Monday, April 26, 2010

Salem preferred over Washington DC

"I had rather sit under my own "vine and fig tree" in Salem, than in the most stately edifice in Washington." - Nathaniel Silsbee, 1817 (Massachusetts Representative to United States Congress)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Haarlem Oil - Health Insurance in a Jar

Today in Salem History:
On April 24, 1792, Abraham Solis advertised "Haerlaemer Oil" with "Dutch explanations of its use" in the Salem Gazette.

This was probably Haarlem Oil, a diuretic made in Holland since 1672 and still in demand in the early 20th century.

So popular was this remedy, practically every drugstore in America made their own blend. In 1906 it was estimated that "ten bottles of substitute are sold to one of the genuine."

Thackeray mentions it. Louis and Clark never went anywhere without it. So what was it?

In a time with few powerful medicines and no health insurance, Haarlem Oil was your basic safety blanket. It was said to ward off contagious diseases. It strengthened the eyes. It helped your kidneys, bladder, and stomach. It was good for your nerves. In fact, it was good for just about anything, according to its faithful consumers.

Speaking of faith, the "Dutch instructions" bore the Latin legend:  Medicamentum Gratia Probatum which was translated as "remedy approved by Grace." This wasn't any potion derived from black magic or superstition. Haarlem Oil was Approved. Consumers were encouraged to have faith in its ability to heal them, whatever their hurt.

You might be wondering, what did the Oil contain?

The recipe for genuine Haarlem Oil was a close-kept secret. However, the American knock-offs tended to be mostly made up of balsam of sulfur and oil of turpentine.

I suppose if you were strong enough to survive the remedy, you were bound to get better.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spaced, the final frontier

In my role as pop culture maven, I am here to explain to you why so many of your friends are wishing you a happy 420 today.

Your friends aren't saying that?  It's just mine?  Well, whatever.

Four-twenty as a denotation of belonging to the "cannabis subculture" began, according to Wikipedia, with a group of marijuana smokers at San Rafael High School who would meet at 4:20pm.

Since 4/20 is April 20th (in the way the US writes dates), April 20th became a sort of "counterculture holiday."

"Up to 2,000 UC Santa Cruz students celebrated '420' on Friday by smoking marijuana on Porter Meadow as law enforcement officers stood by." - 2007 Santa Cruz Sentinel article

This was after my time at UCSC but I can totally imagine this on the Porter Meadow. Especially as Porter is home to the Flying IUD.

UCSC has some really odd sculpture. Don't get me started on the Increasingly Disgustingly Morbid Dead Goat at Cowell.

But I digress. For those of you who can't imagine it, here is a photo.

So there you have it. April 20 is a marijuana-themed holiday, and as such it is also associated with the legalization movement.

Which is probably why this story ran today in Des Moines, Iowa:

Iowa Medical Group Gives Medical Pot Thumbs Up

Yes, Iowa, folks. The Heartland.

Although Iowa has always been a fairly cool midwestern state.

Wasn't Captain James T Kirk born there?