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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

Read Your Heart Out

My husband made a joke the other day when we were packing my library that I could almost fit a 4th bookshelf in my new office space.  He backtracked quickly seeing my enthusiasm for the idea, since he realizes that hauling the 20+ boxes filled with books that I already own will be no easy task.  I love books.  I am a bibliophile down to my core.  

I thought at first that I wouldn't be as prone to like e-books or audiobooks because I love the look, smell and feel of real paper books.  But, I was so wrong.  What I love about these alternative books is that they don't deplete the time I spend reading paper books, rather, they add to the time I can spend reading and thus the number of books I can read.  

I can seldom be found without my nose in a book.  My hubby thought he was a big reader, he likes to say, until he met me.  So, I have my own holiday tradition, in which I indulge my obsession with a new book.  This year, because of all the extra traveling we'll be doing, I bought two. 

I am so excited to have a little bit of time to read.  It won't surprise anyone that my favorite genre of fiction is (drum roll please) historical fiction.  I picked up a couple books to get me through my holiday travels.  One I have been eyeing for ages, and one is a consolation gift to myself since I don't have the network on which the series is playing. 

What is your favorite genre? Do you prefer e-books, audio-books or old fashioned paper ones? What books have you been reading? Did they stand up to your expectations? Let me know in the comments below.

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


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. 


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.

[hi-stawr-ee-og-ruh-fee, -stohr-] 

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.  


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

The American Lighting Evolution

The idea of artificial lighting seems like such a given that sometimes its easy to forget there was a time it didn't exist.  There was a distinct evolution of technology allowing us to light our homes each night.  As a consummate insomniac, a development that I am sincerely grateful for. I thought I'd try something a little different today - a podcast.  

Works Cited

1. “Electric Lighting in the United States,” Science, Vol. 5, No. 103 (Jan. 23, 1885), pp. 79-80

2. Marshall B. Davidson, “Early American Lighting,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin , New Series, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer, 1944), pp. 30-40

3. Thomas A. Edison, “The Dangers of Electric Lighting,” The North American Review , Vol. 149, No. 396 (Nov., 1889), pp. 625-634

4. Mimi Sherman, “A Look at Nineteenth-Century Lighting: Lighting Devices from the Merchant's House Museum,” APT Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 1, Lighting Historic House Museums (2000), pp. 37-43

License Free Image
6. KMJ, “Gluehlampe 01 KMJ.jpg” CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

License Free Music
7. Redvers West-Boyle “Marking Time.mp3” Dec. 30, 2012,, accessed Dec. 13, 2013.  

Our giveaway has ended and an e-mail was sent out this morning to notify everyone of the winners along with some great coupons and freebies.  If you would like to be on our list for the next contest, coupon or just for the free stuff, use the sign up form below.  

Didn't win our contest?  You can get your planner on Wednesday, October 1 during the big launch! Just a couple short days a way! Check back to the shop!

What do you think of this format? Would you like to see more audio-posts here? Let us know in the comments!

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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