Rose Markward was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1857. At the age of 26, she married a salesman named Charles B. Knox and moved to his hometown of Johnstown, New York, which had many tanneries and therefore also had many slaughterhouses. Slaughterhouse waste — hooves, tendons, intestines and bones — was very cheap, and was all many poor people there could afford to eat. They would boil the slaughterhouse waste in water to form a thick gel and store the liquid in large bowls. They tried to store enough to last through the long cold winters, but often ran out.
To make the gelatin last through the winter, the Knoxes learned how to dry it into long sheets, grind it into a powder and store the powder in bottles that took up very little space. In 1890 they invested their entire life savings of $5,000 to start a business selling powdered gelatin.
Mrs. Knox Claimed That Gelatin Cures Deformed Nails
The Knoxes found it difficult to find customers, so Rose wrote a booklet of “personally tested Dainty Desserts”, but that increased sales only a little bit. After her husband’s death in 1908, she was left to run the company, so she looked for a way to increase sales. The resourceful Mrs. Knox reasoned that deformed and cracked nails are common problems, particularly for women who want to look their best.
She correctly reasoned that the body makes nails from protein. She knew that the gelatin contained protein, so she reasoned that gelatin could be taken by people with dry, cracked nails to correct their deformed nails that were caused by protein deficiency. Her reasoning was wrong, but the results are history. You can still buy Knox gelatin and many people still believe that gelatin will treat their nail problems. Today the company markets a product called Knox Drink for Nails.
Lack of Protein Does Not Cause Deformed Nails
Gelatin contains protein, but lack of protein is not a common cause of brittle or cracked nails. Lack of moisture and vitamin D are the usual culprits. It takes four to six months for nails to grow from the base where you first see them to their ends. During this time, nails can dry out and crack, particularly if you have psoriasis, eczema or dry skin. Many people do not get enough sunlight to meet their needs for vitamin D during cold winters, and vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and nails.
Gelatin is a Poor Source of Protein
Even if lack of protein caused brittle nails, gelatin would be a very poor choice for treatment. When you eat meat, you eat muscle which is a rich source of all the basic 22 amino acid building blocks of protein. However, gelatin is not made from muscle; it is made from hooves, skin, bones, and intestines which are very low in two important amino acid protein building blocks called tryptophan and lysine. Today, most gelatin is made from soybeans which interestingly are also low in the same two amino acids, tryptophan and lysine.
If Your Nails are Deformed
If you have severely deformed or brittle nails, you may want to check with a dermatologist to see if you have:
• a fungus infection that can be cured with pills,
• a yeast or bacterial infection,
• low thyroid function,
• skin conditions such as psoriasis,
• malnutrition, or
• low levels of vitamin D
If your nails crack and break, you may have a genetic defect that causes your nails to lose water. If your nails get worse in the winter and improve in the late summer, you probably need more vitamin D. The most effective treatment for dry nails is to use nail polish to slow the loss of moisture. Do not use nail polish removers, which dry out your nails. Keep your nails short so they are less likely to be forced from their nail beds.
A Successful Businesswoman
Rose Knox was recognized as one of the leading businesswomen of her time. She retired from the presidency of Knox Gelatin in 1947 and three years later, died at age 93 in Johnstown, New York. Today Knox Gelatin is still the leading brand of gelatin.