Rub and Swallow – One For All

Through the conversation over at XL’s place the topics ranged from the title-inspiring poutine to other cousine-adventures, via mayonnaise (Ger.,  Eng., article) to Erbswurst (Ger., article)  and margarine (Ger., Eng., article; Canadian radio). The last two items had a more or less military origin: Margarine was invented because the French military needed a product to replace the rotten butter in their storage facilities, and Erbswurst was the Eiserne Ration for German soldiers since the war of 1870/71. The Imperial Army at least had a test before introducing Erbswurst, a Kompanie was fed for six weeks Erbswurst and bread only, they survived.
But the German soldier also carried something else with himself since long before WWI, a true panacea, a cure it all: Good for the gun, the holster, wood, small wounds and – yes – one can drink it too. Today it may only be known by hunters, mountain bikers and sad alcoholics, but it is still around – and as good as it was 108 years before: Ballistol (Ger., Eng., homepage, pdf).
Around 1900 the German Imperial Army needed an oil for all: It should take care of the gun(s),  metal and wooden parts, leather, and it should be useable as Wundöl to treat minor injuries. The chemist Helmut KLEVER finally found the solution and produced Ballistol (ballistic oleum) in 1904 – and it is produced since without alterations. The German army used it from 1905 to 1945. In Austria, the Swiss and Southern Germany it became something like a household item. Helmut KLEVER died 1971, but the recipe is unchanged. Basically it is no secret what is in Ballistol – I am sure that it was thoroughly analysed before it became widely used – but it is the way it is fabricated that makes it unique.
I had forgotten about it, but an article I saw some months ago in a biker journal mentioned it. My father had still used it in the 1970s, but since then I did not see it around. I remember that it was used for nearly anything in the house of my grandfather, even to cure dogs and horses. It’s nice to see that such a old-time product is still around and surviving in a niche.

17 thoughts on “Rub and Swallow – One For All

  1. I too thought i’d turned up at the Mistresses… but still… it works for me.

    I’m sure that my grandparents had a bottle of something similar tht was a “Cure all” for everything….

  2. This reminds me of a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live on American TV where they talk about a wonder product that helps cure baldness, clean windows, remove stains and also is tasty in sandwiches! It seems Ballistol may actually be such a substance.

  3. I used to have a Medical Dictionary from the 1800’s that pretty much demonstrated how Epsom salt can fix ever ailment and if not then Vinegar was the cure. Interesting post Mago. I’ve been thinking about researching and if not found, writing a book on things eaten during times of famine (ie adding sawdust to flour to make bread).

    Take Care,

  4. Yeah dear Princess, I’m sure they had such a stuff. My grandfather always had a hidden bottle with the cure it all, normally he kept it in the barn where we used to work on the tractor.

    I think things are basically simple, Joyce, we just do make them complicated.

    It’s basically a simple thing, all is thrown into a large cauldron and cooked, MsScarlet. But the secret is how the things are added and how they are cooked. And they do this for more than hundred years now. I am sure it goes well with bananas, like vodka would do.

    Off topic is welcome, dear XL – I never knew about a Hassian Poppenhausen. The lower Franconian edition is rather dull …

    I am glad you came by LGS, I am sorry for not showing up at your place as often as I Liked to. You mean snake oil?

    Heavens, I hope you do not have to take to this means, Proxima – I can look for German literature about the “Ersatzstoffe” that were used during the big famine in WWI. This was not somthing people just improvised but legally and gouvernement-wise ordered stretching of food. Bread was changed and fat too. I am not sure whther there is a secondary litertaure about it, but I saw articles in magazines from the era (1916/17), with pictures and recipes. I have to think and remember where, but it was not long ago.

    Yes, the same company and it is basically the same family, Austere. The chemist KLEVER mixed it together sucessfully for the first time in 1904 and it is not changed since. There was a change in the management, but as far as I know they are still indepenent and it is still the same family.

    All is well, MsScarlet, things are running fast at the moment, normal scedule will be back soon. No need to worry :)
    Actually I am too tired to write a new post (that is already written in my head) – maybe Saturday. Next Sunday Music will come as usual.

    Well MJ, all for the boys!

Comments are closed.