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.