The Collaborative International Dictionary
Macassar oil \Ma*cas`sar oil"\n. A kind of oil formerly used in dressing the hair; -- so called because originally obtained from Macassar, a district of the Island of Celebes. Also, an imitation of the same, of perfumed castor oil and olive oil. Cf. antimacassar.
n. An oil, from the ylang-ylang tree, once used to smooth the hair.
Macassar oil is a compounded oil used primarily by men in Victorian and Edwardian times as a hair conditioner to groom and style the hair.
It was popularised by Alexander Rowland (1747-1823), a celebrated London barber. It was then not uncommon for barbers to make their own hair preparations, and around 1783 Rowland began offering Rowland's Macassar Oil. Within two decades it had become hugely popular, and was aggressively advertised with extravagant claims of its effectiveness, becoming one of the first nationally advertised products.
The words "Macassar Oil" were registered as a trademark by A. Rowland & Sons, in 1888. Rowland's son (also named Alexander) later stated that a relative living in the island of Celebes in the Dutch East Indies had helped in procurement of the basic ingredient.
Macassar oil is often made with coconut oil or palm oil or that of Schleichera oleosa, combined with ylang-ylang oil (obtained by processing the flowers of the ylang-ylang tree, Cananga odorata) and other fragrant oils.
Macassar oil was so named because it was reputed to have been manufactured from ingredients purchased in the port of Makassar in Indonesia. The poet Byron called it "thine incomparable oil, Macassar" in the first canto of Don Juan, and Lewis Carroll also mentions "Rowland's Macassar Oil" in the poem " Haddocks' Eyes" from Through the Looking-Glass.
Due to the tendency for the oil to transfer from the user's hair to the back of his chair, the antimacassar was developed. This is a small cloth ( crocheted, embroidered or mass-produced), placed over the back of a chair to protect the upholstery.
Usage examples of "macassar oil".
A user of cheap macassar oil, but a man of enough cranial capacity to have a certain cunning.
Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear’.
His hair is combed back as if he loaded it with macassar oil—.
Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear's oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil.
But it was good to lean into James' strength, to feel the warmth of his flesh through the shirt sleeve, the muscle and rib beneath that nondescript tweed waistcoat, and to smell ink and book dust and Macassar oil.
The expensive macassar oil that slicked his hair back glinted in the dying light of sunset as his reflection wavered in the Carlton Club's windows.
He was handsome, in a dark way, with his thin moustache and macassar oil on his hair.
To Scarlett, this house cried out for the masculine smells of brandy, tobacco and Macassar oil, for hoarse voices and occasional curses, for guns, for whiskers, for saddles and bridles and for hounds underfoot.
He turned his head to show the loss - fifteen years of careful plaiting, combing, encouraging with best Macassar oil, reduced to a bristly stump three inches long.