The kids and I hit the downtown library's book sale today. I was looking for an old set of World Book encyclopedias to fill out our home library's reference section. After mentally comparing $430 for a 2006 new set on ebay to the $20 for a 1988 set, I quickly decided to lug them to my car. Some other finds included horse books for Mary, The Way Things Work for Will and a 1960 reprint of an earlier 1863 receipt book to help the Confederate housewife cope with shortages as a result of the war. It was interesting to read some of the directions for making soap and ink, especially comparing it to how we procure these items today.
"Soap. Pour 12 qts of boiling water upon 5 lbs of unslacked lime. Then dissolve 5 lbs of washing soda in 12 qts of boiling water, mix above together, and let the mixture remain from 12-24 hours. Pour off all the clear liquid, being careful not to disturb the sediment. Add to the above 3 1/2 lbs of clarified grease, and from 3-4 oz of rosin. Boil this compound together for 1 hr and pour off to cool. Cut it up in bars for use and you are in possession of a superior chemical soap, costing about 3 1/2 cents per lb in ordinary times."
Ink. To make 5 gallons of good cheap ink, take 1/2 lb of extract of logwood and dissolve it in 5 gal of hot water, and add 1/2 oz of bichromate potash. Strain and bottle it.
Charcoal Tooth Powder. Pound charcoal as fine as possible in a mortar, or grind in a mill, then well sift it and apply a little of it to the teeth about twice a week. It will not only render them beautifully white, but will also make the breath sweet, and gums firm and comfortable.
After reading this, I feel guilty for complaining about how much work it is to take 5 kids to the grocery store. Make list, drive in my heated van to the commissary, park, throw items in my cart, pay, tip the bagger, drive home, and have children empty the car and put away the groceries. Whew! It is nothing compared to these poor women with little food in the cupboard and a husband off at war, having to make household items with recipes that all seem to involve large quantities of scalding liquid and caustic substances.