October 5, 1997 in Features

Bed Bug Bane No Longer In Demand

Donna Potter Phillips The Spoke
 

Way back in 1896, the Steiner Drug Co. of Spokane must have had the local market on Bed Bug Bane. Hundreds of pioneer families in the Spokane and Cheney areas probably purchased the stuff. I wonder if anyone ever found relief or a cure.

The Eastern Washington Genealogy Society received the ledger from Owl Drug in Cheney (which was connected with the Steiner Drug Co.) to transcribe the names of its customers from 1896 to 1898.

Patients brought their pencil-written prescriptions to the druggist who glued them into his ledger. It was my pleasure to extract several hundred names, which will be published in an EWGS Bulletin.

Steiner Drug’s address was 603 Monroe one year, and 1109 Second, the next. The addresses were found on several prescription pads which were also glued into that ledger.

The prescriptions were not as we know them. The doctors’ directions to the druggist for remedy “recipes” would be -ounce of this, 4 ounces of that, 2 ounces of something else; mix well and take 2 tablespoons every four hours.

While I couldn’t really read them, they all looked harmless and folksy.

One was for Swiss Expectorant: “Take 1 ounce acacia powder and 4 ounces cod liver oil, mix until smooth, add 2 ounces water and stir until emulsified; then add 10 drops eucalyptus oil, 2 drops wintergreen oil, 1 drop peppermint oil, and 2 ounces wild cherry syrup. Stir this into enough brandy to make a pint.”

A recipe for Dyspepsia (indigestion) called for Calcined Magnesia, bicarbonate soda, Jamaica ginger, nitrate bismuth; powers of saccharine, pepsin, pancreatine and rhubarb, all mixed into 4 ounces of sugar milk.

The directions were to take -teaspoon after meals.

The formula for tooth powder: “Mix precipitated chalk, powdered corn starch, powdered sugar, castile soap, orris root and boric acid with the oils of sassafras, wintergreen and cinnamon.”

There was even a recipe for a dandruff cure: “mix 2 ounces acetic acid, sassafras oil and 2 ounces of rose water. Rub into scalp with fingers.”

But the Bed Bug Bane looked the most interesting. Advertised as non-poisonous, it would “catch them coming and going, a great insect destroyer for bed bugs, roaches, ants, mosquitoes and all animal and garden insects, yet harmless to animal and human life.”

To make Bed Bug Bane: “Dissolve 4 ounces of bostis in 2 gallons of hot water; add -bar of Ferry Soap and continue to heat until the soap is dissolved.” An alternate recipe was to mix 1 gallon turpentine with 1/2-gallon napthaline and 3 ounces sassafras oil, “dissolve thoroughly and shake.”

Patient directions were to “apply freely to places infested.”

The druggist had recipes for nearly everything that could ail man or beast.

The ledger index carried listings for: asthma cure, blackheads, battery fluid, cholera mix, cough cure, corn cure, distemper cure, expectorant, gonorrhea cure, hair restorer, headache tablet, harness oil, hair dye, iron tonic, ink eraser, kidney cure, microbe killer, pile ointment, rheumatic liniment, salve-carbolic - and worm remedy for horses. (See what fun things you learn through genealogy!)

As much as we might fuss about modern health care, at least we have health care with doctors who know medicine.

It’s a wonder our ancestors lived to have us.

, DataTimes MEMO: Donna Potter Phillips welcomes letters from readers. Write to her at The Spokesman-Review, Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Donna Potter Phillips The Spokesman-Review

Donna Potter Phillips welcomes letters from readers. Write to her at The Spokesman-Review, Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Donna Potter Phillips The Spokesman-Review


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