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). Each paragraph beneath a heading marks a new recipe.
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 Improve the Complexion:
The whites of four eggs boiled in rose-water, half an ounce of alum, half an ounce of oil of sweet almonds; beat the whole together until it assumes the consistency of paste. Spread upon a silk or muslin mask, to be worn at night.
Take a small piece of the gum benzoin and boil it in spirits of wine until it becomes a rich tincture. Fifteen drops poured into a glass of water; wash and leave to dry.
For Roughness of the Skin:
Mix two parts of white brandy with one part of rose-water, and wash the face night and morning.
Take equal parts of the seed of the melon, pumpkin, gourd and cucumber, pounded until they are reduced to powder; add to it sufficient fresh cream to dilute the flour, and then add milk enough to reduce the whole to a thin paste. Add a grain of musk and a few drops of the oil of lemon. Anoint the face with this; leave it on twenty or thirty minutes, or over-night if convenient, and wash off with warm water. It gives a remarkable purity and brightness to the complexion.
Steep the pimpernel plant in pure rain-water, and bathe the face with the decoction.
To Soften the Hands:
Take half a pound of soft soap, a gill of salad oil, an ounce of mutton tallow, and boil them till they are thoroughly mixed. After the boiling has ceased but before the mixture is cold, add one gill of spirits of wine and a grain of musk. Anoint the hands, draw on gloves, and let them remain till morning.
For Rough and Chapped Hands:
Lemon-juice, three ounces, white wine vinegar three ounces, and white brandy one-half a pint.
To Prevent Hair Turning Gray:
Oxide of bismuth four drachms, spermaceti four drachms, pure hog’s lard four ounces. Melt the two last and add the first.
To Soften and Beautify the Hair:
Beat up the whites of four eggs into a froth, and rub thoroughly in close to the roots of the hair. Leave it to dry on. Then wash the head and hair clean with a mixture of equal parts of rum and rose-water.
To Remove Pimples:
Sulphur-water one ounce, acetated liquor of ammonia one-quarter of an ounce, liquor or potassa one grain, white wine vinegar two ounces, distilled water two ounces. Bathe the face.
Pimples are sometimes removed by frequent washings in warm water and prolongs friction with a coarse towel.
Oil of roses four ounces, white wax one ounce, spermaceti one-half an ounce. Melt in a glass vessel and stir with a wooden spoon. Pour into a glass or china cup.
Cure for Corns:
Take nightshade berries, boil them in hog's lard, and anoint the corn with the salve.
One teaspoonful of tar, one teaspoonful of coarse brown sugar and one teaspoonful of saltpetre, the whole to be warmed together. Spread it on kip leather the size of the corns, and in two days they will be drawn out.