"Suppose you let her have your aromatic vinegar"
'La mauvaise nouvelle' ('Bad news'), 1804
Public Domain'La mauvaise nouvelle' ('Bad news'), 1804 - Credit: Marguerite Gerard

During the late 18th and early 19th century, women often used aromatic substances in a base of vinegar or alcohol to revive themselves if they felt faint or unwell. They were also used to mask unpleasant odours arising from rotting garbage or sewage.

These aromatic liquids were contained in small ornamental boxes known as vinaigrettes, which contained a sponge soaked in a perfumed substance placed beneath a grille or perforated cover.

 

Silver vinaigrette
Public DomainSilver vinaigrette - Credit: Nathaniel Mills & Sons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aromatic vinegars and smelling salts (sometimes known as sal volatile or spirit of hartshorn) were also sometimes carried in glass containers known as smelling bottles. In the mid, and late Victorian period, glass containers were sometimes divided into two sections, one containing perfume, and one containing aromatic vinegar or smelling salts.

 

Vinaigrette bottle: one end for smelling salts; the other for perfume
Public DomainVictorian bottle in two sections: one for smelling salts/aromatic vinegar; the other for perfume - Credit: Simon Speed