April 17, 2016

How Did they Get Hair Smooth in the 1860s? Civil War Era Hair Oil Recipe

Civil War Era Macassar Oil Recipe for Hair

Macassar Oil was popular in the 1800s as a way to strengthen and smooth hair. It is a simple concoction typically made of scented olive or castor oil. The most popular kind was Rowland's Macassar Oil. Alexander Rowland, a fashionable hair dresser in the late 1700s, popularized the oil to the point that it was a household name all the way through the 20th century.

The oil was so popular that antimacassars, removable washable cloths were invented to protect furniture from hair oil. Antimacassars were woven, tatted and crocheted and many patterns were printed for them in the mid-1800s. They were even on the chairs in theaters. The recipe is very simple!

Macassar Oil


- 1 Cup Olive Oil
- 2/4 teaspoon Oil of Oregano**
- 3/4 teaspoon Oil of Rosemary
- 1/2 Cup Alkanet (optional for coloring)
- Muslin
- String
- Bottles

Pour olive oil into bowl, add the oil of rosemary and the oil of oregano. If you want it a red color, tie the Alkanet in the muslin so it forms a bag. Soak the Alkanet bag in the Olive Oil. You can cook this on low heat or in a crock pot for about an hour or until the color and scent infuse the main oil. Or you can combine and let sit for a few weeks.

**To create scent oils, put your scent in a small saucepan. Cover in olive oil. Heat on medium for 10 minutes. Let cool and bottle. Let the bottle sit for a week. You can alternatively just put the scent and oil in a jar and let it sit for more than 2 weeks. Rosemary, Oregano, Orange Flower, Cloves, Rose, Jessamine, Cinnamon, and Bergamot were common scents. To use the oil, place a small amount in a saucer or small bowl and rub it through the hair with your fingers.  

 I thought I'd be the guinea pig and let you all see the result. Please don't mind the grainy cell phone picture and forgive me for being dressed for the 18th century I had just got home from work.

 First rule of hair oil is a little oil goes a long way. The oil acted as you would expect. It did give some texture and body to my hair and did smooth out the curls. It felt like I hadn't washed my hair in a few days and was slightly greasy to the touch but not terrible. It was really good on the ends of my hair that don't generally get a lot of natural oil and made my hair shiny. It did get rid of most of the frizz and made period styles more obtainable.

However, I tried the scents authentic to the recipe. It smelled like a pizza shop! And while smoked bacon is my normal smell I thought smelling like a wood fired, artisanal, bake oven deep dish was a bit much. Even for me. I ended up scenting the rest with rose oil for my sanity. I know that people in the 1860s would not have associated those smells in the same way but there's only so long I can smell olive oil and rosemary before having to visit my grandma.


1 Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell. The New Household Receipt-book: Containing Maxims, Directions, and Specifics for Promoting Health, Comfort, and Improvement in the Home of the People: Compiled from the Best Authorities, with Many Receipts Never before Collected. New York: Long, 1853.

2 Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt-book: A Useful Guide for Large or Small Families: Containing Directions for Cooking, Preserving, Pickling. Philadelphia: A. Hart, Late Carey & Hart, 1850.

April 8, 2016

Civil War Era Open German Tart Recipe from Godey's Lady's Book

Civil War 1860s Recipe Apple Tart

This recipe was cooked for the Historical Food Fortnightly. A yearly challenge that encourages bloggers to cook a historical food every two weeks. I had such a hard time thinking of something that I would actually eat. I didn't have a need for a pretty cake or fancy marzipan dish but this tart is as delicious as it is pretty and you likely have the ingredients on hand!

The Challenge: Pretty As A Picture (March 25 - April 7) If you’re a fan of cooking competition shows (like I am!), you know how the saying goes: we eat first with our eyes. Make a dish that looks just as spectacular as it tastes. Extra points for historically accurate plating - and don’t forget to post pictures!

The Recipe:

"OPEN GERMAN TART—Half a pound of flour, quarter of a pound butter, quarter of a pound sugar, and one egg, to be rolled out and baked on a flat surface, having first covered the top with slices of apples or plums. A round shape looks best, with a little rim of the paste round the edge." -Godey’s Lady’s Book March 1863.

Civil War 1860s Recipe Apple Tart

The Date/Year and Region: Philadelphia 1863. This recipe was published the same year in Peterson's Magazine 

How Did You Make It: 


- 3 cups Flour
- 1 cup Sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons
- 1 stick of Butter (1/4 pound)
- 1 Egg

- 2 Apples, peeled and sliced
- Lemon Juice


Peel and slice your apples, set aside. In a medium sized bowl, mix sugar, softened butter and egg. Slowly add the flour until it forms a stiff dough. Add a little cold water if needed. Divide the dough in half and roll out on a floured surface. Roll the dough on to your pin and transfer to a baking sheet. Fill with the slices from one apple and fold the sides of the dough up. Drizzle lemon juice and a tablespoon full of sugar on top on the apple slices. Repeat with second tart. Bake in a oven preheated at 450 for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.    

Time to Complete: These made up very quickly. About 40 minutes, including baking time.

Total Cost: Very inexpensive. I had all of the ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?: Surprisingly good for not having any cinnamon or nutmeg. I was expecting it to be very plain but even my family enjoyed it, which is a major feat. 

How Accurate Is It?: Fairly accurate. Used sugar beet sugar instead of cane sugar.

March 24, 2016

Civil War Era Pinappleade Recipe

"Poor Mr. Doe and Mr. Chick are both very low to day. I carried them cocoa, milk, and pineapple preserves."
- Harriet Eaton, Nov. 14th, 1864

Civil War Recipe Pineappleade | World Turn'd Upside Down

This recipe was cooked for the Historical Food Fortnightly. A yearly challenge that encourages bloggers to cook a historical food every two weeks.

For this challenge I decided to take on a lemonade twist with pineappleade. Pineapples were exotic fruits in the 1800s, mostly grown in Jamaica. They were used for such dishes as ice cream, pudding, pineapple chips, fritters, drinks and marmalade. They were considered a "dessert" fruit and was often paired with sugar.1 Pineapples, being imports, were not as common as home grown fruits. The first large quantity producing pineapple plantation in Florida was started in 1860 by Captain Benjamin Baker, who was probably accustomed to the enjoyment of them at sea. 2   

I wanted to add a dessert type feel to the pineappleade so I dressed it up like fancier drinks of the time, particularly with a straw. In the 1850s and 1860s, drinkers had a few options for drinking straws: rye grass, glass tubes made for the purpose and even hollow noodles.3 4 I opted for a glass tube although I could not find any as long as typically pictured. Rye grass was most common although it gave the drink extra flavor.   

The Challenge: Juicy Fruits (March 11 - March 24) It’s fruits! Do something with fruits. It doesn’t get more simple than that. Bonus points for use of heritage crops and ingredients!

The Recipe:

Civil War Recipe Pineappleade | World Turn'd Upside Down

The Date/Year and Region: United States 1850s-1860s

How Did You Make It: 


-8 Cups Water, boiling
-Powdered Sugar, to taste
-Oranges, Lemons optional.


Pare and core the pineapple. Mince it fine and place in a pitcher. Pour boiling water over the minced pineapple and mash occasionally with a wooden spoon, cover it until room temperature. Add powdered sugar to taste. Refrigerate or put on ice until cool. Pour into cups, add an ice cube, extra sugar if needed and a thin slice of pineapple.

Civil War Recipe Pineappleade | World Turn'd Upside Down

Time to Complete:
Few hours, most of the time was letting the pineappleade cool.

Total Cost: About $4.00

How Successful Was It?: Pretty good. If I was to make it again I would probably add some orange and lemon. It would be a fantastic, chilling drink on a hot summer day.

How Accurate Is It?: The only thing I changed was the garnish style. The drink called for having a thin slice of pineapple stuck on the top of the drink but you couldn't see it in the pictures so I opted for a more modern style.

Another recipe:

1 Webster, Thomas, and William Parkes. An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy: Comprising Such Subjects as Are Most Immediately Connected with Housekeeping ... New York: Harper & Brothers Publisher, 1855.

2 Wilkinson, Jerry. HISTORY OF FARMING. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://www.keyshistory.org/farming.html.

3Timbs, John. Hints for the Table, Or, The Economy of Good Living: With a Few Words on Wines. London: Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1860.

4 Thomas, Jerry, and Christian Schultz. How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion. to Which Is Appended a Manual for the Manufacture of Cordials, Liquors, Fancy Syrups, Etc., Etc.: Over 600 Valuable Recipes / by Christian Schultz. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1862.

March 18, 2016

The End of Reenacting is Near!!!

This post is in response to an article that has been making the rounds on Facebook.  This article entitled "Join or Die," or ones like it surface every few years and bemoan the end of reenacting. The article is well written, enjoyable and a great insight into the hobby but it has people crying yet again that the sky is falling. The End is Near!!!

There are always lots of reasons given for the decline. Some say it's video games and computers and young kids just aren't into reenacting anymore so there are no reenactors taking the place of the reenactors retiring. Others claim it's the Mainsteam vs. Hardcore authenticity debate: The crotchety stitch Nazis can't have fun while there are Yahoos in theater costumes playing coyboys ruining their experience and vice versa. Still more claim that group and event politics have people running to the door and a new hobby.  The recession, people work on weekends now, the new authentic items are too costly, flags and guns are too controversial and the list of causes goes on and on.    

But here's the thing. There hasn't been a decline. Reenacting is as hot as ever. Computer games like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed and movies and shows from Fury to Downtown Abbey have people donning the clothes of the past like never before.

So what is causing this supposed decline?

The luxury of choice and skewed data. From the beginning all the way to the early 2000s reenactors were limited. There were a few big events each year and anyone who was anyone attended. It's these big events where people are drawing reenactor numbers from. Back then, reenacting primarily meant Civil War Reenacting or Revolutionary War reenacting.

But in the 2000s, the internet really took hold. People started hearing about smaller, alternative events that were only known to locals before the internet. The internet also fostered communities of reenactors interested in reenacting new and different things. There are now reenacting groups reenacting any conceivable conflict, including WWI, the French Revolution, Viking Wars, Korea and even Vietnam, sorry Dad.

There are so many event options and so many time periods to reenact now that the numbers are not less they are just spread out. The new reenactor typically reenacts more than one time period and the new complaint is of conflicting events. They want to be at all of them but there aren't enough weekends in a year.

For instance, the weekend of the Civil War Neshaminy event this year, a reenactor in the PA region can also attend Kerr Park's WWII event, Fort Frederick's 18th Century Market Faire, the Civil War living history at Gettysburg, and more. You can attend a reenactment somewhere on the eastern seaboard every weekend of the year and many of those weekends you will find conflicting events.


Where's the proof it's booming?

Commercial enterprises are manufacturing for reenactors and history minded. You can now buy an array of commercial sewing patterns designed by reenactors for reenactors. Stores like Joann Fabrics have also started stocking historical items like corset coutil and false whalebone. The number of historical video and computer games are soaring as are historical films. In case you were wondering in 2015 alone there were at least these war films released:

A War
Little Boy
An Act of War
The Last Rescue
Eye in the Sky
Land of Mine
Hyena Road
The Midwife
13 Minutes
Brothers of War
Beasts of No Nation
Battle for Sevastopol

Historical clothing and facial hair has made it into mainstream fashion which has prompted the reenactor game "Reenactor or Hipster." Reenactments are featured on popular TV shows and it's near impossible to meet someone who doesn't know at least one reenactor. The internet is full of resources for reenactors by reenactors and articles about reenacting. There are so many new and good sutlers and vendors. There are tons of online social groups based around reenacting. As I'm typing this Facebook has alerted me that 82,523 people talking about "Reenactments." But the most compelling evidence is just looking at event calendars. It's truly a good time to be a reenactor!

Reenacting is Changing

That being said, just because the hobby is thriving doesn't mean we aren't losing reenactors or that reenacting isn't changing.  A lot of Civil War reenactors claim that new people just don't want to join anymore but the fact of the matter is most young people are opting for the more popular WWII. Obviously reenactor numbers fluctuate around war anniversaries and popular culture and the Civil War time period has seen a drop lately.

Reenacting does have its problems and a lot of these problems do cause numbers to drop at certain events or from certain organizations. These problems would take another blog post. Yes, reenactors do leave the hobby. Yes, we should be concerned that people do. There are all sorts of problems in  the hobby but too many of the issues come down to people being ugly to other people. The hobby isn't going anywhere but good people are. Instead of worrying about reenacting dying, we should worry about making reenactments a place people want to be.      


March 10, 2016

Civil War Era Blockade Coffee Recipe

"Everybody had to use parched wheat, parched okra seed or parched raw sweet potato chips for coffee. Not even tea came in. We used sassafras and other native herb teas both daily and at parties when the herb teas were in season. Some were good, but the substitute coffee was not...I liked the okra seed better than any of the coffee substitutes." -Ida Baker,  REMINISCENCES 1937

Civil War Era Blockade Coffee Recipe | This Recipe is a substitution recipe due to the blockade. | World Turn'd Upside Down

This recipe was cooked for the Historical Food Fortnightly. A yearly challenge that encourages bloggers to cook a historical food every two weeks.

Coffee has been a staple of the American table since before the Revolution. It the 1800s it was sipped with breakfast along with bread and butter and was even used to treat sick patients. The beans typically came whole and needed to be ground at home. In the armies beans frequently came green and had to be roasted.

When the Civil War broke out, coffee, a long with many other items became difficult to obtain. In July of 1861, the Union Navy had blockaded of all the major southern ports in an attempt to end the war quickly as the south relied on imports. Coffee was also a part of soldiers rations of both the Northern and Southern troops which led to further shortages.

The citizens of the south craving coffee made do with using cornmeal, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicory, cotton seeds, dandelion, okra, and even acorns. (1) Universally people complained of the lack of real coffee and disappointment in the substitutions. Kate Cummings, a Confederate nurse, documented her dismay at the coffee substitutes until she tried sweet potatoes at a friend's house in 1862: "At Mrs. Houghton's We had sweet potatoes as a substitute for coffee, and it was very nice. Mrs. Houghton informed us that she did not intend to use any other kind while the war lasted."

Even in the North, coffee prices soared during the war years and publications printed recipes for coffee substitutes, the most common being, chicory, rye, barley, pea, carrot, dandelion root, and chestnut as well as sweet potato. (2)

The Challenge: Roasts (February 26 - March 10) They’re a staple of the historic table, in many different shapes and forms and types. It’s also a cooking technique. Try a historic recipe for a roast, or a recipe that involves roasting, and tell us how it turned out.

The Recipe: 

"Peel your potatoes and slice them rather thin, dry them in the air or on a stove, then cut into pieces small enough to go into the coffee mil, then grind it. Two tablespoons full of ground coffee and three or four of ground potatoes will make eight or nine cups of coffee, clear, pure and well tasted."
Albany Ga. Patriot, December 12, 1861.

The Date/Year and Region: The New England Farmer published a recipe for it in April 1862.

How Did You Make It: (a brief synopsis of the process of creation)


-Sweet Potatoes


Peel your sweet potatoes. Using a peeler or knife, peel the sweet potatoes into thin strips and lay on a plate or cookie sheet and lay in the sun. Depending on weather it can take 5-10 hours of direct sunlight. Once dry, you should be able to crush the potatoes with your fingers. Break the pieces small enough to grind in a mill or coffee grinder. Grind it up and put into a dry container for storage. When you are ready to make the coffee, use 3 Tablespoons of Sweet potato mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Coffee.  

Civil War Era Blockade Coffee Recipe | This Recipe is a substitution recipe due to the blockade. | World Turn'd Upside Down

Time to Complete: The peeling was quicker than expected, about 20 minutes. The drying took about 6 hours in the sun.

Total Cost: $5 The sweet potatoes shrink significantly. I would get 5x the amount you think you need.

How Successful Was It?: The dried sweet potatoes tasted terrific but I was afraid to try the coffee. The sweet potato did not scare me but I find coffee frightening.

How Accurate Is It?: Pretty accurate. I tasted mine a little bit on the stove top but do not think it's necessary. If you would like to be more accurate, The Confederate Receipt Book (1863) gave the following recipe for a cream substitution " Beat the white of an egg to a froth, put to it a very small lump of butter, and mix well, then turn the coffee to it gradually, so that it may not curdle. If perfectly done it will be an excellent substitute for cream. For tea omit the butter, using only the egg."

1 Porcher, Francis Peyre. Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical, and Agricultural: Being Also a Medical Botany of the Confederate States: With Practical Information on the Useful Properties of the Trees, Plants and Shrubs. Charleston: Steam-power Press of Evans & Cogswell, No. 3 Broad Street, 1863.

2 Hall, W. W. Hall's Journal of Health. Vol. 9. New York: Trubner, 1862.