That old pocketwatch you own might be lubricated with oil extracted from a dolphin's jaw

When I came across an ad for Porpoise Jaw Oil in the August 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics, I doubted whether it was really oil derived from porpoises (small toothed whales). However, after reading the fine print — "The incomparable lubricity of the dolphin oils has led to over 100 years use as superb lubricants for timepieces, micrometers, fine instruments, electrical contacts, and all delicate mechanisms" — I realized that the oil did, in fact, come from porpoise jaws.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston says porpoise oil is a "pale yellow liquid used as a lubricant for watches and precision instruments. Porpoise oil is obtained from the head and jaw of the beluga whale… It is resistant to gumming, oxidation, and evaporation."

The Nye Lubricants company, which was established in 1844, was the chief producer of porpoise jaw oil. Fortunately, with the passing of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which prohibited the harvesting of porpoises and other marine mammals for commercial purposes, Nye ceased using porpoise jaw oil and shifted to synthetic lubricants.

(This post is an excerpt from my newsletter, The Magnet. In the latest issue, I write about weird old advertisements from the golden age of pulp magazines, including jumping discs, fake grenades, and get-rich-quick scams.)

Previously: Make a weird dragon kite: Popular Mechanics, 1915