Great Green Gobs
Welcome to The Tuesday Weld, a weekly look at iconic Baltimore products, places and people.
As a kid, I always wondered about that little gold-labeled jar in the family medicine cabinet. It appeared about the same time our Bohemian grandmother, Kitty O’Toole, came to live with us.
Dr. Gordshell’s Salve, Baltimore Md. the label said. Iridescent, mysterious, more potion than unguent, to a kid it looked for all the world like, well, gopher guts.
In 1858, 35-year-old Baltimore physician George W. Gordshell compounded his “All Healing Salve” for the treatment of “boils, carbuncles, gathered breasts, chilblains, and scald-head.” It must have worked at least partially because, as far as I can tell, carbuncles and chilblains have been largely wiped out. Gathered breasts and scald-head, maybe not so much.
Sold today as “Dr. Gordshell’s Skin Cream,” the stuff purportedly treats “boils, eczema, razor bumps, aches & pain, blemishes, acne, and so much more!”
The original formula for Dr. Gordshell’s Salve is said to have come down through his wife’s family from—the Vikings.
Vikings, you’ll recall, were not especially keen first responders. In fact, Vikings were one important reason people needed salve to begin with. Think: cauldrons of boiling oil and sucking hatchet wounds.
The traditional guacamole-colored Gordshell’s salve is made of lard, beeswax, sassafras oil, elderflowers and rosin. (Slathering green ointment on a boil? If it's an issue, just close your eyes and channel Kermit T. Frog.)
Today, there’s even a modern “vegetarian” formula that swaps out the lard for shea butter. Which—OK—conjures images of Norsemen you could probably beat at croquet.
Ah, Baltimore! Hotbed of the Ouija board, duckpin bowling, and the espantoon. Still other Baltimore patented contributions helped grease the wheels of progress—the elevator, the refrigerator, and the railroad, among others.
Kitty O’Toole clearly counted Gordshell’s healing great green gobs as one of them.