I was searching the library for a cookbook a few days back, and stumbled across this gem [1]. Billed as a complete guide to  all matters chemical, Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Processes and Trade Secrets gives the casual turn of the century entrepreneur all the information he might need to set up a small industrial business in the early 1900’s (this book is from 1937, but the first edition came out in 1907).

The first few pages cover “laboratory methods” and common equipment.

Stir plates weren’t invented until 1944.  The alternative to this device is to swirl by hand.

House vacuum lines would not be readily available. The U loop is a fine filter.

Some equipment, like this desiccator, is essentially unchanged through to the modern day.

Others have faded into obscurity.  These two were replaced by the rotovap.

Most of the devices were designed to work without electricity. Strange, since the methods section was added to Henley’s in 1930.

To be honest, I’m not sure this isn’t a joke. It’s for forming emulsions.

Period appropriate reviews of the book can be found in the Journal of Chemical Education, and the Internet Archive and Scribd have several editions online in their entirety. When I’ve got some time I’ll go over some of the more interesting chemical recipes in some detail [2].


[1] I have no idea why this was in the cooking section.

[2] The medical section bears special mention, as it’s really amazing how we’ve come over the last seventy years.  From the section on morphine overdose:

Treatment: Empty the stomach immediately with an emetic or with the stomach pump. Then give very strong coffee without milk; put mustard plasters on the wrists and ankles; douch ethe head and chest with cold water, and if the patient is cold and sinking, give brandy, or whisky and ammonia. Belladonna is thought by many to counteract the poisonous effects of opium, and may be given in doses of half to a teaspoonful of the tincture, or 2 grains of the extract, every 20 minutes, until some effect is observed in causing the pupils to expand. Use warmth and friction, and if possible prevent sleep for some hours, for which purpose the patient be walked about between two persons. Finally, as a last resort, use artificial respiration, persistence in which will sometimes be rewarded with success in apparently hopeless cases. Electricity should also be tried.