Friday, October 28, 2011

Old-timey homemaking....

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) Wash Day Back Yard Reminiscence of Brooklyn 1886
I was about to season my cast iron skillet again and went to my trusty Homemaker's Heritage Extension Club cookbook to refresh my mind about temperatures and times.  This book has been on my shelf for 30 years and was given to me as a wedding gift.   After I found the recipe for seasoning cast iron, I took a little time to read some old-timey homemaking tips.  Some are so interesting that I wanted to share a few with you while I wait to recoat my skillet with more bacon fat.

Ladies Hair Treatment
A barber recommends ladies to have their hair shampooed once a month.  This will bring out the natural luster, soften it, clear it of dust, and rob it of that musty smell which comes of having long hair wound up closely for any length of time.  It will remove that itching of the head which some ladies find so troublesome.

The Feet
The largest pores of the body are located in the bottom of the feet.  For this reason the feet should be frequently and thoroughly washed and the stockings changed often.  If great cleanliness is not observed, these great pores become absorbent and the poisons given off are taken back into the system.

For Head Cold
As soon as you feel that you have a cold in the head, put a teaspoon of sugar in a goblet, and on it put six drops of camphor; stir it, and fill the glass half full of water.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then take a dessert spoonful every twenty minutes.  This is a sure cure if taken as directed.

1900 Carlo Cressini (Italian 1864-1938) Laundry

Pre-Automatic Instructions
1.  Build a fire in the backyard to heat kettle of rain water.
2.  Set tubs so smoke won't blow in eyes if wind is pert.
3.  Shave one whole cake lye soap in boiling water.
4.  Sort things.  Make 3 piles.  1 pile white, 1 pile colored, 1 pile britches and rags.
5.  Rub dirty spots on washboard, then boil.  rub colored, but don't boil.  Just rinse and starch.
6.  Take white things out of kettle with broom handle.  Then rinse and starch.
7.  Spread tea towels on grass, hang old rags on fence.
8.  Pour rinse water on flower beds.
9.  Scrub porch with soapy water, scrub privee seat and floor with soapy water caught from porch scrub.
10.  Turn tubs upside down.
11.  Go put on a clean dress, smooth hair with side combs.
12.  Brew up some tea.  Sit and rest a spell and count your blessings.
Note:  This last one is a copy of a letter from a pioneer woman to her daughter.

I hope this last one is helpful to you this weekend as you get those britches and rags washed up for next week!


  1. Oh, I'm so glad I washed my hair this month!! It's so hard to imagine the old bathing schedules.
    But, I suppose if I had to heat and carry my bath water every time I bathed, I be doing a few spit baths too!

  2. Aren't you glad for modern conveniences! I love some of the old ways but I'm truly thankful for my washing machine and dryer. I'm only a fairweather friend to my clothesline :)

  3. This was just too funny, and to think that this was the way things were done, I'm sure glad someone decided that change would be good.

  4. Wow! I like the "have a cup of tea" part the best!
    My mom has an old cast iron skillet. Many delicious pot roasts were slow roasted and devoured on Sundays!

  5. Thanks for the "Oat Floats" idea, I pinned, and added it to my list of easy projects.

  6. It's amazing what people can get used to when they don't know they have choices, eh?

  7. I really love recipes like this. I really have a cushy life. I loved the bit about putting on a clean dress and smoothing hair.
    I need to dig out mine. I have some I just love.
    My grandpa showed me how to season a cast iron skillet. I can't imagine not having one. I love mine and use it every day.

  8. "1 pile britches and rags" -- I really grinned at that one! Makes you think about what their britches looked like. And I'm a little shocked about washing the privee seat with water that had already had filthy clothes in it, and then been used to scrub the porch, after all those farm boots! I wonder if it had any cleaning power left, when it hit the privee :) Thanks a bunch -- that was fun!

  9. Very fun indeed! I'm about to join the clothesline brigade. If my washer doesn't arrive soon, though, I may be following your posted instructions (except the part about the toilet seat).

    It figures that that second photo would be Italian.

  10. Hee hee! What an interesting read. I love that final part about sitting and resting a spell and counting your blessings. I must do that more! Perhaps I should go find some nice new dresses first though!



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