt together and mix well. Beat in 12 drops attar of rose and 3 oz honey. Put in jars and cover securely. It will last a long time.

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For Chapped Hands/Dirty And Rough Hands

Chapped Hands Recipe One
1 dr carbolic acid
1 oz glycerin

Mix with water and apply to hands.

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Chapped Hands Recipe Two
Take an equal quantity of glycerin and methylated spirits and mix thoroughly together to rub on hands after washing.

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For Dirty, Rough Hands
Use Bicrolium Jelly, which removes all dirt and makes them soft and white.

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Hair Products

Hair Tonic
1 oz Lavena de Composee (?)
¼ dr menthol crystals
3 oz Bay Rum

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Falling Hair
Get some Boranium from chemists (pharmacist) and mix with Bay Rum

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For Grey Hair

To keep hair from turning grey, obtain some Tammalite (?), dissolve it in Bay Rum and apply this lotion every day.

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Shampoo
1 teaspoon Stallax dissolved in hot water

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Home Care Products

Most housewives found it easier and cheaper to create her own polishes and cleaners, rather than buy ready-made ones. Here are a couple of recipes:

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Cheap boot polish

1 dr hulball (?)
1 dr turpentine
1 dr neat’s foot oil

Melt hulball and mix with oils, and put in a tin. This makes boots waterproof.

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A good floor polish

1 dr bees wax and scrape it into a jar. Pour over it enough paraffin to cover it and put on stove to melt. When cold it is ready for use. Is a good furniture polish, too.

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Do you have old family remedy recipes like this that you’d like to pass along? Post them into the comments here (or email them to starrydiadem@gmail.com) along with the name of your ancestress who is credited with the recipe, and we’ll add them to the relevant page in the Resources section.

11 thoughts on “Mid-Month Memo 03: Beauty and Homecare Recipes

  1. Thanks. These ladies were very resourceful in the old days. Now if we can only figure out what the ingredients are. Never heard of many of them. Of course we all know carbolic acid,one of Dr Sam’s favorites.

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  2. These recipes are way cool! Thanks for posting them. My husband’s hometown paper has an early b files column. They take samples from papers in maybe 1897, 1923, 1955, and 1976. Some of the things that were newsworthy are interesting, but some not the ads are a hoot! Thanks again!

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    1. Oh yes! I reconstructed a page for the Sacramento Record Union to cover the events of the first episode, and I used a real copy of the paper to do so, so that all the advertisements, articles and news snippets etc were real (except for my three ‘planted’ articles). There were some wonderful ads. My favourite one, asking to swop a horse for a sewing machine, I used for a later story in the Whore and The Gunfighter series. Old newspapers are pure, pure gold.

      The facsimile is here, if you’re interested: https://celestialdome929804001.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/therecord1.pdf

      Anna

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  3. Beauty Homecare Recipes

    My Grandmother used lard to rub onto/into chapped hands. While cooking, if she got lard onto her hands, she wouldn’t wipe it off. She would rub it in, saying ‘No sense in wasting!’ Years later, shortening, Crisco in particular, was used. Simply rub a teaspoon full, or less onto your hands, slip hands into cotton socks before you go to bed. Try it for a few nights and your hands will be soft as the proverbial baby’s butt!

    Diana

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    1. Was that a bit smelly, Diana? It’s a long time since I used lard for anything – I don’t tend to make pastry much, which would be just about the only thing – but I’m not sure I’d want to rub it into my hands! Thinking logically though, on the frontier then that would be just about the only fat available. If you used something with it to give it a little scent, it probably worked very well.

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  4. Thank you for these health and beauty ads. They are very informative. At least these products were natural and not animal tested.k

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