Oswald’s 1915 Pharmaceutical Formula Book

A few years ago my folks were going through the attic of their house. This attic is not as typical as most, as it has been the depository for five generations worth of our family’s flotsam and jetsam. One thing they discovered was Louis Oswald’s pharmaceutical formula book from 1915. The book, being a hundred years old, was fragile and a little difficult to read in the cursive writing of the day. Going through the book is fascinating as it not only had formulas, but also a great many were named for the local doctors who prescribed them or the patient for whom the medicine was made.

Here are some of the medicinal formulas: Mark Davis’s Hand Wash, Bell’s Suppositories, Mrs. W. W. Wickel’s Throat Spray, Deafness Remedy, Face Wash, Mouth Wash, George Fredericks Cough Powder, German Syrup, Dr. Chase’s White Ointment for Cracked Heels and Scratches, William Grey’s Liniment, Dr. Hardy’s Cough RX, Daniel’s Liniment for Headaches, Seffler’s Cholera Drops, Remedy for Boils, Phillip’s Colic and Fever Mixtures, Jacob Hein’s Blood Purifier and Rheumatism Cure, Hair Restorative, Sauer’s Kidney Cure, Goodwin’s Eczema Ointment, Dr. Strayer’s RX for Diarrhea, White Liniment for Rheumatism and Liquid Antiseptic Alkaline.

The formula book also included some other, non-medicinal, unique recipes – Mrs. Nichol’s furniture polish, wash bluing, battery fluid, rust remover, blacking for harness and shoemakers, cleaning fluid, colorings, hair oil, rubber cement, varnish and my favorite – invisible ink. The town’s pharmacist was also the village chemist it seems!

What were in all of these formulas? Here is a sampling: salt peter, aqua ammonia, castile soap, quicksilver, capsaicin, nitric acid, boric acid, morphine acetate, cocoa butter, sulphur, mandrake,  beeswax, white lead, zinc, anise seed, caraway, ginger, licorice, olive oil, chloroform, camphor, castor oil, bergamot, vaseline, oil of lavender, belladonna, skunk cabbage, blood root, sweet oil, brandy, whiskey, oil of clove, spearmint, peppermint, tar oil, epsom salts, bay rum, glycerin, caffeine, zinc oxide, molasses, aspirin, chloral hydrate, sodium chloride, bisulfate, bicarbonate and hypo sulfate.

Now while I don’t know if any of Grandpa Oswald’s formulas would be used today, I am amazed that many of the ingredients from 1915 are still very much in use in medications today. Over the past decade or so I have been amazed at the resurgence of many natural and homeopathic remedies. People seem to be looking back to nature as opposed to patent medicines for help with their ills. Some of the new lines we’ve brought in with more ‘traditional’ ingredients include;

Make sure to take a look around and see what’s new next time you stop in. Maybe you’ll find one of these new, natural products will fit into your everyday routine.




Written by Bill Anderson

Bill is the current owner of Oswald's Pharmacy. A 5th generation member of the Wickel-Oswald-Kester-Anderson family, Bill became general manager in 1979 and bought the business from his father in 1991. In 2004 Bill orchestrated Oswald's move from Downtown Naperville to Naperville Plaza. Bill graduated from Knox College in 1978 with a BA in Art, minoring in History. A graduate of Naperville Central High School in 1974, Bill is a lifelong Naperville resident. Over the years Bill has served as a current member and past president of the Naperville Rotary Club, current member and past chairman of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, and as former Naperville Riverwalk commissioner. Bill lives in Naperville with his wife, just a few blocks away from their grandchildren (the 7th Oswald's generation!).