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Piece of cetaceum wrapped in brown paper and string

Date: c 1959
Overall: 85 x 130 x 95 mm, 0.44 kg
Medium: Paper package, fabric string, piece of cetaceum
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Australian Pharmaceutical Industries
Object Name: Cetaceum spermaceti
Object No: 00037406
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    A piece of cetaceum (solid whale oil) wrapped in brown paper and tied with string from around 1959. Once a pharmacy staple, cetaceum was used in the preperation of creams to treat skin irriations and sometimes was used as a cough and cold decongestant. It was traditionally mixed with either paraffin wax or bee wax.
    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.
    HistoryThe package represents the cetaceum as sent by the pharmaceutical distributor to the chemist.
    The package bears the name of two Australian pharmaceutical companies which help date the cetaceum. The drug Houses of Australia was formed in 1930 as a distributor of pharmaceuticals to chemist shops. Around 1959 it was acquired Elliotts and Australian Drug Limited. As the attached label bears both names the cetaceum package probably dates from around that time.
    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. It was a particular used in treatments to treat skin conditions or irritations.

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