Vintage remedies for croup

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2010

As I mentioned in my previous article, the years previous to 1900 were an extremely interesting time, especially for those living in the Pacific Northwest.

The United States Senate ratified the purchase from Russia of Alaska on April 9, 1867. Oregon had become a state in 1859 and on Nov. 11, 1889, Washington became a state. On March 10, 1883, women formed the very first Women's Club on the west coast in Olympia, Wash. It became really exciting in 1880 for those living in the new Washington Territory when Rutherford B. Hayes became the first U.S. President to visit the West Coast.

In 1880, Chief Kowee, an Auk Indian Chief, revealed to prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris the presence of gold in what is now Gold Creek in Silverbow Basin. The city of Juneau was founded there that same year by the two prospectors. Initially, the city was named Harrisburg; later, the name was changed to Pilzburg after George Pilz, who originally hired the two prospectors. Later yet, it was renamed Rockwell after Charles Rockwell, a military officer who was sent from Sitka to restore order in the new town. But finally, Joe Juneau and friends were able to persuade those who could vote to change the name one last time to Juneau.

As I mentioned in my previous article, it was a busy and exciting time, and the book, written in 1890, "Dining Room and Kitchen, an economical guide in Practical Housekeeping for the American Housewife" was the last word for the success of new housewives. At the front of the book was a color picture of what the modern dining room should look like, plus illustrative woodcuts throughout the book "to add greatly to its intelligibility and interest."

There is a massive collection of recipes, but along with that are several other helpful areas, one of which is the nursery. There are many suggestions, many of which are medical in nature. I found them interesting because they truly reflect what was in use medically 120 years ago. The following were a couple of suggestions to rid children of croup (Editor's note: Don't try these at home):

Croup Cure No. 1

Take sweet hog's lard and tincture of camphor or camphor gum and simmer together a short time; gum the size of a pea to a tablespoon of lard; keep it in the house prepared and rub on the throat at first symptom.

Croup can be cured in one minute, and the remedy is simply alum and molasses. The way to accomplish this deed is to take a knife or grate and shave off in small particles about a teaspoonful of alum, then mix it with twice its quantity of molasses, to make it palatable, and administer it as quick as possible. Almost instantaneous relief will follow vomiting.

Croup Cure No. 2

A lady writer of professional experience gives the following advice to mothers whose children have the croup: First, get a piece of Chamois skin, make a little bib, cut out the neck and sew on tapes to tie on. Then, melt together some tallow and pine tar, rub some of this in the chamois and let the child wear it all the time. My baby had the croup whenever she took cold, and since I put on the chamois I have had no more trouble. Renew with tar occasionally.

It kind of makes you wonder about all that stuff we now buy at our local drug stores to cure those nasty coughs our children get. I have no idea what sweet hog's lard is, or if there was hog's lard that wasn't so sweet. Well, anyway, see you next time when I have more interesting things from the past.

• Jack Marshall is a 32-year Alaska resident who has been in Juneau for 26 years. His parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were pioneers of Oregon and Washington, leaving Alaska for him to discover.

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