Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How Was "Vaseline" Named?

From Wikipedia:

The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania where it was sticking to some of the first oil rigs in the U.S. The riggers hated the paraffin-like material because it caused the rigs to seize up, but they used it on cuts and burns because it hastened healing. Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist whose previous work, distilling fuel from the oil of sperm whales, had been rendered obsolete by petroleum, went to Titusville to see what new materials might be created from the new fuel. Chesebrough took the unrefined black "rod wax", as the drillers called it, back to his laboratory in Brooklyn to refine it and explore its medicinal possibilities.

Chesebrough discovered that by distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the rod wax, he could create a light-colored gel. Chesebrough patented the process of making petroleum jelly (U.S. Patent 127,568) in 1872. The process involved vacuum distillation of the crude material followed by filtration of the still residue through bone char.

Before Chesebrough could try to sell it, he had to test it to see if it really worked on cuts and burns by using himself as the guinea pig. Having demonstrated the products efficacy on himself, Chesebrough was unable to sell any to drug stores until he travelled around New York State demonstrating his miracle vaseline. Before a rapt audience he'd burn his skin with acid or an open flame, then spread the clear jelly on his injuries, showing at the same time his past injuries, healed, he claimed, by his miracle product. To further stimulate demand, he gave out free samples.

Chesebrough opened his first factory in 1870. The term Vaseline was coined, according to some accounts, as a combination of the German word for water, Wasser (pronounced Vahser), and the Greek word for oil, elaion.

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posted by Staff @ 8:44 AM