Rare and interesting druggist’s receipt, dated November 22, 1894, for a sale of borate of soda to Fairplay, Colorado coroner William B. Fowler, to be used “To paint with face of corpse”.
Nineteenth Century morticians like Mr. Fowler would often coat the faces of the deceased with this mixture in order to help prevent discoloration and the formation of bacteria / mold. Families of the deceased, who very commonly held wakes at the family home, would use a similar technique, covering their dead loved one’s face with a cloth that had been soaked in a mixture of baking soda and water; the cloth would remain in place whenever the body was not being viewed.
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