The "Tom" Eck remedy for keeping the chain free from grit and dirt throughout the season is very simple. His idea, and he always uses it with Johnson's wheels, is to make [sic] the chain from the wheel and give it a good scrubbing with benzine or some similar fluid. After the chain has been dried thoroughly, it is inserted in boiling tallow and allowed to remain several minutes, when it is taken and dropped heavily on the floor to cleanse it. After being rubbed briskly, it is ready for plain bicycle oil, which should be rubbed well into every link. After that a drop or two of oil a month, will keep it limber and perfect. It is a simple direction, and one that every rider can afford to consider.
That's from the New York Times, August 1895, at the height of the American bicycle craze. As was typical for this time, the ad appears with a whole slew of bicycle news, pro and amateur race results, upcoming 'club runs,' etc., all placed above and ahead of the baseball news. Whatever was going on over at the Polo Grounds was far less interesting to the NYT audience than what was happening at the Fountain Ferry track in Louisville, Kentucky.
I found this 'Eck remedy' particularly funny as somewhere, right now, there are some dudes arguing on the internet about the best method for lubing a chain. Modern bikies like to tout all sorts of methods and substances, from wax to chainsaw oil. But tallow? That's one I've never heard. Just dip your chain into a vat of animal fat! Then drop it heavily on the floor for cleaning. (What about the floor?) I can imagine the bikes which received this special treatment starting to give off that special smell at some point. The smell that says mmmm, rotting fat.
Rub your chain with benzene? Eck! Benzene was a useful juice for mechanically inclined individuals at the turn of the century, and is mentioned often in the bike world and budding auto world, but turns out to be one of the most carcinogenic substances known to man. Don't rub it on anything.
Eck, by the way, was a manager/coach/trainer to Tom Cooper and perhaps some other famous riders of the period.
I won't recommend the Eck method. I prefer the Hurst method. Bathe your chain and assorted drivetrain parts in TriFlow. Attract dirt. Apply liberal amounts of additional TriFlow. Attract still more dirt. Avoid touching chain, which looks more like a greasy black rope than a chain at this point, to leg or pants. Sprinkle with gorgonzola. Microwave on high for two minutes. Ride.
Obviously that last part is a joke. Never put metal in the microwave. Put it in the oven at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.