What could be more American than the can-do pioneer spirit? If you set your mind to it, you can do anything, including making your own condoms. A nineteenth century practical recipe book tells us exactly how.

My new favorite book ever, The United States Practical Receipt Book, was first published in 1844. It contained all the wisdom that anyone could possibly want. It taught people how to make bon bons, how to make a ceramic glue for good china, what temperature constitutes a hot bath versus a tepid bath, the correct proportion of metals that make the proper alloy for a metal bathtub, and how to judge the quality of beef.

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The author clearly takes pride in offering everything that a person might want, including condoms. The “receipt” is right there, just below “Bartley’s Liquor Opii Sedativus,” and above “Baynton’s Adhesive Plaster.” So educate yourself on how to make a condom from some household chemicals and the intestines of a sheep.

Baudruches, or Condoms

Take the caecum of the sheep; soak it first in water, turn it on both sides, then repeat the operation in a weak ley of soda, which must be changed every four or five hours for five or six successive times; then remove the mucus membrane with the nail; sulphur, wash in clean water, and then in soap and water; rinse, inflate, and dry.

Next cut it to the required length and attach a piece of ribbon to the open end. Used to prevent infection or pregnancy. The different qualities consist of extra pains being taken in the above process, and in polishing, scenting, &c.

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You want to remove the mucus membrane because it can rot. To “sulphur” something is to fumigate it with sulphur. “Ley of soda” is lye, which is sodium hydroxide—which is often used in soap making. It breaks down biological matter. The immersion in lye seems to help clean the biological material from the casing. People would use only the cecum of the sheep because, since the cecum is the pouch between the upper and lower intestine, it has a closed end. No one would trust themselves to a sewn-shut condom.

Since we’re dedicating this week to survival, you might want to peruse the book this “receipt” comes in. Sure, it might advise you to dope yourself with opium and liquor, but don’t you want to know good beef when you see it?

Check it out: The United States Practical Receipt Book, or Complete Book of Reference for the Manufacturer, Tradesman, Agriculturist, or Housekeeper; Containing Many Thousand Valuable Receipts; in All the Useful or Domestic Arts, by a Practical Chemist.

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Image: Timothy Takemoto