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Last Saturday, I happened upon the most fantastic book I have ever uncovered in my many years of thrifting. The sheer weight of the volume was enough to guarantee that this old book would be a treasure trove of intrigue and information. The ornate cover read The Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts Notes and Queries and, inside, the book was filled with receipts (recipes) ranging from cosmetics to fireworks to every odd thing in between. For a mere $10, this book was mine, and it now resides on the nightstand for some light bedtime reading. It occurred to me that this 1892 volume is too marvelous not to share with everyone and that a weekly recipe from this book ought to be featured on our blog here!


Where else will you find recipes for arsenic lip balm or an ammonia baldness treatment? I’m sure you’ve wondered how to make violet colored fireworks or Victorian-era french soaps! What curious mind hasn’t? I will do my best to satiate your ravenous mind with knowledge that’s both frighteningly outmoded and surprisingly relevant!

Lets start with a treatment for acne-prone skin that your doctor probably hasn’t recommended you: lotion of acetate of lead. By the way, DON’T MAKE THIS. (There is my warning; I am no longer liable!).


Take of sugar of lead, 1/4 oz.; distilled or soft water, 1 pint; dissolve. Sometimes a little vinegar is added, a like quantity of water being omitted. Used in excoriations (I keep reading that as exorcisms), burns, sprains, contusions, etc.; also as an occasional cosmetic wash by persons troubled with eruptions.

If it wasn’t bad enough that your face was erupting, you are now dead from lead poisoning. This may be why they say “occasional”: no one lives long enough for the second application of this topical treatment.

Stay posted for next week’s receipt from another era!