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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Chest Cough? Try Skunk Grease

Winter's fast approaching, and here at the Society headquarters in Madison, runny noses and sore throats are beginning to proliferate. Relief is in sight, though. Our Museum possesses a bottle of skunk grease made in New Glarus about 1920 that was designed to help relieve chest congestion (read about it here).

When doctors were scarce and health insurance non-existent, families expected to rely on home remedies to treat all sorts of common ailments. William Titus (1868-1951) grew up outside Fond du Lac in the 1870s and here recalls the various herbs and ointments that Wisconsin farmers used. Not only skunk oil and goose grease but "even slabs of fat pork were supposed to be beneficial when applied externally."

No staff members here have mounted enough courage to try the skunk grease yet (it wouldn't be proper stewardship of collections, either). But presumably most of us would rather stick with Sudafed and Vap-O-Rub, anyway.

And if you want to know more about bizarre remedies, check out the brand-new book Marketplace of the Marvelous by Society Press author and Wisconsin Public Radio producer Erika Janik.

:: Posted in Curiosities on November 13, 2013
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