Using Salt to Clean Hair

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

Monday, October 14, 1912:  There is nothing at all.

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

A hundred-years-ago, Good Housekeeping magazine was chock-full of wonderful tips submitted by readers. Some probably worked—others probably didn’t.

Since Grandma had little to write a hundred years ago today, I’ll share an old tip for cleaning hair with you.

Light hair that has a tendency to become oily is only aggravated by frequent washings. A hairdresser told me that rubbing to the scalp a strong solution of salt and water and then drying the hair in the sun, would not only leave the hair light and fluffy, but would in the end cure the trouble. I have found this excellent, and of great use when I wish to have my hair looking its best in a short time.

R.V. M., California

Source: Good Housekeeping (August, 1912)

Fun Fact from a Hundred Years Ago: Short Skirts Are Healthier

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

Friday, September 27, 1912:  Nothing to write.

1912 dress

“Short” skirt for walking (Ladies Home Journal, July 1912)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share some fun information I found in a hundred-year-old book about how short skirts—that is skirts which were five inches from the ground—were healthier. Who would have guessed?

The present vogue of having the walking skirt five inches from the ground is an excellent one, as it not only considerably diminishes the weight of the skirt, but it interferes much less with the forward swing of the leg in walking.

The chief exertion in walking is caused by the raising of the foot and lifting it to the point at which it goes forward and downward. By any artificial shortening of the step, such as is caused, for instance, by long skirts, it requires much more muscular effort to walk the same distance. Besides which, there is the additional friction of the skirts, which is increased by the slightest wind.

Another most important reason for not wearing long dresses on the street is that they stir up the dust and collect microbes, and thus contribute materially to the dissemination of the germs of disease and subject the wearer and her family to the risk of infection.

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

Cause of Sleepiness

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

Monday, September 9, 1912:  July, I mean Sept. 9. Don’t know what to write for today. So good night and sweet dreams.


Source: Wikipedia

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

Seems odd that Grandma first wrote July—she must have already been half asleep when she wrote this.

Maybe Grandma’s mind was “benumbed” by all of her schoolwork.

According to a hundred-year-old book called Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women:

The sleepy feeling is caused by fatigue due to the circulation in the blood of toxins resulting from tissue waste, which benumb the brain-cells; while the feeling of freshness and bien-etre with which one awakens in the morning is due to the elimination of the fatigue products from the blood.

The medical authorities of today are pretty well agreed that eight hours of sleep is the minimum required for the maintenance of health, and all concede that the brainworker requires more sleep than the manual laborer.

Dieting a Hundred Years Ago

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

Friday, June 21, 1912:  I’ve been thinking over an article I read in a magazine. It is about reducing a speck. I think I’ll try it at least, and be less of a pumpkin than what I am now.

1913 graduation photo of Helena Muffly. She doesn’t look heavy in this picture–but maybe she’d lost a “speck.”

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

It sounds like Grandma needed to lose a few pounds—or at least  that she thought that she did.

A hundred years ago people believed that the best way to lose weight was to eat “dainty” foods and to chew food more thoroughly. This was often called Fletcherizing. People believed that they would lose weight if they chewed each bite 30 times, 40 times, or even more, before swallowing.

At dinner last night I tried chewing each bite 35 times. The sandwich and potatoes (oops–they may not be dainty foods)  that I was eating liquefied in my mouth and it lost all flavor long before the 35th bite.

My family finished eating while I still had lots of food left on my plate.

I don’t think that I could Fletcherize my food meal after meal—but I do think that I’d lose weight if I did it consistently.

Previous Posts on Dieting and Obesity

Are You Obese?: 1911 and 2011

One-Hundred-Year Old Advice on How to Avoid Overeating

1911 Weight Loss Tip: Fletcherize Your Food

Old-fashioned Treatments for Acne and Pimples

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

Sunday, June 9, 1912:  Went to Sunday School this morning. Carrie and I were going away this afternoon, but didn’t go as Pa and Ma went away and I had to take care of the house. Rufus brought Tweet home with her.

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

Grandma referred to her sister Ruth as Rufus in this post. Tweet was the nickname of friend, Helen Wesner. And, Carrie Stout was another friend.

It sounds like Grandma was a little annoyed about being stuck at home—but it also sounds like an afternoon filled with the chatter of teen-aged girls. The probably talked about the same things girls talk about today. Might they are fretted over a few pimples?

Here’s information about pimples abridged from a hundred-year-old book.

Pimples or Blackheads and Acne

These are afflictions of youth, and are generally seen together, the last-named being simply a second stage of the first. It occurs most commonly about the face, on the back between the shoulders, or on the chest.

There exist in the sebaceous glands of the skin an infinite number of vulnerable points for infection. This inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands is apt to become chronic and may prove an obstinate affliction.

The impaired function of the general system must be corrected. First and foremost comes attending to the bowels. There must be a free daily evacuation. Fruits and vegetables are both laxatives and the very best.

All articles of diet must be easily digested, while at the same time they are nourishing.

Three pints a day of water should be taken because this amount is need to keep the kidneys properly flushed.

Pure air, associated with the proper kinds of exercise, promotes the functions of the skin, assists in keeping the blood in good condition, increases the vigor and keeps the complexion clear.

Steam the face. The increase secretion from the skin which is thus caused is helpful.

Sweating baths are of the highest value as a means of ridding the skin of its accumulated impurities, and in unloading the obstructed sebaceous follicles of their hardening contents.

When there is a tendency to pimples, massage of the skin of the face will do much to improve the circulation.  The massage is most effective when it follows steaming or washing the face in hot water.

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

Treating Cuts and Wounds a Hundred Years Ago

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

Tuesday, May 14, 1912:  Wish it would get warmer and quit raining. I just got a long scratch on my thumb awhile ago and it’s rather sore

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

How did people treat scratches and cuts a hundred years ago?

The Compendium of Everyday Wants, published in 1907, recommended:

CUTS AND WOUNDS.—There are two kinds of cuts or wounds—incised, which means cut into, or lacerated, which means  torn.

The first kind are usually not so dangerous and are treated in proportion to their size and depth. These generally heal of themselves. Clots formed on a cut should not be washed away. If there is not much bleeding, wipe away any impurities and bandage. A small piece of adhesive plaster is all that is necessary for household cuts.

Lacerated wounds have ragged edges, and the soft parts about them often will be found bruised and torn. These are most frequently caused by railway accidents, machinery, and falling timbers.

Treatment.—Cleanse the wound with warm water, wet a cloth over it and bandage lightly.

Infant Mortality Rates: 1912 and 2012

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

Wednesday, April 10, 1912:  I rubbed my shoulder rather badly when I happened to get a tumble. It’s sore yet, besides I have a big hole in my waist to mend.

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

Since Grandma’s diary entry a hundred years ago today is self-explanatory, I’m going to follow-up on yesterday’s post.

Click on graph to enlarge.

She wrote that her nephew died shortly after he was born. I wondered how much infant mortality has decreased over the years.

I discovered that the infant death rate has decreased a lot over the years–modern medicine has done wonders—but that it’s complicated to come up with accurate numbers.

First, a couple definitions—

Neonatal mortality rate—The number of babies per thousand births who die within the first 28 days after birth. (The definition was a little looser a hundred years ago.)

Infant mortality rate—The number of babies per thousand births who die within the first year after birth.

Now the complications–

In the early 1900’s most births were at home—and the births and deaths of babies who were stillborn or died shortly after birth were often not recorded.  Only 7 states calculated a neonatal mortality rate back then, but fortunately Pennsylvania—where Grandma lived– was one of those states.

Pennsylvania’s neonatal mortality rate a hundred years ago  was 140 deaths per thousand births which was about average for the states that calculated the rate.  Today the rate is 5 neonatal deaths per thousand births. As it was a hundred years ago—Pennsylvania is still a typical state near the median of all states.

Likewise the infant mortality rate was much higher a hundred years ago than now. Back then 150 infants per 1,000 births died in the first year of life. Now it is about 8 per thousand births.

For those of you who care about the details or want to dig deeper into the data—

Since I couldn’t find 1912 details, I used 1910 data and assumed that the neonatal and infant mortality rates were about the same. Likewise, I couldn’t find 2012 data—so used date from the most recent year available (2007).

The rates from a hundred years ago are from a 1915 journal article published by the American Statistical Association called The Present Position of Infant Mortality: Its Recent Decline in the United States.

(It’s interesting that the title suggests that even in early 1900’s the infant mortality rate was declining. I wonder what it had been in the 1800s.)

The recent numbers were calculated by the Center for Disease Control and are on the Child Health USA site.


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