Bandoline was a kind of hair fixer very popular in Western Europe during the 19th century. Contemporaneously, they were referred to as "fixatures" along with other products like wax pomatum. While wax was used very much as hair gel are used today - for example, to smooth down stray hairs - bandoline was used for the same purpose as hairspray used today: to fix a finished hairstyle in place.
Most Bandoline recipes called for fig seeds as a primary ingredient, in order to produce a glutinous, sticky texture, however tree resins, like Tragacanth, were also used for a similar effect. Alcohol was added to macerate the ingredients and preserve the finished product which was otherwise made of perishable materials.
Bandoline was also scented in beautiful and ingenious ways by adding ready-made perfumes, rose or orange flower water, scented tree resins or powdered acacia. Some home-made recipes even called for using rum, brandy or sugar-water. It's exciting to see that bandolines were also often coloured pink or red, which would be a delight to see on lighter coloured hair.
Excerpt from Fenner's Complete Formulary by B. Fenner, 1888
"Rose Bandoline. -
Best Flake Tragacanth* 1 ounce av., Rose Water 13 fl. ounces, Cologne Spirit 3 fl. ounces. Mix the Rose Water and Cologne Spirit and macerate the Tragacanth in the mixture for several days, stirring frequently, then squeeze through a coarse muslin strainer, let stand two or three days and again squeeze through muslin.
This makes a white translucent preparation; if desired it may be colored pink or red with solution of carmine.
Quince Bandoline. -
Quince seed coarsely powdered or bruised 1/2 ounce. Orange Flower Water 13 fl. ounces, Cologne Spirit 3 fl. ounces. Make in the same manner as the preceding. In either of these formulas. Distilled Water may be used instead of Rose or Orange Flower Water and 1 ounce of any kind of bulk perfume added in place of 1 ounce of the Cologne Spirit directed. By using hot Water the operation may be greatly hastened.
Bandoline Powder. -
The best Bandoline Powder is prepared from Quince Seeds, although it is not so light colored, and does not yield so much liquid as that prepared from Tragacanth.
The following formulas may be used: Quince seed, in fine powder, 4 ounces, Bulk Perfume (Upper Ten or other) 2 fl. drachms. Mix them well together. This is put up in packages of about 1 drachm, which will make 3 or 4 ounces of Bandoline when added to Water.
Tragacanth, in fine powder, 4 ounces. Acacia, in fine powder, 1 ounce, Bulk Perfumes 2 fl. drachms. Mix and use as the foregoing.
Powdered perfumed soap also makes a good Bandoline Powder, a few grains only should be mixed with a few drops of Water when wanted for use."
*Gum Tragacanth is a viscous, odourless, tasteless, water-soluble mixture of polysaccharides obtained from sap of the root of several species of Middle Eastern legumes in the genus Astragalus. The gum seeps from the plant in twisted ribbons or flakes that can be powdered. It absorbs water to become a gel, which can be stirred into a paste.
Disclaimer:The 'Smelling History' series has been published for purposes of entertainment & education. It is not recommended to recreate the formulas and instructions outlined here. The methods and materials in these historical exerts could be extremely dangerous.