Your Old West characters would have been interested in reading about many of the same things that interest modern folk: the latest news, expert advice, and of course, looking and feeling good. People back then worried about the same things we do, too: clear skin, gray hair and no hair. This particular list of recipes is from The Ladies' and Gentlemen's Etiquette (Mrs. E.B. Duffey, 1877).
Some terms explained:
Ambergris: a wax-like substance that originates as a secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale; found floating in tropical seas and traditionally used in perfume manufacture.
Attar of Roses: the essential oil extracted from the petals of various types of rose.
Bandoline: a mucilaginous preparation used for smoothing, glossing or waving the hair.
Cantharides: extract of crushed blister beetle
Deliquated: dissolved or melted.
Drachm: a unit of weight formerly used by apothecaries, equal to 60 grains or one-eighth of an ounce.
Felon: also known as a whitlow; a deep, usually pus-filled inflammation of the finger or toe, especially around the nail.
Gill: a unit of volume equal to 4.16 fluid ounces
Goulard's Extract: a solution of lead acetate and lead oxide; commonly used as an astringent up until the early 20th Century.
Grain: A unit of weight formerly used by apothecaries, equal to 60 milligrams. 1 gram is equal to 15 grains, and 1 dram is 60 grains.
Isinglass: a kind of gelatin obtained from fish, especially sturgeon, and used for making glue, etc.; also used of transparent sheets of mica.
Muriate: a chloride compound.
Rectified Spirits: highly concentrated ethanol, which has been purified by repeated distillation (rectification).
Spermaceti: a waxy substance found in the head cavities of the sperm whale (and, in smaller quantities, in the oils of other whales).
Tragacanth: a natural gum made from the dried sap of several Middle Eastern legume plants.
To Cure Chilblains:
· When indications of chilblains first present themselves, take vinegar three ounces, camphorated spirits of wine one ounce; mix and rub.
· Rub with alum and water.
· Put the hands and feet two or three times a week into warm water in which two or three handfuls of common salt have been dissolved.
· Rub with a raw onion dipped in salt.
To Prevent the Hair from Falling Off:
· Vinegar of cantharides half an ounce, eau-de-cologne one ounce, rose-water one ounce. The scalp should be brushed briskly until it becomes red, and the lotion should then be applied to the roots of the hair twice a day.
· A quarter of a pint of cod-liver oil, two drachms of origanum, fifteen drops of ambergris, the same of musk.
· Boxwood shavings six ounces, proof spirits twelve ounces, spirits of rosemary two ounces, spirits of nutmeg one-half an ounce. Steep the boxwood shavings in the spirits for fourteen days at a temperature of 60 degrees; strain, and add the rest.
The various fluids advertised and recommended for the purpose of giving straight hair a tendency to curl are all impositions. The only curling-fluid of any service is a very weak solution of isinglass, which will hold the curl in the position in which it is placed if care is taken that it follows the direction in which the hair naturally falls.
One of the fluids in use is made by dissolving a small portion of beeswax in an ounce of olive oil and adding scent according to fancy.
This essential for the toilette is prepared in several ways.
Simmer an ounce of quince seed in a quart of water for forty minutes; strain, cool, add a few drops of scent and bottle, corking tightly.
Take of gum tragacanth one and a half drachms, water half a pint, rectified spirits mixed with a equal quantity of water three ounces, and a little scent. Let the mixture stand for a day or two, then strain.
It may be made of Iceland moss, a quarter of an ounce boiled in a quart of water, and a little rectified spirit added so that it may keep.
This indispensable adjunct to the toilette may be made by melting in a jar placed in a basin of boiling water a quarter of an ounce each of white wax and spermaceti, flour of benzoin fifteen grains, and half an ounce of oil of almonds. Stir till the mixture is cool. Color red with a little alkanet root.
Rose-water may be made by taking half an ounce of powdered white sugar and two drachms of magnesia; with these mix twelve drops of attar of roses. Add a quart of water and two ounces of alcohol, mixed in a gradual manner, and filter through blotting-paper.
An application of cold, wet common whitening placed on immediately, is recommended as an invaluable remedy.
Stretch a piece of black silk on a wooden frame, and apply dissolved isinglass to one side of it with a brush. Let it dry, repeat the process, and then cover with a strong tincture of balsam of Peru.