Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Disembodied Heads Prefer Juniper Tar
This product, also known as Forrest's Juniper Tar Compound, was indeed a carry-over from the 19th century and was marketed as early as the 1870s. It was then called Forrest's Juniper Tar Drops and was, as in the 1950s, sold as a cough and cold medicine.
Juniper tar and pine tar are sticky substances that have been used in medicine for generations. They are produced by a process known as dry distillation, which involves carbonizing wood (and in the case of pine, the roots as well) in a closed environment. The pine oil mentioned in the ad is another product of the dry distillation process. Juniper or pine tar soap is a traditional treatment for skin irritations and diseases. Juniper tar alone is also used as an external skin treatment for conditions such as eczema.
The NMAH has a page on Forrest's Juniper Tar, and you can see a picture of a bottle from the 1920s there, as well as a list of ingredients. The compound contains juniper tar, pine tar, oil of pine tar, caramel coloring and - rather startlingly - petroleum distillate.
Petroleum distillate is literally a product made or distilled from crude oil; there are many types. One kind are solvents used in cleaning (such as paint remover) and the mostly highly purified distillates are used in cosmetic products and lotions, such as Vaseline. Not so much in medicines taken internally, though. I'm not sure if they still put it in the Juniper Tar by the 1950s; probably not.
I almost put this on the Kitchen Retro Facebook page but I thought it was about time for a post. Do come and visit Kitchen Retro over there, I post a lot more fun stuff over there, pretty much every day - and we have a great time!