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Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by catherine yronwode
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Over-the-counter supplies for pain relief due to aches, sprains, and stress are a household necessity. We supply those which also have implicit spiritual, religious, and magical efficacy as well.
This is one of the most old-fashioned over-the-counter remedies that is still available in the USA, a real 19th century turpentine-based liniment, good for man and beast.
Far from being obsoleted by newer medical discoveries, McLean's Volcanic Oil Liniment is still going strong, and is prominently on sale in all groceries and pharmacies that serve agricultural workers, who have given it their seal of approval for 150 years.
In case you are wondering why it is called "Volcanic," here is a short anecdote about the origin of McLean's Liniment that explains the name -- at least according to one source, an autobiographical memoir titled "A Long Life in Review" by Leonard Matthews, a prominent American wholesale merchant of the 19th century.
Matthews had been born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1828. "A Long Life in Review" was written in 1927, when the author was 87 years old. Early chapters describe his journey to California for the Gold Rush, and his relocation to Saint Louis, Missouri. He was living in St. Louis and was about 25 years old at the time of this tale.
The Texas War for Independence, followed shortly by Texas joining the United States, was big news at the time, and everyone remembered the Battle of the Alamo, when the Mexican General Santa Anna had massacred the brave Texans, as well as the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 -- with its stirring cry, "Remember the Alamo!" -- at which Santa Anna, President and Dictator of Mexico, was routed in defeat and captured. According to Leonard Matthews:
About 1852 or 1853, Dr. A. G. Bragg of "Mexican Mustang Liniment" fame, made a stir in town by his sensational publicity. His remedy was simply crude petroleum bottled up and described as "oil from the burning mountains of Mexico." He advertised his nostrum in many ways. The most interesting was by a painting on the west side of his store, northeast corner of Market and Third streets, opposite my drug store. There was a volcano in eruption and a lot of Mexican troops with Santa Anna heading them, his wooden leg lying on the ground where it had fallen. These pictures were life size and served as an excellent advertisement.
At this time, Dr. James H. McLean was working for Bragg, putting up the liniment; but shortly after, McLean opened up for himself by putting up "McLean's Volcanic Oil Liniment" and "McLean's pills," [the latter] a copy of the McLane's pills of Pittsburgh. So much for primitive business ethics.
Matthews's description of A. G. Bragg's "Mexican Mustang Liniment" is not quite accurate: old-time recipe books list its base ingredient as mineral oil, that is to say, refined, not "crude" petroleum -- and it also contained some herbal essential oils as well. Still, the idea is plainly expressed here, that James H. McLean derived his liniment formula from Bragg's and went on to make a fortune by cashing in on the "Volcanic Oil" image that Bragg had pioneered with a dramatic advertising mural in Saint Louis.
Acknowledgements: http://www.umsl.edu/~whmc/exhibits/matthews/lmautobiochp3pg2.htm (accessed October, 2006).
copyright © 1995-2010 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
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