Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Double, Double Toil and Trouble - A Handwritten Secret Salve Recipe!

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

beth - Act IV - Scene 1 - William Shakespeare

In this post I feature one of my favorite items from my collection of 19th-century medical ephemera: a handwritten salve recipe, undated, but probably 1840s/1850s.

I am still doing some biographical research in the principals mentioned in the document, but here is a brief rundown:

The recipe (or "receipt" as they were called back then is by Philip Crandal (or "Crandall"...I have also seen "Crandell") of Harpswell, Maine (he was captured by the British in June of 1775, by the way!).

Right off the bat it is interesting because the it states that a group of men paid Crandal a "valuable compensation" for the manner of making the salve with the understanding that it would not be revealed until his death...which had evidently taken place:

Next comes the ingredients:

What?!?! You thought I was actually going to reveal the secret recipe?!
No way! But the ingredients are interesting:

Neatsfoot Oil

Linseed Oil
White Lead
Red Lead
Gum of Myrrh
West India Rum

And this is how you make it:

Well, that's enough for now, thank you very much!

When folded, the document indicates that the recipe was given by Crandal to Elihu Baxter, a well-known physician in Portland, Maine (and grandfather of Governor Percival Baxter, 1921-25). Perhaps he sold the salve out of his medical offices?
The recipe was given by Baxter to Hugh McClellan, whom I am still doing research on.

I have found just one additional reference to "Crandal Salve" - the William Bennet Records (1840-53) at the Harvard Business School includes a volume that also holds the recipe.

I just love the look and language of the document! On the heels of Halloween, all it's missing is "eye of newt and toe of frog" and Shakespeare's witches/weird sisters from Macbeth would be proud!


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