Petroleum Jelly

In 1859, a young chemist from Brooklyn, Robert Augustus Chesebrough, went to view an oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States to see what commercial potential this newly discovered petroleum had. There he discovered “rod wax” (as the drillers called it) – a gooey substance that was causing problems with the rig equipment, but appeared to aid the healing of cuts and burns on the oil workers’ skin. Recognising its potential, he took some rod wax home to test. Eventually, he extracted usable petroleum jelly by refining the finer, lighter oil products out of the rod wax.

Sir Robert Augustus Chesebrough

In 1870, Robert was marketing “Vaseline” and within ten years almost every home in America had a jar.

Originally promoted as an ointment for cuts, burns and scrapes, subsequent studies have shown that Vaseline has no medicinal effect. Its real effectiveness lies in sealing wounds, thereby keeping germs out and the area supple by preventing moisture loss (it’s not absorbed by the skin).

Vaseline was originally a bright canary yellow, giving rise to glass of the same lime-yellow colour being called “Vaseline glass”. Today it’s a pale yellow and is casually smeared over the chapped lips of millions of teens and adults alike, and probably a few nether regions too!

An advert from 1908

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