I recently stumbled upon information that Licorice Root was good for ulcers and other ailments so I thought I'd see what the 19th century had to say about licorice. And basically it was used to help with some ailments. Some of the comments below are both educational and a bit humorous. The final quote comes from a fictional piece but it gives the reader the image of how licorice was sold and looked upon. Enjoy!
The licorice of commerce is mostly derived from Spain and Italy. There it is obtained by the crude process of boiling the albuminous and starchy root with water, and boiling down the infusion in copper vessels to the required consistence. Other inert substances are frequently incorporated with a view to adulterate or give it firmness. If the infusion, during the process, becomes sour, the glycyrrhizin separates, and eventually suffers decomposition by the action of the acid.
Licorice is much used in medicine; and although medicinally of little importance, yet, however, it is the desire of the pharmaceutist to furnish this, as well as all other pharmaceutical products, of the best attainable quality. Commercial licorice always has an acrid, unpleasant taste, entirely distinct from the peculiar and pleasant flavour of the root. Pharmaceutically, therefore, the crude licorice should never be used. In Europe it is purified for medicinal purposes, by exhausting the crude article with cold water and evaporating the solution to the proper consistence, which may be in three forms, namely: in powder, pilular extract and syrupy liquid. The purified preparations obtained from crude licorice, however, possess its dark colour and bad flavour, the insoluble matters only being removed; otherwise, it is no better than at first; even during this operation more of the glycyrrhizin may have been decomposed.
Source: Pharmaceutical Journal©1872
Soak one pound of picked white gum arabic in a pint of tepid water. When the gum is thoroughly dissolved, strain it through a piece of cheese cloth into a granite saucepan. Soak, also, two ounces of the best Spanish licorice in a gill of hot water. Add to the gum water in the saucepan fourteen ounces of confectioners' sugar, and stir over a moderate fire while it boils until the bubbles seem tough, and the mixture spins a thread from the tine of a fork. Now add the dissolved licorice and continue boiling until the mixture toughens when dropped into hot water. Have ready a shallow, square tin pan, well oiled, pour in the mixture, and stand it in a warm place to dry; the stove or range rack is a very good place. When it is sufficiently dry to be elastic to the touch, remove it from the heat and stand it in a cold place. When cold, turn the sheet from the pan, arid, with a pair of old scissors, cut it first into strips and then into blocks.
Source: Home Candy Making ©1889
Licorice, Gum Drops, Etc.
About the nastiest of all candies are the licorice and the chocolate conglomerations. Glue, molasses, brown sugar, plaster, and lampblack, arc among their beauties, with, for the latter, just sufficient real chocolate to give them a possible flavor. Licorice is cheap enough and nasty enough, but the addition of refuse molasses, glue, and lampblack, which is no unusual matter, makes it still more repulsive.
Metcalf & Company, extensive wholesale and retail druggists, kindly gave me the figures of cost on the first, second, and lower grades of gum arabic, glucose, etc. The first quality of gum arabic costs, by tho cask, about sixty to seventy-five cents per pound; the lowest about twenty-two. There is a new manufacture in New York, with a "side issue," wherein they necessarily turn out large quantities of glucose, — refuse from grain, — and this is sold for eight to thirteen cents a pound, to confectioners. It is much better than glue, but still the glue is used to-day, and I have on my table at this moment a sample of "gum drops "made this week in Boston from cheap glue, brown sugar, and a little Tonka beau flavor. The Tonka bean represents vanilla. These cost thirteen cents a pound, and are sometimes known, with the mucilage or glucose drops, to wholesale buyers, as "A. B." drops, to distinguish them from pure gum arabic. The unfortunate consumer, however, is not informed regarding the difference.
Source: The Funny Side of Physic ©1872
LICORICE or LIQUORICE—An American root used extensively for making the extract which is sold extensively in the form of stick liquorice, as a remedy for coughs. Licorice Cough Lozenges— Specialty; made of dissolved stick licorice and gum arabic in water to make 2 qts. thick mucilage; 2 lbs. powdered sugar, 2 oz. ipecacuanha, 1 drachm acetate of morphia, 1 oz. oil of aniseed, 1 oz. powdered tartaric acid; enough of the licorice mucilage to make paste of it, rolled, stamped out.
Source: The Steward's Handbook and Guide to Party Catering. ©1889
This is an excerpt from a story in the Harper's Round Table ©1898
This street had only one shop—which is a great deal more convenient than having a number of shops, for you can get everything in_ the same place. The window of this shop was a perpetual interest to Priscilla. It displayed, at the right and left, two jars of candy, red and white gum-drops in one and sticks of licorice in the other. A tray of marbles—agates and tallies and glassies—had a prominent position in the middle; rakes and shovels were stacked against the sides, and cotton—lace trimmings were draped back and forth across aprons and blue “jumpers”; there were cards of paper dolls skilfully exposed, and glittering tins, as well as neatly trimmed hats and cards of jewelry and small bottles of perfumery. It was certainly an interesting shop. Priscilla and Jane used to stand and look into the window, entranced and silent. There were not very many things which it seemed desirable to purchase, but that did not make any difference.
At last, however, there came a day when there was something. Priscilla and the complaining Jane had come to the shop to buy a stick of licorice to make licorice water, and, as usual, they stopped to gaze and admire before ontering. Behold, right in the middle of the window, raised upon a little duis that was covered with a blue cotton handkerchief, a pair of red shoes! Red morocco shoes, with little red heels, with white buttons, with neatly scalloped tops; little shining boots, placed heel to heel, their delicate pointed toes in the “first position"; so light, so graceful, so beautiful, and of a color more bright and glowing than any rose that ever blew!