Family book; first dated September 24, 1825

One of our family’s genuine treasures is a family book which was started in 1847 by my great-great-grandfather Martin Connolly (1824-1891) in Troy, New York.  Written in longhand in a leather bound ledger, the book captures our family’s history, noteworthy news events, and random bits of trivia – an occasional grocery shopping list appears here and there, for instance.  Tattered, stained and bearing the wildly varying writing and handwriting styles of my ancestors, the book has been handed down through the family for the last century and a half.  Here’s a photo of the cover page & inside front cover; as you can see someone had cut out a number of pages prior to beginning the record:

Inside front cover & title page

I mentioned a week or so ago that I am working on a post about frugality lessons from the Great Depression.  Naturally, I turned to the family book to see if I could glean anything that might be relevant.

There wasn’t much to be found in the way of frugal tips – or frankly much at all about the Depression – but interestingly enough I did find this entry, made by Martin on October 15, 1857 and presented here verbatim:

There was a great money panic in this Country and in Europe in the year of 1857. All the banks in the union stopped paying specie for there own bank bill on the month of Oct and all kind of Works stoped the Mechanics & Labourers Suffered very much.  They could neither get money or work on any conditions.  There was an imencity of Failours in the Country which left the Times very poor for a long time after.

Elsewhere, poking around a bit, I discovered a purported cure for the common cold (click for a close-up view) –

"A recpt for a cold that never Failed"

Here’s the recipe:

A Recpt for a cold that never Failed


3 cents worth of hore hound

3 cents worth of Liquor stick

3 cents worth of slippery elm

3 cents worth of Saspherilla

3 cents worth of Ruberb

3 cents worth of Camemine flowers

6 cents worth of Gummerabic put in cold water untill Desolved

4 quarts of Boiled water Redused down to one

1¾ lb. of Loaf Sugar

Add one pint of Best French Brandy

Boil the above in a close kettle and not let the Steam out. Boil on a Slow Fire– Strain it carefull in a Rag or Sive.  Direction for use  Take a wine glass full every Time you cough And you may be sure of Relief for this Recpt never Failed.

As I review the recipe it seems the final ingredient is surely the most critical, but of course, I’m Irish!

I’m actually unsure of the exact date when Martin made this entry.  The entry itself is undated, and it appears that different family members at times made entries in the ledger out of sequence.  It may date to ~1850.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of our “family book.” If any of you have a similar book or document, I’d love to learn about it – please comment!

…and the next time you find yourself with a cold, forget the echinacea, vitamin C or zinc:  it’s all about the “Best French Brandy.”

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1 Comment on A cold remedy, circa 1879, from our family book

  1. […] or flavors when sick, such as orange juice or chicken soup. Some may even have a tried and true family remedy for treating colds, fever, or discomforts – lemon in warm water and saline nasal sprays are […]

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