19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Tuesday, August 11, 1914: Had to trot up to McEwensville to get some carbolic acid for Pa. The storekeeper said I should be careful of it; Well I didn’t swallow any if that’s what was meant. It must be fierce stuff. I could smell it through the bottle.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
What happened? Why did Grandma’s father need carbolic acid?
Carbolic acid (also known as phenol) was an antiseptic that was used to clean wounds. It was also used as a disinfectant.
It is a poison, but in small amounts it is sometimes used as an ingredient in some oral analgesics. For example, in more recent years carbolic acid has been used as an ingredient in Chloraseptic spray and Carmex.