U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | RE: Gum & the commercial ?

RE: Gum & the commercial ?

Chloral hydrate was commonly used in the early 20th century up to about 1950
as a hypnotic-sedative. Institutions such as mental institutions and
custodial-type nursing homes reeked of it at night. In private medical
practice patients found the taste and odor objectionable, although it was
rapidily effective as a "sleeping potion" with little or no hang-over
effect. It was replaced by more expensive and probably more toxic chemical
restrainers of the aged and agitated. Chloral hydrate was too cheap.

-----Original Message-----
From: Judy Seigel [mailto:jseigel@panix.com]
Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2006 3:05 AM
To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
Subject: Re: Gum & the commercial ?

On Fri, 3 Nov 2006, Sandy King wrote:

[re Chloral Hydrate]

> I don't know what it is but you can only get it with a prescription. Back
> the days when I was printing gum I convinced my dentist it would be good
> my teeth and got a bottle of it. If you have any need of it I probably
> have it somewhere in my chemistry stash. Used as Watzek recommended it
> hardens the gelatin slightly making it necessary to develop with some type
> force, say by water spray or scrubbing. I never managed to get it right,
> however.

I also got some chloral hydrate and found it didn't do what the old
formula said... And yes it's tightly controlled today -- but couldn't be
gotten in "pure" form in any event ... just "formulated", with, I suspect
other ingredients that may affect results negatively. I assumed they did,
also that the version available was anyway weak. (In olden times everybody
was taking "laudanum" and all sorts of opiates for toothache and
everything else, so maybe it took a really big dose to get through to

From memory -- it was at least 10 years ago -- the idea was that the
gelatin would be soluble at room temperature with the chloral hydrate
added so that....  maybe the idea was a gum print made with gelatin, not
gum arabic, but anyway it didn't.

I doubt the chloral hydrate from, say, CVS, is what was used back in the
day...  But my experience is that MANY of the the special ingredients
(manganese sulfate et al) lacked effects we can see today. I suspect that
in the days before the 21-step & similar objective tests, a lot of
"effects" were in the eye of the beholder. (Including the paper from a
certain cyano toning method turning bright yellow -- presumably copied
from some old source in KOL and from there almost verbatim by Hirsch in
"Photogrqphic Possibilities." It never happened, I promise (as described
P-F # 7, page 36, ff).