Days Gone By - stories from the past

SATURDAY SECRETS: Building and household hints from early 1800s

This tips date back to the early 1800s in America.  Some of them may not be safe.

Artificial Mahogany1

The following method of giving any species of wood of a close grain the appearance of mahogany in texture density, and polish, is said to be practiced in France, with such success that the best judges are incapable of distinguishing between the imitation and mahogany. The surface is first planed smooth, and the wood is then rubbed with a solution of nitrous acid. One ounce of dragon’s blood is dissolved in nearly a pint of spirits of wine; this and one-third of an ounce of carbonate of soda are then to be mixed together, and filtered, and the liquid in this thin state is to be laid on with a soft brush. This process is to be repeated, and, in a short interval afterward, the wood possesses the external appearance of mahogany. When the polish diminishes in brilliancy, it may be restored by the use of a little cold-drawn linseed oil.

Making Cement

One part Sand, Two parts ashes and three parts Clay—it is said will make a cement as hard as marble & impenetrable by water.

Powdered alum (Library of Congress)

Paste that is Paste

Dissolve an ounce of alum in a quart of warm water; when cold, add as much flour as will make it into the consistence (sic) of cream; then strew into it as much powdered rosin as will stand on a shilling, and two or three cloves; boil it to a consistence, (sic) stirring all the time. It will keep for twelve months, and when dry may be softened with water.


1Martin Marshall, the compiler of the items included in the present book, was born on May 4, 1782, in Richland County, South Carolina, near the present city of Columbia. His family moved to the Territory of Alabama by 183. These recipes are notes in his journal which were published in The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol 2, No. 3, Fall Issue 1940

Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past – This book is a compilation of some of the funny and helpful tips from our past history. Some recipes and tips date back to 1770s. One or two sound a little dangerous and I would never try them myself, but I’ve included then in this book for their humorous and historical value. A few are useful, especially for our ‘green’ society today

Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past (Paperback)

By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price:$9.77 USD
New From:$9.77 USD In Stock

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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One comment

  1. Hi, Donna, I really enjoyed reading this piece as much as I do many others that you compile! I am 53, and I remember seeing this alum can on my grandmother’s shelf. I also remember that my other grandmother had a beautiful mahogany bedroom set that I wanted when I grew up. Unfortunately, she had to sell it when we moved across country and took no furniture with us. Now I wonder if it was true mahogany. Based on this, I’m thinking it wasn’t. Regardless, I still would have wanted it. Thank you for the share! (P.S. The year is incomplete in your footnote: “His family moved to the Territory of Alabama by 183.”)

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