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Brown glass jar containing six pieces of cetaceum and paraffin

Date: 1930-1960
Overall: 155 x 100 x 100 mm, 1.1 kg
Medium: Glass, metal, cetaceum, paraffin
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Australian Pharmaceutical Industries
Object Name: Cetaceum spermaceti
Object No: 00037405
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    A pharmacy bottle dated from around 1930 - 1960 of paraffin durum (hard paraffin) and cetaceum (hard whale oil). These products were once pharmacy staples, used in the preperation of creams to treat skin irriations and sometimes cetaceum was used as a cough and cold decongestant.
    SignificanceSpermaceti was one of the products derived from whaling, an important Australian maritime industry. It was removed as a liquid from large cavities in head of the whale and then boiled to create a solid or used as a liquid for lamps and lubrication of machinery. It was a widely accepted and versatile product in the days before plastics, kerosene and chemical imitates.
    HistoryThis pharmacy botte of paraffin and cetaceum was acquired by Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API) during the refurbishment of a New South Wales suburban chemist. As part of their contract API removed the chemist's old stock.
    Amongst the uses (including making candles) spermaceti, or cetaceum, was used to make medicinal ointments and cold creams .This was the reason for chemists to stock it .The British Pharmaceutical Codex 1911, the King's American Dispensatory 1898 and The Physio medical Dispensatory 1869 list cetaceum's chemical and pharmaceutical properties. Preparations using cetaceum could be made in the pharmacy or at home .The basic ingredients were cetaceum, beeswax and oil combined over heat and then allowed to cool. The cold ointment was applied to the skin to dress wounds and burns and to sooth skin irritations such as chapped hands and lips. As wax was the second main ingredient of cetaceum preparations, so the cetaceum was stored with paraffin wax (a replacement for bees wax) .
    Modern uses of these combinations are as massage creams, to relieve arthritis pain, sports injuries in various parts of the body and even effective in treating chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis.

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