Vaseline was discovered way back in 1859. A young chemist from Brooklyn was attempting to make a living selling kerosene.
At the time, the great oil strikes in Pennsylvania pretty much stomped out his business. The lack of kerosene did not stop Robert Chesebrough from making it rich! No sir, he did what any money-hungry red-blooded American would do...he got into his horse and buggy and went straight to Titusville Pennsylvania to strike it rich in oil.
When he got there, Bobby was not so much interested in digging for oil as he was in investigating a paraffin-like goo that would stick to all the drilling rigs and cause them to seize up.
What mystified Mr. Chesebrough was not the fact that this stuff was messy and a pain in the ass to all the oil workers, rather he was interested in the fact that when applied to cuts and burns, this stuff would magically make it heal faster.
Being a man of science, R.C. bottled some up and took it home to his laboratory in N.Y. He eventually extracted the key ingredient - a translucent material we know to be petroleum jelly.
When purified he began to test it on himself, becoming a masochist, he inflicted numerous cuts and burns to his body and then treated them with this stuff. As predicted they all healed quickly. Mr. Chesebrough had found his oil, but not the thick black liquid that is used to develop kerosene, but rather a white-yellow jellatonous goo that was to be used for numerous occasions.
Within the next year, Robby was hoofing it across the Eastern States selling this stuff and making a fortune. He called it Vaseline, potentially due to keeping it in his wife's vases and the fact that new oil based products ended in *ine*. Vaseline is now owned by Chesebrough-Ponds.
People used and still use vaseline for a variety of things such as an ointment for cuts and bruises, removing stains from furniture, polishing wood surfaces, treating leather, preventing rust (which can not work on aluminum) and of course as a sexual aid, not unlike KY jelly. People have used it to shine their shoes and pharmacists used it as a base for other medicines, and in modern times drug companies are using it as a base for lip balms. Lip balms have been accused of being an addictive substance; however, vaseline does not seem to be the agent involved.

Vaseline, or Vaselene, petroleum jelly, a pale yellow, translucent, semisolid substance, consisting of a mixture of the hydrocarbons, obtained by treating the undistilled portion of petroleum with superheated steam, and filtering while hot through animal charcoal.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Vas"e*line (?), n. [Said by the manufacturer to be derived from G. wasser water + Gr. 'e`laion olive oil.]

A yellowish translucent substance, almost odorless and tasteless, obtained as a residue in the purification of crude petroleum, and consisting essentially of a mixture of several of the higher members of the paraffin series. It is used as an unguent, and for various purposes in the arts. See the Note under Petrolatum.

[Written also vaselin.]


© Webster 1913.

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