Burt's original eleven herbs and spices
April 9, 2011 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Burt's Bees' recipes were supposed to have come out of a "19th century personal care recipe book" that Roxanne Quimby found. Does anyone know what particular book this was? I'm hoping its floating around in some public domain site somewhere...
posted by jsmith77 to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

My guess would be The Book You Want or something similar. Compendiums of recipes for household, barnyard and industrial uses are fairly common Victorian books, and do contain some interesting cosmetic concoctions.
posted by Scram at 11:48 PM on April 9, 2011

Not sure about the book. I actually do believe that Quimby found a book. The history of the company is really interesting. I was surprised when it went mainstream.

Anyway, if you do a Google search for "beeswax hand cream recipes" you will many good ones. For books from the Victorian era, try Google Books. Beware of really authentic recipes, people used some awful stuff (lead, arsenic).

Almond Hand Cream Recipe

1/4 cup of beeswax
1/2 cup of almond oil
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup of rosewater

Heat 1/4 cup of beeswax slowly in a double boiler. Add 1/2 cup of almond oil to the melted beeswax. Stir in 1/2 cup of coconut oil. Mix in 1/4 cup of rosewater and stir until thoroughly mixed. You can buy rosewater, or make your own by simmering 1 cup of fresh rose petals in one and a half cups of distilled water for 10 minutes and then straining the flowers from the water. Pour the hand cream into a container while it is still hot, as it will become firm as it cools.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 12:34 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Matching the 19th-century book story, the specifics get reported in one spot that it happened in 1989, at a summer craft fair: "In 1989, a 19th-century book of homemade personal-care recipes picked up at a summer craft fair inspired the couple to experiment with their beeswax recipes." (Financial Post, 2008)

A 2002 Business Leader article attributes it to old bee keeping journals: "Since I kept bees, I started selling honey and beeswax candles at craft fairs," Quimby says of her roots. "I rather enjoyed the craft and tapped into a real desire to do business. It was so liberating." After consulting old bee keeping journals, Quimby created new recipes and line extensions and soon her bees were key to the production of shoe polish, furniture polish, and lip balm. Honing in on the potential of personal care products, Quimby grew the company to its capacity within six years."

A May 2003 Associated Press article says old magazines: "From old magazines, they found recipes for beeswax lip balm and polishes for furniture and shoes. They whipped up their products in an abandoned one-room schoolhouse and sold them alongside bottled honey at craft fairs."

Or in a February 2000 interview on CNN, it just sort of happened: "CNNfn Anchor: You were living out in the woods and no electricity and no water and really living a life off the land and trying to live that kind of life, one can understand that, you know, you`re not wealthy and that kind of a - but it`s still a big jump to move from - well I think I have responsibilities and now I`m going to start a business? ROXANNE QUIMBY: Well I don't think that it really started that way I think that we were just scratching by and doing flea markets and threw some honey and bees wax candles into the mix and decided to drop the used clothes and stick with the candles and it kind of evolved. And after a certain point I realized that I really liked doing it."

An October 2004 Bangor Daily News article makes it seem like there was an opening for a moment of inspiration: "Burt had a shed full of beeswax he didn't need, and he offered it to Quimby. She used it to make candles, Christmas tree ornaments, polishes and other products, which she hawked at craft fairs. Showing a page from a 1987 catalog on an overhead projector, Quimby noted that only one product -- a beeswax lip balm -- remains among the company's wares today. While Burt's Bees "remained very flexible and experimental," Quimby said the company followed a simple philosophy on products: If it didn't sell, drop it. That meant that when dog biscuits called "Burt's bones" and birdseed called "Burt's desserts" flopped, they were discontinued. Then there was the cat food that cats wouldn't touch, even when sprayed with tuna fish oil. "That line went nowhere fast," she said."

So my guess is that kafziel may be right and perhaps "19th Century Book of Homemade Recipes" sounds a lot more intriguing than "We just kept making stuff out of bees wax until something stuck".
posted by cashman at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the research, folks! Although, I'm not sure what to believe now.

It gave me the idea of searching through google books for some of the ingredients together, but that hasn't pulled any leads.

Anyway, I appreciate the efforts.
posted by jsmith77 at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2011

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