When we looked at the ARP first aid kit a few months back it included a tin of Vaseline. We did not look at it in any great detail at the time, but since then I have picked up another example and I felt it was worthy of a further look. The humble tin of Vaseline was seen extensively both in civilian’s first aid and beauty cupboards and in the field with armed personnel. The petroleum jelly had a number of uses including treating minor cuts and scrapes, moisturising dry skin and even as part of an improvised hearing defender for use in air raids! Sir John Anderson advised householders to:
Keep a tin handy with some pieces of cotton wool in it, each smeared with a little Vaseline…Stuff one of them firmly but not tightly into each ear when the noise begins. You will find it a great help.
Vaseline had been invented in the 1860s in the US by a man called Robert Augustus Cheesborough who found a way to purify the by products of the oil drilling process to create what he originally called ‘Wonder Jelly’. The name quickly changed to ‘Vaseline’ and in the 1900s production spread globally with manufacturing in England dominating the European market.
This tin dates from the 1940s and is typical of those used in wartime:The company used round metal tins, with large yellow printing on them to make it clear what was inside the tin. Despite being an American brand, the tins are marked up as ‘London’, presumably because consumers at the time preferred locally produced products to overseas imports. The Vaseline was clearly only packaged in the UK though, as small writing round the edge of the tin indicates the jelly itself was refined in the US:The tin the Vaseline is stored in was made by the Metal Box Company who we have met many times before on the blog. Their manufacturer’s code can just be made out on the edge of the lid:This tin is still filled with the petroleum jelly it was first filled with and looks like it would still be serviceable today (although I am not about to try it):Vaseline was advertised as a suitable product for female war workers and those involved in work where dry skin could be a hazard, as seen in this advertisement from the Daily Mail:It was also sold as a suitable gift for servicemen, with tins being small enough to be easily carried and the Vaseline useful for a multitude of things on active service. Indeed its healing properties were such that the US government ordered Vaseline impregnated gauze to help treat front line soldiers who had suffered severe burns.