1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 45

Phillip flashed his eyes over the recipe again, then looked back at Tracy. “Of course. Any marginally competent student of alchemy could easily make this ‘baking soda.’ The ‘baking powder’ . . . a little time in the laboratory, and that too can be made.”

“Well, can you at least help us find someone to make it?”

“I am not a procurer. If you wish someone to make this baking powder you must find them yourself. Now, please. I wish to get back to real work. Do not bother me with ‘cooking.'”

“Herr Doctor Gribbleflotz, we can pay, and pay well for this baking soda. Won’t you please reconsider?”

Phillip stared at Tracy. There was no way he could afford the time it would take to research how to make their cooking powder while also keeping up his acid volumes. And he couldn’t see them compensating him for the income he’d have to forgo. “No. It’s impossible. I’m too busy…” He moved suggestively, trying to usher his visitors out of his laboratory.

“What about a couple of sets of clothes? Tailored to fit. With pockets, zippers, and buttons. In the fabric and color of your choice.” Tracy was almost desperate.

Phillip stopped midstride and turned to look at the up-timers. He’d heard stories about the new colors coming out of Grantville. His eyes traveled up and down Ted, examining the denim trousers, plaid linen shirt and leather jacket. Then they moved onto the woman. Again the denim trousers, a bright yellow-green shirt with a canary yellow chemise. Her jacket was a fabric he didn’t recognize but the color was a bright blue he had never seen. The styles weren’t anything he particularly admired, but the colors were amazing. Yes, the offer was appealing. With a couple of sets of clothes in the new colors he could afford to sell some of his other clothes. That would be enough to justify the research, and if they really were prepared to pay him well for the cooking powder, then he’d come out ahead, and he’d be able to redeem his lucky crystal sooner. Still, he couldn’t tell them that, nor could he allow them to think he’d caved in too easily. His eyes settled on the wedged heeled shoes Frau Kubiak was wearing. “I want shoes like yours, Frau Kubiak, with the elevated heels.”

“Yes, even shoes with elevated heels.”

His ego firmly stroked by Tracy’s complete capitulation Phillip held out his hand. “Give me another look at that recipe. I believe we can talk business.”


Phillip watched the American man and woman walk away. He ran his fingers through his goatee beard as he looked into the distance, seeing himself in his new clothes. A fine figure of a man, commanding, dignified, the target of envy from less fortunate beings. Drawing his attention back into his rooms, he looked about his suddenly shabby quarters and laboratory. Maybe, if the Americans were as good as their words, he could move into accommodations more befitting Herr Doctor Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz, the World’s Greatest Alchemist. With the advance payment they had promised he could obtain supplies, employ laborants to do the dull repetitive tasks, and even keep his creditors at bay. Yes. If the Americans came through he could purchase some of that new glassware Herr Geissler was making after his visit to Grantville. With the areas of investigation the new glassware opened, soon those narrow-minded imbeciles of the university would kneel before Herr Doctor Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz, the World’s Greatest Alchemist, begging him to accept one of their diplomas. Begging him to join the staff of their university. One day . . .

Sunday lunch, Tracy and Ted’s place

“Well?” Tasha asked significantly, staring inquiringly at her cousin by marriage. “Did you find us an alchemist to make baking soda?”

Holding her mug in both hands Tracy took a sip of tea before looking over the lip of the mug at the expectant faces surrounding her. “No.” She paused, teasing them. The quiet groans of disappointment were interrupted by Danielle breaking into a fit of the giggles. “We found someone better.” With that Danielle started to roar with laughter. Tracy limited herself to a broad smile as she too tried to imagine Herr Doctor Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz as being “someone better.” “The guy is a bit of a pompous ass. But at least he’s willing to make our baking soda.”

“When can he have it ready?” asked Mary Rose.

“At the moment he’s only making a test sample. He said he needs at least a week for the urine to properly mature so as to produce the best Spirits of Hartshorn.”

“Gross.” Erin shook her head in disgust. “What are Spirits of Hartshorn?”

“Ammonia. Spirits of Hartshorn is what it’s called here and now. And quite frankly, I think it will be less trouble if we learn to use whatever names Herr Doctor Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz wants to use.”

Belle’s forehead creased. “Hang on. He’s a doctor? But you said you couldn’t find an alchemist.”

“He’s not an alchemist. For that matter, Ted says there is some doubt that he’s a doctor, at least not from any reputable university. Anyway, he said he could deliver a couple of pounds in about two weeks’ time.”

Two weeks later, Sunday lunch at Belle’s

“Now for the big test. Everybody take a bite and let’s see what we think.” Belle passed a plate of steaming biscuits around the table.

“Mmmm, nice. Different from baking powder biscuits, but still very good,” Tasha volunteered. The other women nodded and agreed that the biscuits were good.

Tracy looked over her friends, “So we are agreed that Dr. Phil . . .”

“Dr. Phil?” Belle’s raised eyebrows were duplicated by the rest of the girls.

“That’s just Ted’s name for Herr Doctor Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz,” Tracy replied.

“I thought he claimed he never watched Oprah?”

Tracy smiled at Belle. Ted had often made that claim. However, it seemed he had been a little economical with the truth. “Anyway, are we agreed that we should look at getting Dr. Phil making lots of baking soda?” At the nods of agreement, Tracy continued. “Then we have to think about raising capital. I’ve made enquiries. Dr. Phil will need to rent new facilities, buy additional hardware and supplies. He will also need to employ some people he can teach to do the work. We will also need to supply someone to manage everything when Dr. Phil loses interest and goes back to his pet projects. I’m thinking that if all the family can contribute maybe a thousand dollars per household to the project we can raise at least twenty thousand dollars. That should be enough to get him started, and running for at least three months.”

“Hang on, Tracy. What are we going to get for our investment?” Mary Rose frowned. “A thousand dollars is a bit steep for a few pounds of baking soda.” The other ladies looked at Tracy, nodding agreement.

“I’m suggesting that we set up a manufacturing company with Dr. Phil as the head or consulting chemist. He gets paid a retainer, a share of any profits, and access to the company’s supply of chemicals and facilities for his experiments. In exchange, he’s responsible for ensuring the processes work, the staff he trains are capable of doing the work they are paid for, and,” Tracy paused dramatically, “the company owns anything he develops on company time, or using company facilities or chemicals.”

“Nasty.” Belle licked her lips in anticipation. “Can you enforce that last condition?”

“Herr Hardegg of the law firm of Hardegg, Selfisch, and Krapp seems to think so. He doesn’t expect any problems dealing with Dr. Phil. He did, however, suggest that Dr. Phil have a large share of the company. Something like fifty percent. Although he did agree that forty-nine percent would do.”

“Are you saying your Dr. Phil is worth twenty thousand dollars, Tracy?” Erin asked.

“I think so. Certainly there’s nobody else offering to make baking soda. You do realize that there’s a potentially big market out there, and whoever gets in first could dominate the market? I just think we should get in first.”

“That recipe Amy got. You think someone else could get one?” a thoughtful Tasha asked.

“Yes,” replied Tracy. “And there are plenty of bright people in Grantville capable of following the recipe. However, if we get in fast we can lock in a lot of the local suppliers of urine. That’s where some of the start-up capital will go. We also need an ice-making machine — something that will work in Jena.”