The Effect of Weather on Health

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, April 20, 1914:  There wasn’t much coming this way except the rain.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This was the second rainy day in a row. According to a book published in 1914, The Principles of Hygiene by D.H. Bergey, MD, there was a relationship between weather and health.

The Influence of Precipitation on Health

The immediate effect of a fall of rain is to cleanse and purify the air from dust of all sorts, organic and inorganic, and from micro-organisms. So far the influence of rain is decidedly beneficial to health; but when rainfall is so excessive as largely to increase the humidity of the air, its hygienic effect becomes merged in that of humidity.

The Influence of Humidity on Health

If the relative humidity be increased, there will be a hindrance to the escape of water from the body; and when this condition is combined with a high temperature the heat is far more oppressive than when the atmosphere is dry and allows free evaporation. On the other hand, a moist, cold atmosphere is far more distressing than when the air is dry, and there is but little movement.

The Effects of Wind Upon Health

It is complex and not well defined how wind affects health. All wind favors evaporation, and therefore loss of heat from the body. Winds that are and moist are mild and relaxing; dry, cool winds are bracing; but cold winds are penetrating, and considered dangerous to persons of delicate constitutions.

Sunlight as a Disinfectant

Sunlight is an efficient disinfectant. This agent is constantly acting and, no doubt, removes most of the detrimental agents on surfaces exposed to the sun. Most bacteria grow best in the dark.


Doctor Not at Home

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Thursday, March 26, 1914:  Walked to Watsontown this afternoon with the expectation of having my nose doctored, but the doctor wasn’t at home.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm. . . what was the problem? . . . stuffy nose? . . .sinus infection? . . . something else?
This diary entry brings back memories of similar experiences I had when I was a child. I can remember visiting two Watsontown doctors—Dr. Persing and Dr. Yannaconne—when I had a cold or other minor ailment.

Both had offices in their homes. No appointment needed—just stop by during office hours and wait your turn. And, the medicines or salves they gave me always cured whatever ailed me. . . .

Tonsillectomies a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, March 11, 1914:    Pa took us into town this morning to take the train for mother went along with me. Had never been to Williamsport before and rather enjoyed the trip, going up anyway. You may be sure I took in all the sights.

After we arrived in the city we went directly to the specialist’s office; there the operation was performed.

Was given chloroform and after being under its influence for about half an hour I came to. Ma told me afterwards that I yelled and groaned like everything, so it must have hurt some. I soon became conscious of a very sore throat. Two tonsils had been removed and an adenoid. Was soon able to get up and take a walk with Ma. Arrived home safely. Oh my, the swallowing process is terrible.

Recent picture of Williamsport (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Recent picture of Williamsport (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’m amazed that Grandma had never previously been to Williamsport. It is only about 20 miles from McEwensville—though the train would have had to go through some mountains to get there.

I’m also surprised that Grandma apparently never visited the doctor who removed her tonsils prior to the date of the surgery.

Tonsillectomies apparently were very popular a hundred years ago.I even found a book published in 1914 called Adenoids and Kindred Perils of School Life by D.T. Atkinson, M.D.  Here are some quotes and pictures:

Enlarged tonsils and adenoid growths are responsible for many cases of persistent cough. Persons who breathe through their mouths carry into the larynx, twenty times or so a minute, a current of air which has not been freed from dust by the filtering process of the nose, and which is not moistened.

The consequences are that the larynx is kept dry and irritated and responds rapidly to atmospheric changes. Some authorities on the throat have reached the conclusion that in mouth breathing cases there is kept up a mild, almost unnoticed chronic inflammation of the larynx which becomes aggravated under the influence of exposure to cold or irritation from dust. In children with adenoids an almost constant “cold” in the head exists during the winter months.

The adenoid operation, though performed by a limited number of surgeons in different parts of the world, did not come into general use until a few years ago. Both parents and physicians recognize now that mouth breathing is a condition resulting from disease, that it is not a habit and that a child in a normal condition will not breathe through its mouth.  . .



I don’t remember Grandma being ill very often during the winter of 1913-14. (She had more colds the previous winter.) I wonder why she decided to have her tonsils removed.

Old Obesity Saying: “We Dig Our Graves with Our Teeth”

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, January 20, 1914:  Ditto

A recent photo of McEwensville
A recent photo of McEwensville

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a few fun quotes about the dangers of over-eating from a hundred-year-old article:

A Greater Curse Than the Saloon

The saloon is a curse, we say. And it is. But when we speak of the saloon as the greatest curse in America we are beside the facts. Statistics plainly prove that overeating kills more people.

Kidney diseases and heart troubles are tremendously on the increase in America.  Nor is the rush and strenuous life of America alone to blame. Nor is it alcohol. Both are contributing forces, but the greatest of all is the inability, particularly of men, to eat rightly.

The majority of men overeat. A man at forty cannot do the work of a man at thirty any more than he can at fifty do the work he did at forty. And he cannot and should not eat the same food in quantity. He does not need it.

Physicians agree that after a man or a woman has turned the corner at forty the system no longer needs the same quantity of food required in early manhood or womanhood. It actually does its work better on smaller amounts.

It is an old but true saying that “we dig our graves with our teeth.”

Ladies Home Journal  (February, 1914)

You may also enjoy this previous post:

Are You Obese?: 1911 and 2011

Hundred-Year-Old Cures for Insomnia

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, January 19, 1914:  Nothing much doing this day.

Photo of a bedroom in April, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal.
Picture Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share part of an interesting article on the causes and cures for insomnia that appeared in the March, 1914 issue of National Food Magazine.

To My Sleepless Friend

It is certainly true that thousands lose their health and many die every year through lack of sufficient sleep. Prolonged sleeplessness means nervous trouble of some kind and should not be neglected.

Rest Destroyers

The habitual use of stimulants and drugs.

The worrying habit.

The overwork habit.

Habitual overeating, or taking food at bedtime that is difficult of digestion.

The “wide-awakes” who cannot sleep themselves and disturb the rest of others.

The “fond mother” who wakes the baby to exhibit him to a friend.

The “early-to-bed” who interferes with the “late-to-bed’s” morning nap.

To Cure Insomnia

Strict attention to diet is an absolute necessity.

Weak, easily exhausted persons require food at short intervals (about every two hours).

The heartiest meal of the day should not be eaten later than 2 p.m.

Liquid nutriment or fresh, ripe fruit should be taken between meals.

No uncooked fruits should be eaten after the dinner hour.


Condiments and spices; strong acids; food that is difficult of digestion for you; tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks, usually.

As Sleep Inducers

A cup of hot water or hot milk before retiring.

A light sandwich (minced meat or chicken).

Never go to bed hungry, nor with an over-loaded stomach.

Lay aside business worries and other cares at sunset.

Take a walk, some light exercise, after the evening meal (one hour later).

Substitute muscle fatigue for brain tire.

When you go to bed, relax the muscles, lie on the right side, and think of something pleasant.


Don’t keep yourself awake trying to get to sleep. Give up the idea that you cannot sleep. Seek rest and repose first, and sleep will come naturally with time.

How to Remove Stains from Hands

 18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, September 20, 1913:  I picked and picked at the potatoes today till there weren’t any more to pick and then I stopped. My hands presented quite a spectacle by the time I was through from being so badly stained. I don’t care though, Pa gave me a dollar.

tomato.juiceDid Grandma rub her hands with tomatoes or tomato juice to try to remove the stains? (Picture Source: Simply Recipes)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Work and more backbreaking work. . . at least the potatoes were all harvested (and  Grandma was a dollar richer).

Here’s some advice in a hundred-year-old book about how to remove stains from hands.

To remove stains, dip the hands into a dish of strong tea, rub well with a nailbrush, and rinse in tepid waters. Ripe tomatoes, also the juice of a lemon, will remove stains from the hands.

Housekeeper’s Handy Book (1913) by Lucia Millet Baxter

You may also enjoy reading a previous post on Harvesting Potatoes.


Headache Causes

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, September 15, 1913:  For one thing I’ve had a splitting headache this afternoon and it still continues.

rainy day

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Ouch. . . headaches are no fun!  I wonder what caused Grandma’s headache.

Here is what a hundred-year-old book said about headaches causes:

Headache is a symptom rather than a disease, but there is no symptom which requires more careful investigation of its cause than that of headache. It occurs at all ages, but is most common from ten to twenty-five years and from thirty-five to forty-five years. Women suffer from headache more than men, in the proportion of about three to one. Headaches are most common in the spring and fall of the year and in the temperate climates.

Causes of headache—These may be classified into those in which the blood is at fault; reflex causes; various nervous disorders; and organic diseases.

The blood may be impoverished, as in the case of anemia, where there is a deficiency in hemoglobin; but by far the most frequent cause of headache is where the blood is disordered, as in gout, rheumatism, kidney diseases, diabetes, and the infectious fevers and malaria.

Among the more common reflex causes are eye-strain, especially errors of refraction; disorders of digestion, particularly constipation; and pelvic disorders, as in inflammation of the pelvic viscera.

Functional diseases of the nervous system causing headache are overwork, neurasthenia, hysteria, epilepsy, and neuritis.

Among the most common of the organic diseases is arteriosclerosis; other diseases are meningitis and brain tumors.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna M. Galbraith

You also enjoy reading a previous post on Old-Time Headache Remedies.