chemist

So, hair's the thing...

As one 19th century advertisement begins, "in every civilised country throughout the world the human hair is always found to be a subject of peculiar attention." For centuries, millenia even, we have tugged and twisted our hair into unnatural and often physically improbable shapes, sought luxury and lustre through the addition of all manner of substances and continually attempted to find a tried and true way of stopping the damn stuff from falling out. The resulting works of art, be they hirsute, sleek or more reminiscent of a desert than a forest, have then been viewed through the discerning and often judgemental eyes of society. Your hair can mark your status, your wealth, your nationality, your personality traits, your identity, whether you want it to or not. It's no wonder, really, that the care and maintenance of hair elicits such effort from us, is it?

With this in mind, the following images showcase some of the evidence we've found - archaeologically and historically - for hair care in the 19th century. Some of it is weird and wonderful, some of it was probably a bit uncomfortable, and some of it we still use today.

Just to set the scene. Note the flattering description of red-heads and the character assassination of brunettes. Image:

Rowland's Macassar oil, culprit of oily hair and even oilier upholstery everywhere. Macassar oil was a hair restorative and beautifier, first introduced during the late 19th century by a barber named Alexander Rowland. It's the reason for the term 'antimacassar', which refers to the piece of fabric thrown over the top or back of arm chairs to deal with the oily residue hair-conscious people were leaving on furniture all over the place. The advertisement mentions scurf, which is another word for dandruff (I did not know this prior to this post), as well as the restoration of "whiskers, mustachios and eyebrows". How versatile! Image: J. Garland.

May I direct your attention to the highlighted section, in which the application of electricity to the scalp is recommended as a cure for baldness.

Bear's grease

The Toilet

Dr Frampton's Pomatum, by Price & Co., Her Majesty's Perfumers. For those with unruly hair, unhealthy hair or hair that just won't stay on the head at all. Pomatum was a common hair product during the 19th century and well into the 20th century (also known as pomade). It was usually made of a scented grease or lard and used to smooth down the hair (or moustache, presumably). Articles towards the end of the century, when the use of pomatum had become slightly less widespread, speak disparagingly of resulting "locks saturated with strongly-scented grease" (Nelson Evening Mail 19/10/1882: 4). Image: J. Garland.

Erm.

Bay rum

potato dye

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One thing that was notably different to general hair care now was the recommended frequency of washing.

Alexander Barry's Tricopherous is probably the most common hair related artefact that we find on 19th century archaeological sites. Composes largely of alcohol and oil, it promised all manner of miracles when it came to the beauty and restoration of the hair, including the cure of baldness. It was, however, also used in place of pomatum as a far less greasy tool with which to style the hair. Image: G. Jackson.

less coffee more hair

Jessie Garland 

Just what the doctor ordered!

When it comes to the weird and wonderful in 19th century life, it's hard to go past the field of medicine: specifically, pharmaceutical and 'self-care' remedies. Health-related products can be some of the wackiest and most interesting things we find in the archaeological record, especially when they're put into the context of contemporary advertising and marketing strategies. They also offer us the opportunity to understand the health concerns of people in the past: not just what they actually suffered from and how they treated it, but what they thought they suffered from and what they considered to be healthy. Mostly, though, they're fascinating. And often hilarious.

With that in mind, the following are some of our favourites. Enjoy!

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Jessie Garland

'Is your breathing embarrassed?'

A 19th century bottle of Baxter's Lung Preserver found at a site in central Christchurch.
A 19th century bottle of Baxter's Lung Preserver found at a site in central Christchurch.

Many of you will probably have heard of Baxter’s Lung Preserver, a local Christchurch product created in the 19th century and still sold today. Bottles of Baxter’s, with the name of the product embossed on the sides, are common finds on late 19th century sites throughout Christchurch.

As far as we know, the product originated in the late 1860s in Christchurch as the brainchild of a man named John Baxter, who set himself up as a chemist in the young city. The actual start date of the business is a bit unclear, as we have one advertisement from 1884 that claims over 25 years of operation (suggesting a date of 1859; Taranaki Herald1/02/1884: 4) and another from 1939 that claims a 75 year history (suggesting a date of 1864; Evening Post16/10/1939: 13). The 1864 date seems more likely, since we know that John Baxter died in 1895 at the age of 49 (Star14/09/1895: 4), meaning he was born in 1846. It’s a little unlikely that a 13 year old would start a pharmaceutical business, but an 18 year old doing so isn’t quite so much of a stretch.

Advertisement for Baxter's Lung Preserver from 1939.
Advertisement for Baxter's Lung Preserver from 1939.

Whatever the start date, it’s clear that by the 1870s, Baxter was well established in Christchurch, with premises on Cashel Street in something called ‘Medical Hall’ (Star 13/08/1875: 4) as well as on the corner of Victoria and Durham Street. The business continued at the Victoria Street address well into the 20th century, with his sons taking over after Baxter’s death in 1895 (Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1903).

Advertisement for Professor Brown's herbal remedies, sold at Baxter's Chemist, Christchurch.
Advertisement for Professor Brown's herbal remedies, sold at Baxter's Chemist, Christchurch.

Like George Bonnington, John Baxter became well known for his own creations, and also sold products created by other chemists. Along with his lung preserver, Baxter advertised Baxter’s Anti-Neuralgic ‘magic pills’, Compound Quinine Pills, cures for indigestion and remedies for liver complaints. He was also known to stock herbal remedies and ointments from a Professor O. P. Brown, as well as non-pharmaceutical objects like the 1885 Shakespearian Almanac and various other things (Press 17/04/1885: 4).

Like so many pharmaceutical remedies of the late 1800s, Baxter’s was often advertised in local newspapers using testimonials from apparently satisfied clients. Just a quick scroll through 19th century newspapers from all over the country brings up countless enthusiastic letters and quotes from “faculty, clergy and others” who claimed that Baxter’s Lung Preserver had cured them of their ills and succeeded where other remedies had failed (Press 04/08/1873: 2).

Testimonials for Baxter's Lung Preserver, Press 4/10/1883.
Testimonials for Baxter's Lung Preserver, Press 4/10/1883.

Other advertisements played on concerns of the time and offered to cure a range of complaints, most of which were respiratory illnesses or problems – cough, colds, bronchitis, congestion of the lungs. My personal favourite offers Baxter’s Lung Preserver as a remedy for “embarrassed breathing” as well as the more common respiratory problems (Evening Post29/01/1887: 2).

Advertisement for Baxter's Lung Preserver.
Advertisement for Baxter's Lung Preserver.

We’re not sure exactly how effective Baxter’s Lung Preserver would have been at curing the things it claimed to fix, since we don’t know exactly what was in it. The modern version, still sold today, uses the active ingredient ipecacuanha (a Brazilian plant used as an expectorant and emetic; API Consumer Brands2013), but we have no way of knowing if this is the same as the Victorian recipe. Some anecdotal information suggests that it might have had a high alcoholic content, which would be in line with many of the other patent medicines of the time, especially those directed at coughs and colds.

Whatever its ingredients, it’s clear from the wealth of historical information and archaeological finds, that Baxter’s Lung Preserver was a hugely popular product, not just in Christchurch, but throughout New Zealand. It’s a testament to Baxter’s legacy and the tenacity of his products that his business lasted so long after his death and his products continue to be sold in shops today.

Jessie Garland

References

API Consumer Brands. 2013. [online] Available at <http://www.api.net.nz/brands/consumer-division/baxters-range>.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]. 1903. [online] Available at <http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/>.

Evening Post. [online] Available at <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>.

Manawatu Standard. [online] Available at <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>.

Press. [online] Available at <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>.

Star. [online] Available at <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>.

Taranaki Herald. [online] Available at <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>.

West Coast Times. [online] Available at <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>.

Medicating the masses: a wholesale druggist in Edwardian Christchurch.

One of the artefact deposits exposed during our excavation of the H. F. Stevens site on Worcester Street. Image:
One of the artefact deposits exposed during our excavation of the H. F. Stevens site on Worcester Street. Image:

In our last post, Jeremy talked about the site of H. F. Stevens, wholesale druggist, on Worcester Street near Cathedral Square. We excavated the site in 2011 and found a number of artefacts, including the Udolpho Wolfe’s bottles featured last week. We also found a range of other pharmaceutical remedies, local and international in origin, and a few household artefacts. These artefacts let us catch a glimpse of what went on inside a successful wholesale pharmaceutical company in Edwardian Christchurch.

H. F. Stevens. Image: Jeremy Moyle.
H. F. Stevens. Image: Jeremy Moyle.

Henry Francis Stevens established himself as a wholesale druggist in 1887. It’s not clear whether he had any official medical or pharmaceutical training before he began his business , but his father, George, had been a dispensing apothecary in England. It's quite likely that Henry gained some experience with the distribution and retail of pharmaceutical products as a result of his father’s occupation and applied it to his fledgling business in Christchurch.

Initially, Stevens operated out of a building at 112 Manchester Street, but shifted to premises at 138 Cashel Street in the early 1890s.  Finally, in 1906, he moved again, this time to a large custom-built building in Worcester Street, a prime location in the heart of the Christchurch's central business district. The new building was designed by local architect Alfred Henry Hart, who died fairly soon after its construction, in 1908. Described as having an “elaborate Edwardian façade” (Christchurch City Libraries), the building was laid out with a warehouse and yard to the rear and offices and a service counter at the front of the building. Stevens employed a number of clerks and assistants in the business, who would have filled these offices and manned the counter every day.

Loasby's Mighty Cough Cure
Loasby's Mighty Cough Cure

Stevens was a successful businessman, something we can see in the numerous advertisements for his products in the newspapers of the time. These ads tell us that he sold and distributed all kinds of things, from culinary essences, scented oils and shampoo to cures for dyspepsia, coughs, headaches and various other ailments. Products like Golden Valley Ointment, Wilson’s Pepsin and Cascara, Hendy’s Celebrated Juleptia for the Hair and Loasby’s Mighty Cough Cure were all available 'wholesale from H. F. Stevens'.

Golden Valley Ointment
Golden Valley Ointment

During our archaeological investigation of the site, a range of domestic and commercial artefacts were found, including a toothpaste pot, food-related objects, animal bones and soda water and alcohol bottles, as well as a large number of pharmaceutical and cosmetic containers. This is typical of the range of artefacts found during the archaeological excavation of late 19th and early 20th century businesses in Christchurch.

Artefacts from the H. F. Stevens site
Artefacts from the H. F. Stevens site

The pharmaceutical bottles and cosmetic products found would have been stocked in the H. F. Stevens warehouse and sold, along with items like the toothpaste pot. A number of different ink brands were excavated, including Stephens Ink, Fields Ink and Antoine’s ‘Encre Japonaise’. These were almost certainly used by the clerks employed by Stevens, as they recorded incoming and outgoing goods and kept the accounts of his thriving business. It’s possible that the soda water bottles (sometimes known as aerated water) were also being sold on the premises, but it’s equally possible that they were being drunk by Stevens or his employees during their working day.

Jar of Anchovy Paste
Jar of Anchovy Paste

And what about the food-related artefacts found at the site? These included a platter, a tureen and an egg cup, as well as the bones from several meals, a jar of anchovy paste and salad oil and Worcestershire sauce bottles. While the last three products may have been sold by H. F. Stevens, the presence of the other meal debris suggests that meals may have been served at the building. Not enough is known about the company to know whether they may have served their employees meals, or whether they may have had functions for the directors on the premises.

Although we found numerous pharmaceutical bottles at the site, only a few were labelled with a product name. These included cosmetic and so-called medicinal products such as Bonnington’s Irish Moss, Eno’s Fruit Salts, Barry’s Pearl Cream and Resinol. Both Bonnington’s Irish Moss and Eno’s Fruit Salts may be a familiar names to many, as they’re still made today.

Advertisement for Eno's Fruit Salts from 1935. Image: Auckland Star, 1935.
Advertisement for Eno's Fruit Salts from 1935. Image: Auckland Star, 1935.

Bonnington’s was created by George Bonnington in Christchurch in the 1870s and sold throughout the following decades for the relief of coughs, colds and other respiratory illnesses, while Eno’s Fruit Salts were marketed as an antacid or remedy for gastrointestinal complaints. Resinol and Barry’s Pearl Cream, on the other hand, were both cosmetic products. Resinol ("for a fresh and velvety complexion!") was created in Baltimore, Maryland, by Dr Merville Hamilton Carter, while Barry’s Pearl Cream ("for an alabaster complexion!") was first made by an American named Alexander Barry, in New York.

Bonnington's
Bonnington's
Barry's Pearl Cream
Barry's Pearl Cream

One of the most interesting things about the pharmaceutical bottles from the site is that no advertisements were found in newspapers of the time connecting H. F. Stevens with these products. This is despite the many, many, advertisements found in contemporary newspapers for products sold by Stevens. This contrast between the archaeological and historical record highlights the power of archaeology to provide us with information about a site or a business that might be missing from the historical record.

Although we didn’t find many artefacts from this site, they did tell us some things about H. F. Stevens’s business that we weren’t aware of. From products we didn’t know he stocked to information about the daily activities of the people he employed, the archaeology revealed some of the little pieces of history that had been lost from our records and, in doing so, enriched our understanding of this site and its place in Edwardian Christchurch.

Jessie Garland

Bibliography

Ashburton Guardian. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Auckland Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Carter, M. and Moyle, J., 2011. 148 Gloucester Street, 32 Cathedral Square, 103 & 105 Worcester Street, Christchurch: Report on archaeological monitoring. [online] Available at: https://quakestudies.canterbury.ac.nz/store/download/part/20449.

Christchurch City Libraries, Digital Collections. [online] Available at: http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/photos/disc6/IMG0061.asp

Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District], 1903. [online] Available at: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc03Cycl-t1-body1-d3-d36-d7.html.

Hawera and Normanby Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Lost Christchurch: Remembering our Lost Heritage. [online] Available at http://lostchristchurch.org.nz/bonningtons-chemist.

Moyle, J., 2012. An Exploration of the EAMC Database: The Assessment of a Potential Tool for Developing the Practice of Historical Archaeology within New Zealand. Unpublished BA Hons dissertation, University of Otago.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Press. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Christchurch: a global city

A Udolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps bottle found at the former site of H. F. Stevens's wholesale chemist. Image: J. Moyle.
A Udolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps bottle found at the former site of H. F. Stevens's wholesale chemist. Image: J. Moyle.

Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps. It sounds pretty exotic, right? As it happens, bottles that contained this schnapps are frequently found on 19th century archaeological sites all over the western world. The particular example of the bottle we’re featuring today was found during the excavation of the site of H. F. Stevens Ltd’s premises. Stevens was a wholesale chemist who was based in Worcester Street, near Cathedral Square, from the early 20th century And no, the chemist wasn’t drinking on the side – the schnapps was marketed as a medicine, and its presence at the site is representative of Christchurch’s position within a global trade network.

Our modern economic system is based on mass international exchange: the exchange of ideas, of labour and of goods. It’s all too easy to think that this system is a product of the late 20th century. In fact, international trade goes back to the Stone Age, but it was developments in the 19th century that really saw a global economy develop. Mass production, the forceful opening of new markets through colonial expansion and the rise of modern capitalist structures such as joint stock companies in the 19th century enabled the building of big business and the export of products all over the world.

Christchurch’s 19th century archaeology offers tangible evidence of this system. Many of the artefacts we find on 19th century sites in the city come not just from England – the country that most European settlers in Christchurch called home - but from all over the world. Amongst these, Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps provides a particularly good example of the development of trade and industry in the 19th century.

Evening Post 21:6:1877 page 2
Evening Post 21:6:1877 page 2

The eccentrically named Udolpho Wolfe was a Jewish-American of German extraction. His family was notable in the United States even without their schnapps legacy. Udolpho’s father was a major in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, as well as being a friend of the fifth American president, James Monroe. Young Udolpho started his career in the 1820s, working for his elder brother Joel, a wine and sprit merchant. At the age of 21 Udolpho became a partner in the business. In 1839 the business went international when the brothers opened a distillery in Schiedam, Holland. And in 1848 Udolpho (now the senior partner) introduced Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps to the world.

Unlike the sweet fruity schnapps many will be familiar with in New Zealand today, Udolpho’s schnapps was a grain-based alcohol, flavoured with juniper berry essence. The spirit savvy amongst you will realise that this means that it was just plain old gin. What made the schnapps special was the way it was marketed. Sold not as a ‘frivolous beverage’, Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps was instead marketed as a wonderful medicine. In the (somewhat elaborate) words of the manufacturer:

As a tonic and corrective it is a positive specific, and will be found to prevent and remove the troubles occasioned by malarious influences or impure water, and is therefore an indispensable vade mecum for travellers and those who are unacclimated. At the same time its palatable flavour, and generally salutary qualities render it eminently desirable as a healthful substitute for the fiery potations which, in this country especially, are productive of such deleterious consequences.

New Zealand Herald 29/9/1874: 3

Once described as a “vigorous advertiser” (Putnam's Magazine 14 (23): 638), it seems that Udolpho Wolfe did everything he could to make sure that this was the perspective held by all potential consumers.

An 1874 advertisement for Udolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps. Image: Auckland Star 14/3/1874: 1.
An 1874 advertisement for Udolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps. Image: Auckland Star 14/3/1874: 1.

His approach must have worked, as the business of schnapps went from strength to strength. Supposedly over 90,000 cases of a dozen quart bottles (or two dozen pint bottles) were being moved per year by the 1870s; that’s at least 1 million schnapps bottles sold around the world.

Aside from this prodigious quantity, the international aspect of the trade is quite remarkable. After being produced in Schiedam, the schnapps destined for consumption in the United States, Central America and the Caribbean was shipped to New York City for bottling and distribution. Meanwhile, schnapps to be sold in Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand was sent from Schiedam to Hamburg, where it was bottled and then shipped away. This, then, was an American company, producing liquor in Holland, bottling it in America and Germany, and exporting it to the four corners of the globe. Because of this massive trade one can now find bottles bearing the label ‘Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps’ in archaeological sites around the globe.

Having finished its long journey from Europe to Christchurch, the schnapps – and other medicines – would have been distributed by H. F. Stevens to chemists in the city, thus enabling the citizens of Christchurch to indulge in the ‘healthy benefits’ of Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps, along with the rest of the world. Even in the 19th century, Christchurch was part of the global economic system.

Jeremy Moyle

Bibliography

Auckland Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Carter, M. and Moyle, J., 2012. 103-105 Worcester Street, Christchurch: Report on archaeological monitoring. Unpublished report for Nikau Contractors Ltd.

Evening Post. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Marcus, J. R., 1989. United States Jewry 1776-1985. Wayne State University Press, Detroit.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art. [online] Available at: http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/p/putn/putn.html.

Syracuse Daily Courier & Union. [onilne] Available at: http://www.newspapers.com/title_799/syracuse_daily_courier_and_union/.