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Keeping House like an OLD Pro - 1931-1940

January is National Organization Month and also National Hobby Month, so I thought, why not combine the two and find  out what the latest fads in cleaning and organization have been throughout the past century.  This is part 4 and we'll be looking at the the Depression Era, for part 1 covering the turn of the century click here , for part 2 covering 1911-1920 click here, or for part 3 about 1921-1930 here.

With the 1930s comes a new national obsession with thrift and the documents written about housekeeping seem to reflect it.  There is less material, and the percentage that discusses cleaning is comparatively minuscule.  The new topics at hand seem to be how to get the most bang for your buck and making sure that your children are not malnourished.  Because of this, we are taking a slight departure from our previous look  at the Good Housekeeping  archives to look at the Cornell Bulletin for Homemakers, "Letters From a HOmemaker to her Friend on House Cleaning" by Ella M. Cushman.  

Cornell bulletin for homemakers: Part V, Number 262 - Letters From a Homemaker to Her Friend on House Cleaning

By Ella M. Cushman

A CHAIR IS WASHED

Greenacres Farm, Saturday.

Dear Friend:

Mrs. Livingston has certainly cheered up since I saw her last.  She shampooed her large living-room rug with soap lather and it looks almost like new.  She said she really enjoyed doing it.  She decided to be experimental, too, and went so far as to try the soap lather on an upholstered chair which she has had for ten years and which had never been cleaned.  She said it was so dirty you couldn't tell what color it was, and you could hardly distinguish the pattern.  First she was careful to test the colors behind the back and found they were fast.  The top of the back was greasy where people had rested their heads, so Mrs. Livingston was afraid the soap lather might not take out this grease.  She poured some carbon tetrachloride into a saucer and with a soft brush scrubbed the soiled part until she felt sure that the grease had been cut.  In cleaning it, she used exactly the same method she used with her rug, and was particularly careful not to allow any water to soak through, as she was afraid it might rust the springs.  

When Mr. Livingston came home that night he said, "Where did you get the new chair?" 

I saw the chair myself and felt that Mr. Livingston was justified in his question.  The chair was a very good one, of solid mahogany.  Mrs. Livingston wanted to know what to do with the mahogany so it would be as clean as the upholstery, so I told her how Mrs. Broome had cleaned her varnished furniture.  When I left, she was mixing the solution and I suppose that the next time I drop in all the varnished furniture and the woodwork in the Livingston house will be clean, for Mrs. Livingston certainly does like to try new ideas.  

These are the directions Mrs. Broome gave me.  I know that she had good results:

Into a dish containing one quart of hot water, put three tablespoons of linseed oil and one tablespoon of turpentine and set this dish in a pan of hot water.  Wash the varnished surface with the mixture until all the dirt is removed, then dry and polish it with a soft dry cloth.  As soon as the mixture becomes dirty, throw it away and mix up a new solution.  

Cordially yours,

Mary Smith.  

For the complete text of this letter, and the others included in the Bulletin click here.


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Keeping House like an OLD Pro - 1921 - 1930

January is National Organization Month and also National Hobby Month, so I thought, why not combine the two and find  out what the latest fads in cleaning and organization have been throughout the past century.  This is part 3 and we'll be looking at the the Roaring 20s, for part 1 covering the turn of the century click here or for part 2 covering 1911-1920 click here.

The 20s brought with them new intensity to the debate on women's rights, many of the articles from this decade in Good Housekeeping grapple with the husband's role in housekeeping and how to balance work outside of the home with household responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and child-rearing.  I chose a less politically loaded article to stick more closely with our theme of examining cleaning techniques.  The article we will look at today is from the January 1927 issue, and is entitled "Short Cuts in Housework: From Our Readers Who Have Made Their Work Plans Work."

 

Excerpts from "SHORT CUTS IN HOUSEWORK: From Our Readers Who Have Made Their Work Plans Work" (Good Housekeeping, January, 1927) 

Under the Challenging title, "Minute, Minute, Who's Got a Minute?" one housekeeper lists her seven greatest time-saving methods of work.  Here they are:

1. "There are but twelve hours in any day -- and isn't it a short pattern?  It takes considerable contriving to turn them around so that a full day will cut to advantage, and still allow trimmings of recreation, but it can be done. 

2. "Isn't it a waste of valuable time to stand in line awaiting one's turn in the stores? I do my marketing around 8 o'clock.  Usually I'm the only customer.  I not only get prompt service, but I also get the pick of the stock -- especially at the green grocer's.  Then I come home to make the beds, which have been airing and wash the dishes which have been soaking.  

3. "Isn't it a waste of precious time to wipe the dishes and then carry them to cupboards when those same dishes must be taken out and used at the next meal?  I wash mine, put them carefully in a wire drainer, pour scalding water over them and leave them covered with a clean towel.  I wipe the silver, but that is all.  Neatly arranged, clean dishes on the drainboard do not seem 'shiftless' to me.  I use the time saved in this way to prepare, as far as possible, the next meal.  I make my mayonnaise as soon as the bowl is empty, instead of waiting until I want to mix the salad.  I mix and sift the dry ingredients for biscuits and keep this on hand.  

4. "I have learned to cut out the non-essentials.  I find that cookies, and baking powder biscuits, too, are not unattractive and taste just as good when the butter is made a little thinner and dropped from a spoon as when I rolled them out and cut them with a cooky [sic] cutter.  I know I make them much more frequently than I did, when I thought they had to be rolled.  

5.  "On Monday mornings I read my paper in the laundry, while the washing machine sings its lay.  Then, when the 8:10 trolley brings "Martha-by-the-day," the sheets are ready for her to hang out.  With this early start things dry much sooner, and she is able to finish the ironing the same day.  

6. "I straighten up the living-room and plump up the pillows before we go to bed.  This takes only a few minutes, and it helps the morale considerably in the morning.  

7. "I won't allow myself to dawdle over any task.  It can be made a habit to work briskly.  I had to force myself to speed up, at first.  But I find that I'm not so tired as when I poked.  If you sing about your work, don't retard it with a dreamy waltz."  

You can find the full text of this article and the rest of the issue here.  


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Keeping House like an OLD Pro - 1911-1920

January is National Organization Month and also National Hobby Month, so I thought, why not combine the two and find  out what the latest fads in cleaning and organization have been throughout the past century.  This is part 2 and we'll be looking at the second decade of the 20th century, for part 1 covering the turn of the century click here.

Today's article comes to you from the April, 1919 Good Housekeeping issue.  The article is entitled "The Household Almanac: A Season for Sewing, Cleaning and Gardening." 

THE HOUSEHOLD ALMANAC

A Season for Sewing, Cleaning, and Gardening

IN APRIL begins the season when many housekeepers want to spend all their time in each of three different ways: spring sewing, spring cleaning and early gardening.  But try to plan a wise adjustment and average up the time.  On rainy days, sew. In pleasant weather, clean.  Garden a while each fine day.  You will find it a rest and a pleasant change, and the accomplishment of work will be gratifying.  Above all, allow a liberal margin for outside recreation and mental refreshment.  

FRESH vegetables are scarce, so use fresh the parsnips and salsify dug from the garden.  Try different recipes that you may get variety.  Have the garden plowed, have the lawn rolled and the perennial beds and shrubberies fixed for summer.  Transplant house-started seedlings to the cold-frames.  Plant in close rows in the frames flower seeds you wish to hurry.  Spade over the asparagus bed before the stalks begin to appear.  Take up the board walks.  Do any grafting you may have planned.

KILL the first flies and moth-millers.  If you can accomplish this you will save much further trouble.  Each month put a strong solution of washing soda, followed by clear hot water, down bathroom pipes.  Do the same thing each week in the kitchen sink.  Instead of the washing soda any one of the commercial  antiseptic solutions may be used advantageously.  See that the garbage can is in perfect condition before hot weather sets in.  If you do not find it strong enough to last through the season, discard and get another.  

THE entire contents of each clothes closet should have a day's sojourn on the line in the open, blowing air on a sunny day.  Pack them away in garment bags that come for the purpose.  In city homes, all winter garments should first be sent to the cleaner's for thorough pressing.  Garments thoroughly aired, brushed and put away early in the spring are seldom injured by moths.  Air and put away the remainder of the winter blankets and puffs, selecting a clear windy day. Put up the screens; they will help to keep out the first flies, saving much trouble later.  

THE time has gone long since when mother "did all her own sewing." The increasing excellence of the read-made garment and the real financial gain in many cases make it a serious question if many garments should be made at home.  Most mothers, however, find the make-overs are still imperative and demand personal attention.  Plan a dress parade; note the garments to be lengthened or repaired, or to be made over.  Note any new garments and materials that must be purchased before hot weather.  

THIS is an ideal month to inspect kitchen and pantry equipment.  Fill in the tableware and utensils that have been depleted by breakage.  Weed out much-worn and out-of-order utensils.  Now is the time to have the kitchen walls painted and the ceiling whitened.  You can even do the painting yourself.  Take this season to install some little improvement or new idea you have had in mind but have not taken time to accomplish.  Glass containers are ideal for holding pantry supplies.  Make the shelves shipshape and trim in their new dress. 

INSTALL an incinerator in some corner far away from trees.  It may be home-made using one and one-half yards of yard-wide, square mesh wire.  Lap over and twist the cut end.  Use a square of the same mesh and hinge it for a cover.  Fasten to the ground with a couple of bent wires.  Empty the contents of scrap-baskets and surplus paper not good enough to keep, each week, and set afire.  The debris will burn rapidly with no danger of setting anything afire.  never let burnable rubbish pile up in your cellar. 

Find the full-text of this article and the entire magazine here


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Keeping House like an OLD Pro- 1900 to 1910

January is National Organization Month and also National Hobby Month, so I thought, why not combine the two and find  out what the latest fads in cleaning and organization have been throughout the past century.  We'll start with turn of the century cleaning techniques.

In the earliest part of the 20th century, the top 10 causes of death (as listed by the Physicians' Pocket Reference to the International List of Causes of Death, United States Bureau of the Census, 1916) were a horrifying list of communicable diseases including:

 

  1. Typhoid Fever
  2. Typhus Fever
  3. Malaria
  4. Small Pox
  5. Measles

 

The cover of the August 1908 Good Housekeeping Magazine.  

The cover of the August 1908 Good Housekeeping Magazine.  

With a growing understanding of disease and medicine occurring throughout the late 1800s, it is no wonder that it became a national obsession in the first decade of the 1900s to keep a pristine home.  By 1908, with the debut of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and Seal of Approval it had become a household name, harpooned by the new national fascination by cleanliness and thrift.  

The December 1908 issue of Good Housekeeping featured an article called "First Lessons of Keeping House,"  by Grace H. Russell.  This edition explores the topic of "Soiled Clothes."  

Housekeeping would be an easy and relatively simple process if the washing and ironing could be eliminated from the routine, but it seems impossible to eliminate them.  But it is possible to systematize and organize the laundering in a way to make it much less burdensome and far less taxing than it is at present.

 A very good beginning for the system is to provide for every person in the home a laundry bag in which soiled clothing may be put from day to day.  Then when wash day comes, it is a very simple matter to gather up the laundry bags and carry them down to the room where the washing is going to be done.  

The dining room, too, should have its laundry bag.  It should be hung in a place where it will be impossible for mice to get into it, as the small particles of food are very attractive and exceedingly alluring to the animal's delicate sense of smell.  A kitchen bag should also be provided and all soiled pieces should be kept their.  Be careful however, not to permit the insertion of wet cloths or greasy rags in the kitchen bag, for the wet cloths may mildew, and greasy rags will contaminate dust cloths and dish towels.  

Russel, Grace H.  "First Lessons of Keeping House."  Good Housekeeping, December 1908, pp. 108-110.  

You can read the complete text of this article, or the entire magazine here. 


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Five Most Popular Blog Posts from 2014

For The Historium, 2014 was a HUGE year.  We published a book, worked with some amazing people, launched The Historical Research Planner and blogged away.  In many ways this post is a year in review, in others it is a look at what has worked and what hasn't over the past year.  By taking a look at the social love you all have shown us, we compiled the top 5 blog posts of 2014.  The number one post had a whopping 3,700+ pins (not to mention the shares it got on Twitter and Facebook)! WOW! 

So, now it's our turn to ask you, what you would like to see here in 2015?  Take a second and let us know in the comments below before you go!

Here are the links to the posts above:

1. The Ultimate Organization Cheat Sheet for Genealogists

2. Why We Love History (And You Should Too)

3. Get Your Priorities Straight in 10 Easy Steps

4. Put The Story in Family History

5. Top 5 Best Museums in Minnesota

Don't forget to let us know what you would like to see next year! Hope your 2014 was as great as ours!


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


The History Dictionary

Today is National Dictionary Day here in the U.S. and I thought it would be a fun time to look at some unusual words that pertain to history.  These aren't really dictionary definitions.  After all, what fun would that be?  They are more, definitions as they apply to historical research.

Life is our Dictionary.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Context
[kon-tekst]
noun

Definition - the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

Origin -
early 15c., from Latin contextus "a joining together," originally past-participle of contexere "to weave together,"
from com- "together" + texere "to weave".

In history - 
When looking at a specific, small topic, like family history, establishing context can mean two things.  The first, is gathering information about outside events that might have affected the subject of your research.  For example, researching your ancestors living in Oklahoma in the 1930s, it could be very important to understand the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, so that you can understand what the sources you find mean within the context of those two events.  

The second form of context, can refer to bias.  Every piece of information is subject to bias.  You are bias, and the sources you choose to incorporate as well as the information you choose to wain from those sources and how you tell the story will be influenced by that bias.  Even your sources are bias, they were written by humans with opinions and objectives for specific reasons.  This establishes a context that can help you understand what further information you might need as well as how to interpret your sources. 

Heritage
[her-i-tij]
noun

Definition - 
the evidence of the past, such as historical sites, buildings, 
and the unspoilt natural environment, considered collectively 
as the inheritance of present-day society

Origin -  c.1200, "that which may be inherited," from Old French iritage, eritage , heritage, from heriter "inherit," from Late Latin hereditare,
ultimately from Latin heres (genitive heredis) "heir."

In history - 
Heritage has earned itself a rather controversial position in the historical vocabulary.  According to historian David Loewenthal, "The purpose of 'heritage' is to domesticate the past for present causes."*  It is the idea of using history as a kind of propoganda with a specific end in mind.  Consider it the ultimate bias-- and one more often than not political in nature.  This simple term, while often used innocently, can have rather dark connotations in some instances.
 

Historiography 
[hi-stawr-ee-og-ruh-fee, -stohr-] 
noun

Definition - 
the body of techniques, theories, and principles of historical
 research and presentation; 
methods of historical scholarship.

Origin -

1560s; see from history + -graphy. Related: Historiographer.

In History - 
Typically this refers to a method of doing research that we adhere to, in order to make our research valuable for future generations.  Historiography dictates that we should attempt to interpret history without bending it based on our personal biases or the biases of our sources.  It also tells us that to do this we should try to rely upon primary sources for our information where possible, rather than relying on the interpretation of another historian too heavily.  

*taken from John Fea's Why Study History? pp. 39-40.  

If you are interested in knowing more about the how and why behind genealogy and family history research, my book The Purposeful Family Historian delves into how to harness the bigger picture of historical context and research to find your purpose and propel your research. 

For 5 days only ( 10/16-10/20)  - starting today -  I'm giving it away for free on Amazon! 

It's normally $9.99, but to celebrate my birthday, I thought I'd give it away for a very short, limited time!

I am only asking one teeny, tiny favor: If you download the book and you love it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? The more reviews the book gets the more potential others will find it and it will help them.  I really appreciate your help!

photo 4 (2).JPG

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


What Will Historical Research Look Like In the Future?

We live in a time when change seems to surround us. Global lines of communication mean that information travels more quickly than ever and allow us to share ideas, hopes and more and more unite us in a common history that surpasses cultural or national boundaries. 

So, it begs the question: What will historical research look like in the future? I tried to answer the question, but it should be noted that what I came up with is based solely on my observations and is done in a spirit of fun rather than any kind of authoritative insight I have on the topic.  

WHAT WILL.png

There was an article this Summer on the Fast Co. Exist blog that discussed jobs that might appear by the year 2030.  Among these was one titled "Nostalgist" which is described to be like an interior designer, but who focuses on creating a decorative scheme reminiscent of another time.  As historians turn toward less traditional career trajectories in consulting and business, this seems like all to real a possibility.  

In fact, not just interior design, but other decidedly kitschy and commercialized facets for history could appear. 

Just as the automobile forever changed business in America, replacing catalog retail with shopping malls and facilitating the appearance of fancifully shaped rest stops.  So, too, has the computer and internet changed the face of historical research.  Unfortunately, just as the world never reverted to its pre-automobile condition, it is equally unlikely that the closing libraries, historical and genealogical societies will stop.  

I think that the future will bring the close of many more than we have already seen, and I am no happier about it than I'm certain any of you are, but I don't believe they will all close.  Some will survive, those who learn to harness the power of marketing and begin to look at their facility as a business with a service to provide as opposed to an organization with inherent value.  With the internet providing a more convenient, often less expensive means for getting information, it will be harder for the public at large to perceive the inherent value, rather, it will have to be clearly communicated. 

The societies and museums that will do it best will be those which aren't afraid of change, as we've seen recently, some genealogical societies have began to merge with historical societies.  These mergers could prove useful providing a greater audience for one united society, but combining collections and archives could be an infrastructural nightmare without the proper facility and manpower in place. 

Meanwhile, catalogs and collections will have to become more digitized and I think we will begin to see more online exhibitions.  I think that this could lead to an online research library where a research librarian will be available by chat or e-mail to answer questions and help locate or send along resources.  Maybe these resources will be available for check out like an ebook from a library with a paid membership to an online repository.  

Of course, my humble book-loving, paper-touching, opinion is that the digital experience could never ever measure up to the sensory experience of being in a library.  So, I hope that these innovations wouldn't make it impossible to do research in person, but the reality is, it might.  

All the more reason to dive in and start researching now! 

What are your predictions for the future of historical research? What do you think is likely to change? What do you think will stay the same? Let us know in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


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