A Collection of German-American Rare Books and Broadsides from the Henkel Family in New Market, Va.
Solomon Henkel and his wife Rebecca had nine children: Helena (1801-1823), Seorim (1803-1804), Sylvanus (1805-1830), Samuel Godfrey (1807-1863), Siram Peter (1809-1879), Simeon Socrates (1811-1812), Silon Amos (1813-1844), Solomon David (1815-1872), and Solon Paul Charles (1818-1882). They may have served as good reason for the Henkel Press to print primers.
Dating back to at least the Middle Ages, primers were used to teach letters, prayers and simple subjects. Primers often depicted common images children would encounter in everyday life. Chaucer in "The Prioress's Tale" refers to "This litel child, his litel book lernynge, As he sat in the scole at his prymer."
This preparation of aloe, a known laxative, combined with the laxative effects of alcohol, was likely a strong purgative as advertised. As opposed to the aloe pills, the Henkel brother’s preparation of aloe powder was much more powerful and likely used less for regulation of the bowels and more in extreme situations.
This broadside explains the Henkel brothers’ a decoction of Carolina Pink, which probably consisted of dried parts of Carolina Pink and other materials in an envelope. It was prepared by covering in boiling water and creating a type of tea, strained at maximum strength, and used to expel an infection by worms, also known as an anthelmintic. Carolina Pink may be the plant Spigelia marilandica, which was once used as an anthelmintic by the Arapaho tribe of Native Americans.
Sassafras has long been used as a medicinal product. Traditionally it has been used as an analgesic to a kidney medicine. Its wide use is likely due in part to its distinct and pleasing taste, which we now associate largely with root beer (though it is no longer used in commercial root beer as the compound safrole, found in the sassafras oil, has been proven to be toxic to the liver and weakly carcinogenic). The syrup of sassafras described in this broadside was used as a purgative.
Asafetida is most commonly used in culinary applications today, primarily in Indian cuisine. Asafetida is the dried latex of several different Asian plants in the genus Ferula. This broadside describes many uses for asafetida, and its use as a digestive aid and against influenza seem to be founded in science. However the many effects of the tincture are likely exaggerated and greatly mitigated by the alcohol present in the tincture. Hysterics, especially, is highly suspect, as this “disease” which affected primarily women is no longer considered a disease, but various conditions as simple as dissatisfaction or as complex as mental illness.
Liver pills were omnipresent in 19th century medicine. Many various ailments were attributed to disease or dysfunction of the liver, and each doctor had a proprietary blend to sell to their patients. Very few liver pills had any effect on the liver, or even on the patient. This pill claims to harness the power of caraway, which has throughout history been simply used as a spice with no particular medicinal value.
This tincture of cohosh is likely referring to the plant “blue cohosh” (Caullophyllum thalictroides), which was recognized by Native Americans as particularly useful as a contraceptive, abortifacient, and aid in birthing because it prompted uterine contractions. That it is advertised as an antispasmodic in this broadside is unusual, however it also mentions its use for regulating the menstrual cycle.
All images from Manuscripts & Special Collections, Library of Virginia.
Research, text, and arrangement by Mary Kate du Laney & Ellie Taylor with assistance from Audrey McElhinney & Sonya Coleman.
Imaging by Mark Fagerburg & Paige Buchbinder, Photo & Digital Imaging Services Department
For the Library of Virginia