Zaegel’s Magic Oil

On my way back home from NH, I happened into one of my favorite antique stores, and after perusing the booths and cases on all three floors, the manager of the shop told me that one particular seller was having a 50% off sale, and explained there was a “non-listerine” medicine corkscrew in that particular case.


I said I would like to see it, and asked if I could have a key to the case. Now, no antique mall has ever offered to give me the keys so I can help myself, but not for a lack of asking. I figure that I am in there often enough, I might as well have my own set—but I digress.

We walked over to the aforementioned and found the medicine corkscrew; a simple 1884 Clough corkscrew with advertising for “Z.M.O FOR PAIN.” At half price, it was definitely worth the price, and shortly after making the purchase I was back in the car heading towards the boat.


When I got back home, I googled “Z.M.O for pain,”


Z.M.O. which is still produced today, stands for Zaegel’s Magic Oil, produced by Max M. Zaegel of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And, the Magic Oil has an interesting history. The company’s website features the transcription from a pamphlet from 1903, written by Zaegel himself.


Within it, Zaegel explains the history behind producing Z.M.O. explaining,

Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a city situated on a high bluff on the shores of Lake Michigan, decided to put in a system of sewerage and water works. In front of Mr. Zaegel’s drug store, situated on a prominent corner of the main street, the trenches dug were very deep, and in order to interfere as little as possible with the traffic, quite narrow, giving the men employed anything but an abundance of room to perform their arduous duties. With conditions as above described, accidents, in spite of all precautions adopted, were unavoidable, and one day a workman so employed was brought into the drug store with an ugly wound caused by another workman striking a pickax through his hand. As before stated, this was an ugly, lacerated wound much worse than that caused by any sharp instrument, and not only very painful, but most difficult to heal, and bleeding profusely. Mr. Zaegel was personally present in the drug store at the time, and was requested, in the absence of a surgeon, to give such temporary treatment as might be necessary. As the man showed evidence of fainting, caused by the shock and pain, he was lead to a chair behind the prescription case and the wound was carefully cleansed with a sponge and warm water, and a little brandy given to revive him. Mr. Zaegel then, upon carefully examining the wound, determined (in the absence of a surgeon to apply the customary stitches) the only thing to do would be to apply some preparation that would possess the following qualifications.

1) It must be of an astringent nature to stop the flow of blood.
2) It must possess anodyne properties to relieve the pain.
3) It must contain antiseptics to prevent the formation of pus or matter, and so give nature an opportunity to repair the injury done.

With these three essential features in his mind, he took a one ounce bottle out of the case and made a combination of oils from the many bottles on the shelves. Upon his return to the man he applied a wad of cotton to the wound, and upon saturating the cotton with this oil, all present were pleased to hear the man utter an exclamation of joy and ease, as the moment the oil penetrated the wound all pain was gone and the bleeding stopped as if by magic.

That is certainly some powerful (and magical) stuff!!! Interestingly, Z.M.O.’s current website also offers this disclaimer before providing the history.

“ZMO Oil is an external preparation. This 1903 history describes internal uses which are discouraged by The ZMO Company.” In other words, don’t drink it!!!

A neat little corkscrew to add to the Clough collection…

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