Saturday, June 20, 2020

Old Bottles

   When we bought our house four years ago, workmen repairing the foundation pulled out a box of old bottles from underneath.  I’ve never had much interest in old bottles beyond the way light comes through colored ones on the windowsill, so the box sat around for four years with only the occasional thought as to what we should do with them.  Finally, with all the time on our hands during the pandemic, I decided to take a closer look. After all, our house sits on the grounds of the old Maryville Plantation with a history of rice beginning in the 18th century.  Maybe there was a story or two there.  

  The bottle on the left contained Hoyt’s German Cologne, the one in the center, Rubifoam for the Teeth, and blue bottle on the right says Bromo Caffeine. And therein lies a tale (or two).  

  This building in Georgetown was likely where they were purchased.  Now the home of a popular restaurant, Big Tuna (currently closed because workers tested positive for the corona virus), it was originally Iseman’s Drug Store. Dr. Iseman, a physician, sold wholesale and retail drugs as well as stationary, perfume, “fancy goods”, and toilet articles, like Rubifoam tooth cleaner.  

   Rubifoam was created by E.W. Hoyt in the 1880s and manufactured in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Taking its name from the bright red color of the liquid, it was widely advertised on colorful decorative trade cards and in magazines.


“A Perfect Liquid Dentifrice. Cleanses, Preserves and Beautifies the teeth. Heals and hardens the gums. Leaves a refreshing coolness in the mouth. Imparts a delightful fragrance to the breath." 

 A 4-inch light purple bottle cost 25c.  
Hmm, do you think it stained your teeth red like red Koolaid does!

  As you can see on the card, the same man invented and manufactured Hoyt’s German Cologne.  That’s the product that made Hoyt famous and by 1877 there was such a demand that he sold the tooth cleaner business to employees and concentrated on the cologne.  

  There was nothing German about Hoyt’s German Cologne, Hoyt just thought calling it that would make it sound more cosmopolitan and classy.  It originally sold for $1 a regular bottle, about $22 in 2020 dollars, or 50c for the size in the photo at the top.  Pretty pricey, I think!  The card above and others that advertised both products were scented with the cologne and passed out as advertising to entice buyers.  

  Bromo Seltzer (blue bottle in the photo above) was invented in 1888 to relieve heartburn and upset stomachs.  When mixed with water, the result was a fizzy drink.  Bromide, its chief ingredient, has a tranquilizing effect which likely accounts for its popularity as a headache and hangover remedy.  Unfortunately, bromide is toxic and the formula was changed in 1975 so it no longer contains bromide.  
  Here is how it was described in advertising in the 1800s:
“For brain workers. This delightful effervescent salt is an almost certain remedy for the relief of the nervous headache resulting from overtaxed mental energy or excitement, acute attacks of indigestion, the depression following alcoholic excesses, the supra-sensitiveness of chloral, morphia, and opium habitues, and with ladies the headache and backache of neurasthenia, hysteria, dysmenorrhoea and kindred disorders. A great boon and prompt source of relief in almost all cases of headache and distress attending mental fatigue and physical exhaustion, it commends itself especially to physicians, teachers, clergyman, lawyers, merchants and others following professions or pursuits requiring nerve energy subjecting to mental strain.“
And this catchy little tune for the ladies:
With nerves unstrung and heads that ache. 

             Wise women Bromo Seltzer take. 

   The other bottles in the box weren’t as interesting as these three.  Many were chipped or even smashed, stained with questionable contents, and have gone to their final resting place at the recycle center.  Each bottle above is worth about $12 on EBay or Etsy but these three will remain on our windowsill to remind us of those who lived here before us.  

Monday, June 8, 2020

‘Turning Pain Into Purpose’

Georgetown, SC — one small town in the American South
6 June, 2020

The protest organizers, leading hundreds, are a group of high school students.
“The color of our skin is not a weapon.”

The little girl’s shirt: “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.”
“Equality not brutality”

“Turn our pain into purpose.Vote, vote, vote.”
“We rise.”

“Say these names”
Trayvon Martin Tamir Rice Eric Garner George Floyd Philando Castile Breonna Taylor
and on and on ...

“No justice, no peace.  No racist police.” 

“I can’t breathe.”
“We need love not hate.” 
“ ‘Breathing - a human right.”

   We truly hope that the sad and awful events of 2020 are at last a catalyst for real change in our country, marking the end of abuse of authority at every level 
and the beginning of social justice for all.  Black lives matter to us and we were proud to stand with our neighbors in Georgetown this weekend.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Our Covid Owls

  Beginning in early March when life as we knew it was suddenly being constricted to the walls of our home and yard, when a mysterious illness, terrifying and deadly, caught us all unawares, a pair of barred owls came to us.  Every single night at the same time they began to call from the 50-foot pines in our backyard, soft short barks crescendoing into the melody every barred owl knows: 

Who cooks for you, Who cooks for you-alllllll.  

Every night at 9:20 pm we met at our bedroom window to wait in holy delight for their presence directly over our heads.  All of March, all of April, they reassured, gave hope, as more and more of our plans shattered and our human world shut down.  

  In May as the owls moved to nest building and egg hatching, the concerts moved farther and farther away — softer, softer, as we, too, settled into a routine: life in the time of Covid.  
  In gratitude, every day I stitched on a memory of the owls, of the comfort their faithful presence brought us in those uncertain days.