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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Gold Rush Journal 'Round the Horn - More than Latitude and Longitude

(by Palma J. You, Archives Technician)

Receipt (recipe) for cholera (SAFR 14200/HDC 91)

The H. W. Chittenden sea journal kept on board the Croton, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Museum and Archive Collection (SAFR 14299, HDC 91), gives us a daily perspective from February 16 to July 29, 1849 of life aboard a Gold Rush ship. Mr. Chittenden, an engineer, sailed from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn. In 19th century language and spelling, his journal is filled with the goings-on and sketches in pencil of sites and landings along the way and other historical information including a provocative remedy for cholera. Sketches and other neat stuff from the journal will be posted over the next several weeks as a series. The first of this series is a remedy for cholera:

Receipt for Cholera
10 grains of camphor
20 do Red Pepper
20 do Of callomel
And rub the Boddy with some stimulating ointment. If this does not opperate, repeat the doce after some suficient time has elapts for its action upon the Bowels.

Here's a nice example of 19th century word usage and spelling. The way the words "Receipt" and "do" are used is intriguing. A little research shows the word "Receipt" could mean "a statement of ingredients and procedure necessary to make a medicinal preparation" - a perfect fit; and "do" is probably the abbreviation of the word "ditto" (OED online). To give "Grains" context, 20 grains make 1 scruple, 480 grains make 1 ounce. In 1888 the United States used the same apothecary scale as used in Great Britain (Clarke). And, "callomel" is listed as a "valuable cathartic given at the beginning of an illness, where it is desired to clean out the bowels completely." (United States Public Health Service). It makes sense this recipe shows up early in the journal.

Etymologies for 19th century usage of the words "Receipt" and "do" can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Second edition, 1989; online version December 2011 (subscription required).

Other sources:

Clarke, Frank Wigglesworth. Weights, measures, and money, of all nations. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

Medical Officers of the United States Public Health Service. The Ship's Medicine Chest and first aid at sea. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1929.

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1 comment:

Buck said...

I've seen 'receipt' in old cookbooks. I always thought it was the root of our 'recipe'. Very neat to see it in a similar context elsewhere.