An Upcoming Trip

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

Friday, August 7, 1914:  Florence and I walked to Watsontown this afternoon. She couldn’t stay till train time. Ma wanted me to go to Milton to get her teeth. It was nice and breezy riding down on the car.

Hope Mother dear doesn’t see this. Something would happen if she did. I bought a brownie. It is a little over a week e’er we go to Niagara Falls, and well the temptation was too great. I didn’t want Ruthie to lay her eyes on that package. She has such a way of divining things. I left Mr. Package under a cherry tree, where I felt sure it would not been seen. After dark I smuggled it into the house and up to my room.

1909 Kodak Brownie Camera*

1909 Kodak Brownie Camera (Manufactured: 1909-1915)

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

Wow, Grandma, there’s a lot in this diary entry. You’re getting downright wordy.

Niagara Falls! You’re going to Niagara Falls! Last spring you wrote that you went to Williamsport—which is only 20 miles away—for the first time in your life. And, now you’re going all the way to Niagara Falls! Awesome!. . . Tell us more.

Is the “brownie” a camera? Why would your mother have been angry if she’d known you’d purchased it? You have so much fun taking, and developing, photos. In my humble opinion, you definitely need to new camera to record the trip.

See any cherry trees?DSC04327


Ruth (or Ruthie in this diary entry) was Grandma’s sister. I have no idea who Florence was. This is a new name in the diary.

There’s a Guy!

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

Thursday, August 6, 1914:  Ruth and I went to a party up at Seibert’s this evening. A girl friend of Ruth’s came to take in the affair, so we all went together. Had a rather nice time. They played kissing games (have reasons of my own for not saying we), even if I did get some kisses. Arrived home at about half past 1 a.m.

A side street in McEwensville

A side street in McEwensville

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


WHO is it? . . .Is he cute? . . . I’m not sure whether to be happy for you or alarmed.

I’m trying to be ecstatic , but sometimes I just can’t forget that in reality I’m a middle-aged mother who worries about my kids. . . and that you are my grandmother.

Farm Electricity Plants a Hundred Years Ago

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

Wednesday, August 5, 1914: Ditto

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine

Caption: The washing of the greasy, smoked lamp chimneys and the dangerous practice of carrying a lantern into the hay mow are done away with. Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (October, 1914)

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

The previous day Grandma wrote that she, “Forgot what I did today.”

Since nothing was happening in Grandma’s life that merited mention in her diary, and since I’m still fascinated with how technology was changing a hundred years ago, I’m going to go off on another tangent.

In 1914 electricity was widely available in larger towns—though it had not yet come to McEwensville. However, some farmers were beginning to install generators and batteries that could be used to produce electricity.

I don’t really understand how the systems worked, but here’s what an article in the October, 1914 issue of Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine said:

The Farm Electricity Plant

For the operation of the little plant, less skill is required than to run the simplest automobile. It contains a gasoline engine of 1 1/2 horsepower, an electric generator or dynamo, a storage battery of 16 small cells, which can be placed on a shelf 8 inches wide by 5 feet long and a simple switchboard. The generating part weights but 160 pounds.

The cost of lamps and wiring will be about $3 per lamp, more or less, depending on the conditions and grade of materials employed. An estimate of materials and wiring may be obtained from a local electrician or contractor. Or the farmer may buy the materials and do the wiring himself at odd times. This is a simple matter with the aid of a good book on wiring.

Hundred-year-old Pictures of Painted and Stenciled Furniture

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

Tuesday, August 4, 1914:  Forgot what I did today.1914-06-35 e

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share some ideas for stenciling and painting furniture that were in the June, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Did Grandma ever paint or stencil a dresser or chair to beautify her bedroom? When I was young I used to enjoy “antiguing” furniture with paint to give it a new look. Maybe Grandma also enjoyed giving old furniture a new look.

1914-06-35 cThe simple pattern on the slats is stenciled in white.

1914-06-35 GWhen painted  yellow and stenciled with a leaf motif in green, a chiffonier makes an attractive piece of furniture.

1914-06-35 dThe washstand can be treated in a like manner.


Hundred-Year-Old Devil’s Food Cake Recipe

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

Monday, August 3, 1914:   We had chocolate ice cream and devil’s food cake for supper. The ice cream was the remains of yesterday. The cake also.

Devil's Food Cake (Hundred-Year-Old Recipe)

Devil’s Food Cake (Hundred-Year-Old Recipe)

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

I’m going to repost part of a post that I originally posted on February 27, 2012 (1912) because it seems so appropriate for this diary entry:

Comparison of Hundred-year-old and Modern Recipes for Devil’s Food Cake

I recently bought a 1912 cookbook off eBay. My daughter glanced through it and noticed that the devil’s food cake recipe seemed very different from today’s recipes.

So we decided to compare a devil’s food cake made with a modern recipe with one made using a hundred year old recipe.

In the early 1900s angel food cakes and devils food cakes were seen as the polar opposites—one was white and light; the other dark and heavy.

The cake made with the hundred year old recipe was a dense chocolate spice cake. The recipe called for mashed potatoes (mashed potatoes ?!?!), cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts. It reminded us of gingerbread–though ginger was not an ingredient. I’ve never eaten anything exactly like it—but the cake was very good and I’d make it again.

100 Year-Old-Recipe

Calumet Devil’s Food Cake (Chocolate Spice Cake)

2 cups flour

2 level teaspoons Calumet (or any other brand) baking powder

2 level teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup warm mashed potatoes

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13 X 9 X 2 inches. Melt butter and chocolate. Combine with all of the other ingredients except nuts. Beat until well-blended. Stir in nuts.

Pour into pan. Bake approximately 45-50 minutes or until pick comes out clean.

Adapted from the recipe in Calumet Baking Powder Reliable Recipes (1912)

The modern devil’s food cake recipe that my daughter made was from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. The recipe called for red food coloring—but otherwise seemed similar to other modern chocolate cake recipes. The cake was awesome.

Modern Recipe

Devil’s Food Cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 1/2 teaspoons soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate (cool)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon red food color

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or two 9-inch or three 8-inch round layer pans. Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend 1/2 minute on low-speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high-speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).

Bake oblong about 40 minutes, layers 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

(Recipe suggests using chocolate or cream cheese frosting.)

Devil's Food Cake (Modern Recipe)

Devil’s Food Cake (Modern Recipe)

Made Ice Cream

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

Sunday, August 2, 1914:  Went to Sunday school this morning.Besse and Curt came out towards evening. They brought ice and we made ice cream.

I couldn't find an old photo of chocolate ice cream, but here's a picture of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce that was in Lowney's Cookbook (1912).

I couldn’t find an old photo of chocolate ice cream, but here’s a picture of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce that was in Lowney’s Cookbook (1912). See this recipe in a previous post: Hundred-year-old Recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce.

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

mmm. . . Ice cream and cake sound good.

It’s weird, but I have a vague sense of changing technology and transportation across the 3 1/2 years that I’ve been posting the diary entries.

Grandma’s family often made ice cream on Sundays when her married sister Besse and her husband Curt came to visit. However, I think this is the first time they had ice cream during the summer.

In the past they always made it during the winter when ice was readily available. I think that they got the ice out of animal watering troughs or from the creek. For example, on January 22, 1911 Grandma wrote:

Went to Sunday school and church this morning. Made ice cream. That is my sister made it and I assisted. I got the ice. Besse and Curt came out this evening. Just when Ruth and I were having a little spat all to ourselves.

(Grandma sometimes had ice cream during the summer at a festival—and once at a friend’s home— but never at home.)

Besse and Curt lived in nearby Watsontown. My take is that technology and transportation were changing—and that it was easier (or at least less expensive) to get ice during the summer months in 1914 than had been back in 1911.

Life is an Ever-changing Scene

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

Saturday, August 1, 1914:

The summertime is passing on,

To summers that have gone before.

Life is an ever-changing scene,

Which we would fair explore.

Am beginning to count the days until the 17th beams upon my horizon. Ruth and I went to a festival up in town given for the benefit of the church.


Site of the McEwensville Baptist Church years ago. Was the festival held at the church? It’s difficult to picture a church and a festival on this lot.

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


There are hints about so many things in this diary entry—but so little substance. What is going to happen on the 17th? What did you and your sister Ruth do at the festival? Did you see the person mentioned in yesterday’s diary entry?

. . . Went to a surprise party this evening. It was over at Carrie’s. Enjoyed myself as much as I usually do. I think no doubt remains as to the state of my feelings concerning somebody.

July 31, 1914

I assume you wrote the poem, but you’re only 19—and in some ways the monthly poem sounds like it was written by someone much older.

For more information about the monthly poems see this previous post:

Monthly Poem in Diary


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