The trademarked word Vaseline is a combination of the German word wasser (water) with the Greek word elaion (olive oil).
In 1859, Robert Augustus Chesebrough, a Brooklyn chemist whose kerosene business faced impending closure, traveled to Titusville, PA, to enter the competing petroleum business. Intrigued by the jelly residue that gunked up drilling rods, Chesebrough learned from workers that the jelly quickened healing when rubbed on a wound or burn. He brought jars of the whipped gunk back to Brooklyn where he purified the petroleum lard into a clear, smooth gel he called “petroleum jelly” and started manufacturing Vaseline in 1887.
Explorer Robert Peary brought Vaseline petroleum jelly to the North Pole to protect his skin from chapping and his mechanical equipment from rusting.
Since petroleum jelly withstands tropical climates, Amazonian natives cooked with Vaseline petroleum jelly and ate it on bread.
Cosmetic manufacturers buy Vaseline petroleum jelly in bulk as a base for beauty creams. Pharmaceutical companies use Vaseline petroleum jelly as a base to create their own brands of salves and creams. Before Vaseline petroleum jelly, pharmacists used a base of lard or glycerine (animal or vegetable matter), which quickly decomposed and became rancid.
Sales of Vaseline petroleum jelly soared in Russia in 1916 when peasants discovered that adding the petroleum jelly to the oil burned in their holy lamps eliminated the choking smoke fumes.
Sales of Vaseline petroleum jelly soared in China with Sun Yat-sen's liberation of the Chinese people in 1917. Coolies, ordered to clip off their pigtails (a mark of subrogation), discovered that Vaseline eased the discomfort caused by the bristle of the severed pigtail.
Talking Heads’ greatest hits album is titled "Sand in the Vaseline."
A jar of Vaseline petroleum jelly can be found in virtually every home in the United States.