During the last half of the 19th century popular literature often focused on proper housekeeping and home maintenance. Pamphlets, magazines, almanacs and advertising emphasized the necessity of maintaining a neat and clean home where the family could thrive in an orderly environment.  This sort of literature was particularly popular for rural families as it provided a link to trends in “scientific housekeeping” and household management current in large cities back East.

One example of this sort of literature is this 1890 receipt book distributed by the D. Ransom, Son & Co. of Buffalo, NY. These receipt books were a common sort of advertising that included both useful household recipes (the 19th century term for a recipe was receipt) as well as testimonials for the sponsor’s products. The Ransom company produced a number of medicinal products, including the King of Blood, which they claimed cured cancers and tumors, and various “magnetic” balms and ointments for treating whooping cough, dysentery and bowel complaints. 

Cover of Ransom’s receipt (or recipe) book

Although the medical advice found in this pamphlet is certainly quite suspect, there are a few recipes and tips that might interest someone studying Victorian architecture.    

Painting, Etc.
House painting.  This should be done early in winter or spring when it cold and no dust flying.  To mix paint for different coats: Outside, 1st, 2d and 3d coats, mix the lead to proper consistency with boiled oil, allowing time between to dry hard.  Inside: 1st coat coat, mix lead and paint in mixture one-half  boiled oil, one-half turpentine.  2d, one fourth oil, three fourths turpentine.  3d, mostly turpentine with a little oil to hold color.  No dryer required.  Inside paint must have light.

Best Painter’s Size: Heat raw oil in a pan till it emits a black smoke; set it on fire and, after burning a few minutes, cover the pan over to put out the blaze; pour the oil while warm into a bottle in which some pulverized read lead and litharge have been introduced.  Stand the bottle in a warm place for two weeks, shaking often, It will then be ready to decant and bottle.

Black and Green Paint: – Durable and Cheap – Black – Grind powdered charcoal in linseed oil with sufficient litharge as dryer; thin for use with well-boiled linseed oil.  Green – Add yellow ochre to above and an excellent green is obtained, preferable to the bright green, for garden work, as it will not fade.

Red Wash for Bricks: To remove the green that gathers on bricks, pour over them boiling water in which any vegetables, not greasy, have been boiled.  Repeat for a few days, and green will disappear. For the red wash melt one ounce of glue in one gallon water, while hot add alum, size of egg, one-half pound Venetian red, one pound Spanish brown.  Try it; if too light, add more red and brown.  If too dark, water.  

Common Oil Varnish: Three pounds resin, one-half gallon drying oil, melt together and add, when removed from fire, two quarts warm oil of turpentine.

One of the challenging parts of reading these old receipts is the vocabulary. Here are some definitions of a few words:

Litharge: Lead carbonate, also commonly called white lead.  Used in paint to make it opaque and works as a drier.

Alum:  Aluminum and potassium sulfate.  The same stuff we have in our spice cupboards today.

Size: Any substance such as glue used as a filler or glaze to help paint adhere to a surface.

Drier: A substance used to accelerate the hardening of oils used in paint.

Red Lead: A lead oxide used in paints intended for metal.  Also has some drying qualities when mixed in oil.  

Here are a couple of other recipes I found in the pamphlet that I thought you might find rather tasty or convenient for someone not feeling well:

Pickled Oysters: Scald the oysters in their own liquor, boil one pint of vinegar; season with salt and pepper; pour over the oysters.  Serve with celery.

Chicken Jelly: Half a raw chicken, pounded with a mallet, bones and meat together, plenty of cold water to cover it well, about a quart.  Heat slowly in a covered vessel, and let it simmer until the meat is white rags and the liquid reduced one-half.  Strain and press, first through a colander, then through coarse cloth.  Salt to taste, and pepper, if you think best;  return to the fire, and simmer five minutes longer.  Skim when cool. Give to the patient cold – just from the ice – with unleavened wafers. Keep on the ice.  You can make into sandwiches by putting the jelly between thin slices of bread spread lightly with butter.

For Lye Poisoning:  Give freely of oil or warm lard and white of egg, followed by warm water and mustard, or ipecac.

Check back again soon.  More recipes to follow!!!

Categories: paint


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