Dr. Chase's Recipes, or, Information for Everybody

Portrait of Dr. Chase
Adoption Amount: $350
Category: Build and Access the Collection
Location: National Museum of American History Library

Dr. Chase's recipes, or, Information for everybody : an invaluable collection of about eight hundred practical recipes ... to which have been added a rational treatment of pleurisy, inflammation of the lungs, and other inflammatory diseases, and also for general female debility and irregularities ...

By A. W. Chase. Ann Arbor, Mich: The Author, 1867.

Alvin Wood Chase (1817-1885) was a travelling physician, salesman, author, and self-made man. He dispensed remedies all over America during the late nineteenth century, collecting recipes and domestic tips from the people he met along the way. His self-published books became celebrated U.S. bestsellers and were the household how-to "bibles" of their day.

This amazing compendium of folk and patent medicine seems to cover every conceivable problem of man and beast. Though many of Chase's health "remedies" would be discredited by modern science, during his time, folk remedies were traditionally popular and less expensive than a visit to a physician.

You may notice that this volume is an eyepopping 49th edition, with 358,000 copies printed at the author's own printing house. Chase’ first pamphlet published in 1856 had only 16 recipes but by this 1867 edition, he was up to 800. For the saloon keeper, he offered help in keeping cider sweet and a recipe for "sham" champagne for temperance clients. For the grocer, a recipe for making jellies without fruits. For the baker, a novel recipe for “pork cake without butter, milk or eggs.”

Medical advice and recipes for cures formed the largest section of Dr. Chase's books, some of it quite humorous to us today. His discussion of “female debility and irregularities" includes the following statement: “It is self evident that the finer the work and the more complicated a piece of machinery, the more liable it is to become deranged.” 

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