Doctor Fenner’s Golden Relief

I got pretty lucky here this little box of snakeoil lies is completely unopened. It dates to right around 1920, and is fairly typical of snakeoil tonics of the day, the active ingredients being alcohol, ether, and chloroform, along with a variety of herbal oils, like camphor, and hemlock.

It’s not like Hemlock has ever killed anybody…

via Flickr

Does this rag smell funny to you?

If I’d ever gone out searching for chloroform, which is pretty unlikely, I sure as hell wouldn’t have gone to an antique shop.  But, there it was, nestled in a case filled with antique kitchen equipment, and childrens toys.  I almost missed it, I’m not sure why I even noticed it mixed in with the old tins of baking powder, and hand crank mixers.  I asked a lady to open the cabinet, so that I might inspect it.  It’s some kinda clear liquid with a small tan colored blob of something else on the bottom.  The bottle says “Chloroform and Olive Oil”.  I guess the blob is olive oil.  The clear liquid looks just like water.  There’s only one thing to do.  I’ve gotta test it.  I unscrew the top, and carefully wave it under my nose to see if I can get a slight whiff.

Chloroform, with Olive oil

Chloroform, with Olive oil

YUP!  That’s the real deal.  The smell was pretty overpowering, like ammonia, I guess, the kind of smell that burns.  That was enough to give me a headache.  Ok, I’m buying it.  I ask how much.  She says $6.  SOLD!  I take it up to the counter, and this short, friendly lookin’ caucasian middle-aged guy with glasses walks up to me, and says “It takes a lot, you know.”  I’m a little confused/wary, so he points at the bottle and says “It takes a lot.  I’ve used it before.”   “Oh?”, I say, perhaps it’s best to let him do the talking while I decide whether or not he’s crazy and/or dangerous.   He goes on to explain that he had to put an animal down once, and was surprised by how much it took to euthanize it.  Ok, phew.  So, there ya go.  According to some random guy who sells chloroform in his antique shop, it takes a lot, and it isn’t quite as quick as movies would suggest.  Why he felt it was appropriate to share that information, or why he was selling something like this in his antique shop, I have no idea.  I’m really not one to be all “Save the Children!”, but it was seriously on a shelf right next to old childrens toys and kitchen supplies, locked up, of course, but in full WTF? glory.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of it when I was there.  I heart randomness.

On the other hand, I took a *small* whiff, and I had an instant headache.   I wasn’t woozy, but I was definitely not interested in another whiff.  I wanna say that it would probably take a lot less to incapacitate than it would to euthanize.   The wikipedia page suggests that it can cause dizziness, fatigue, and headache by breathing it at 900ppm, in a short time.  Yeah, I think if I were subjected to a few seconds of that, some bad shit would happen.  I wouldn’t even dare take a solid whiff of it, much less bust out the rag.  I guess some people use it to get high, but man, that’s gotta be a wicked hangover.  I’ll pass.  It looks nice next to the rat-poison nerve pills, and the laudanum bottle though.  It amuses me that it’s probably the most respectable of the three.