Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer

WLMD ID: akhy

Coal tar is one of the byproducts of industrial processes that convert coal into coke or gas. Coal tar and its derivatives have been used in ointments, shampoos, analgesic drugs, and disinfectants. One of its forms, cresol, was marketed as "Vapo-Cresolene" beginning in 1879. The Vapo-Cresolene vaporizer was sometimes called a lamp because it is similar in appearance to a kerosene lamp, and used the same fuel to heat the liquid cresol with an open flame. The company claimed that inhaling the resulting fumes would cure numerous respiratory diseases, including pneumonia, whooping cough and diphtheria. These claims were debunked by a report of the American Medical Association in 1908. Despite this, the product and its vaporizers continued to be sold as late as the 1950s.

Catalog Record: Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer

Access Key: akhy

Accession No.: 2013-06-01-1 A

Title: Vapo-Cresolene / Vapo-Cresolene Co.

Corporate Author: Vapo-Cresolene Company.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Vapo-Cresolene vaporizer

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Vapo-Cresolene lamp.

Publisher: New York: Vapo-Cresolene, Co., [1899-1917].

Physical Description: 1 vaporizer ; metal, glass : 16 x 9.5 x 8 cm.

Subject: Vaporizers.
Subject: Respiratory Therapy – instrumentation.
Subject: Disinfection – instrumentation.

Web Link:

Note Type: General
Notes: Early year in the date range for the possible year of manufacture is based the latest date that is printed on the accompanying packaging: “REGISTERED. GERMANY, 1899.” The latest year in the date range for the possible year of manufacture is based on a date that was stamped on the bottom of the accompanying packaging: “FEB 17 1917”.

Note Type: With
Notes: With accompanying box that has printed information on each side; The paper on the exterior of the box is a gold color and the text and illustration are in black; “Vapo-Cresolene” is printed on every side of the box; On the front of the box is an image of the vaporizer; Also on the front is the cost for the vaporizer, “$1.50”, in the United States and Canada, and for Great Britain, “6s”; Also printed on the front are a number of “REGISTERED” dates and countries are listed, including, “REGISTERED, FRANCE, MAY 1st, 1884.”, “REGISTERED. GERMANY, 1899.”, “REGISTERED, ENGLAND, MAY 15th, 1888.”, “REGISTERED, ENGLAND, FEB. 3rd. 1897.”, “REGISTERED, CANADA, April, 12th. 1893.”; Directions for use are printed on the left side, and on the right side information about the product is printed below, “Vapo-Cresolene [new line] VAPORIZER.”; More information about the product is printed on the back, including, “A Germ Destroying Liquid to be vaporized. For Whooping Cough, Spasmodic Croup, Asthma, Catarrh, Colds, Bronchitis, Coughs, Hay Fever, Sore Throat, Broncho Pneumonia, The Bronchial Complications of Scarlet Fever and Measles and as an aid in the Treatment of Diphtheria. For the Respiratory Diseases of Animals, as Distemper and Pneumonia in Horses and Dogs; Gapes and Roup in Fowls.”

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Adams SS. Poisoning by Vapo-Cresolene. Trans Am Pediatr Soc. 1900;12:174-175.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Bogard MO. Vapo-Cresolene lamp and bottles. Pharm Hist. 1985;27(2):96-97.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Munsey C. Vapo-Cresolene (1881-1950). Society for Historical Archaeology website. Published July, 2010. Accessed September 27, 2013.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Notes and news: Vapo-Cresolene. Druggists’ Bull. 1889;3(7):243.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Vapo-Cresolene: results of the examination in the association’s laboratory. JAMA. 1908;50(14):1135.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Vapo-Cresolene [advertisement]. Munsey’s Mag. 1922;74(4):[10th page of ads].

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Vapo-Cresolene Co. Federal Trade Commission Decisions. Vol 31. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1941:1782.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: The ‘vaporizer’ consists of a small, white glass shade attached to a metal and glass ‘lamp’ with a wick; The part of the lamp that holds kerosene is clear glass; Embossed on one side of the glass of the lamp is “VAPO”, and on the other side, “CRESOLENE”; Below “CRESOLENE” the glass is embossed with, “KAROSENE”; The lamp sits in the base of an ornate metal stand. At the top of the stand is a place to hold a small metal bowel of Cresolene.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Selected for the WLM website.