Old Recipe for Mulled Fig Juice (Ginger Cordial)

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

Tuesday, December 5, 1911:  We are going to have an entertainment on the fifteenth, the Friday before vacation, and I’m to take part in a dialogue of no great length. Such bewildering problems as we are having in Algebra is enough to turn your head.

Mulled Fig Juice (Ginger Cordial)

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

Apparently the students were going to put to put on a small Christmas play on the 15th –or at least say the parts of various characters. [An aside—When I think of a dialogue I think of the Abbott and Costello dialogue about the baseball players—Who’s on first, What’s on second, I don’t know’s on third—though it’s from a later time period.]

Maybe Grandma took a break from the bewildering algebra problems to make a calming hot drink.

I found an awesome recipe for Mulled Fig Juice (Ginger Cordial) while browsing through the December 1911 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.

Mulled Fig Juice reminded me a little of Mulled Cider, but the taste is more nuanced and complex. I’d highly recommend it for holiday parties—or for a great hot drink after sledding or cross-country skiing.

Mulled Fig Juice (Ginger Cordial)

1/2 pound figs (I used mission figs.)

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Dash of ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves


3 pints ginger ale (about 1 1/2 liters)

1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in a small amount of water

Peel from an orange (for garnish)

Stew slowly together the figs, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and sufficient water to cover the other ingredients. When the figs are tender remove from heat and pour through a strainer.  (The stewed figs taste good, and can be saved and eaten separately.)

Return the juice to the saucepan. Add the ginger ale; and return to the heat; when hot stir in the corn starch dissolved in water. Continue stirring until it comes to a boil; reduce heat. Serve in small cups; garnish with orange peel.  [I used a vegetable peeler to remove some zest from an orange  in long wide strips, I removed any pith, and then julienned the zest into long narrow strips.]

Adapted from “Hot Drinks for the Holiday Season”, Good Housekeeping, December 1911

Hundred-Year-Old Alarm Clock Ad

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

Monday, December 4, 1911: Pa took us to school this morning. Such a time as I had waiting on him, but we got there in plenty of time. You see our old clock was the cause of it all, being over half an hr. fast.   

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

Maybe the family needed to get a Big Ben clock for Christmas. The December 15, 1911 issue of Kimball’s’ Dairy Farmer magazine had an alarm clock advertisement.

The ad text says:

Big Ben

Merry Christmas! Here is Big Ben.

May he wish you many of them!

Don’t waste a minute of this merry day. Have the presents ready Christmas eve. Hang each stocking up. Arrange the presents that won’t go inside in little piles around each stocking.

Then when all have gone to sleep, sneak into each bedroom a joy-faced Big Ben.

He’ll ring the merriest Christmas bell you have ever heard and get the family down to see the presents bright and early so the whole day will be yours to fully enjoy.

Big Ben is a gift worth the giving, for he is a clock that lasts and serves you daily year after year.

He is not merely an alarm clock—he’s an efficient timepiece—to get you up or to tell you the time all day—a clock for bedroom, parlor, library or hall.

Big Ben stands seven inches tall. He’s massive, well poised, triple plated. His face is frank, open, easy to read—his keys large, strong, easy to wind.

He calls you every day at any time you say, steadily for ten minutes, or at repeated intervals for fifteen.

He is sold by jewelers only—the price is $2.50 anywhere.

If you cannot find him at your jeweler’s, a money order sent to his designers, Westclox, La Salle, Illinois, will bring him to you express charges paid.

Had to Walk Home in the Snow

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

Sunday, December 3, 1911: Went to Sunday School this afternoon. Coming home it was snowing and I was rather dubious as to whether my new hat would take it all right or not, but it did.

Source: National Climatic Data Center

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

It sounds like a blustery winter day. I found the weather data for December, 1911 for Williamsport, Pennsylvania on the National Climatic Data Center website.

Williamsport is about 20 miles northwest of McEwensville. According to the observation sheet, on December 3, 1911 the high was 46 degrees and the low was 31. It also indicated that there was a trace of snow  and that the wind was coming from the southwest.

The sheet said that there was 3 inches of snow on the ground—which seems somewhat surprising because the previous day’s entry did not indicate any snow on the ground.

Williamsport is across a mountain from McEwensville—so maybe the weather wasn’t as bad there as it was where Grandma was walking. But I wouldn’t expect there to be major differences in the weather between the two towns (and in general I think that it would be a little warmer in McEwenville).

I suppose that it really was just a raw day with some snow flurries—but that the mile or so walk between the church in McEwensville and the Muffly farm was pretty miserable (especially if you were worried that your new hat might get ruined).

One Hundred Year Old December School Bulletin Board Ideas

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

Wednesday, November 29, 1911: Had sort of a little entertainment this afternoon. We got out of school early. Jake was going away so that was the whole reason. I can not give my myself up to a vacation of two days.


Bulletin Board Directions

Going Home. This takes three rolls of white crepe paper, one roll each of yellow, lavender and green, with ten sheets of gray matboard for the trees and fence, which are touched up with black tinting fluid. Orange tissue paper will furnish the hospitable glow seen through the windows. Pink tissue paper over yellow crepe paper is used to produce the flesh tint for the lad’s face. (Ladies Home Journal, December, 1911)

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

In 1911, Thanksgiving was on November 30, and apparently the high school students were let out of school early on the day before the holiday.

I wonder if primary students on the first floor of the school building were also left out early.  Grandma’s friend Rachel Oakes was the primary teacher.  Might Rachel have stayed after school to prepare for the following week? Maybe she took down a Thanksgiving-themed bulletin board picture and put a winter one up.

The December, 1911 issue of Ladies Home Journal had an article titled “Christmas Scenes to be Made of Paper: A Suggestion for the Schoolroom Bulletin Board” that had some great examples.

Bulletin Board Directions

The Sleighride. This requires two rolls of gray crepe paper, three of white, and a roll each of red and green, together with four sheets of gray matboard, two bolts of narrow red ribbon for the sun’s rays, black tinting fluid and a little white cotton. The horse is cut from the matboard and tinted with color obtained by wetting a sheet of brown tissue paper.

Bulletin Board Directions

Christmas Carolers. Black and gray matboard, crepe paper, yellow, and orange tissue.

The Sisters Had a Fight

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

Monday, November 26, 1911:Had exams today. Wonder what some of my marks are. Rufus and I had a squabble tonight over such a trifle. She pummeled me so hard on the head that I had a headache for a while. I guess school marms can lay it on sometimes.

Ruth Muffly

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

Whew . . . it sounds the two sisters had a terrible fight. In the diary Grandma sometimes–—especially when she was annoyed or angry– referred to her sister Ruth as Rufus.

In November 1911, Grandma was 16 years old and Ruth as 19. Ruth was a teacher (i.e., school marm) at one of the one-room schools near McEwensville. What could have possibly angered them so much?

“I don’t know what I know”

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

Wednesday, November 22, 1911: Am trying to recover what I do not know that I missed during the month. I am pretty far behind and it is going to take some studying.

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

I love the line Grandma used in this entry—“Am trying to recover what I do not know that I missed during the month.”

It reminds me of the mastery matrix.

The worst quadrant to be in is the one where you don’t know what you don’t know—but at least you are comfortable there in your ignorance.

I think that Grandma was in the most frustrating quadrant. She knew that she didn’t know something—but she couldn’t quite get a handle on what it was.

100 Year Old Ad for Quaker Oatmeal

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

Tuesday, November 21, 1911: Nothing doing.

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share an old advertisement for Quaker Oatmeal.

It has lots of mind-boggling “statistics.” I wonder if there were any truth in advertising requirements regarding what types of research was needed to back up the numbers a hundred years ago.

How Much of This Difference is Due to Oatmeal?

We have canvassed hundreds of homes which breed children like these. And we find in the tenements—where the average child is nervous, underfed and deficient—not one home in twelve serves oats.

Among the highly intelligent—where mothers know food values—seven-eighths are oatmeal homes.

In one university, 48 out of 50 of the leading professors regularly serve oatmeal. Among 12, 000 physicians to whom we wrote, fourth-fifths serve their children oatmeal.

The average daily serving in the finest hotels is one pound to each 28 guests.

Boston consumes 22 times as much oatmeal per capita as do two certain states where the average education is lowest.

It is everywhere apparent that the use of oatmeal is directly in proportion to the percentage of the well-informed.

A canvass of 61 poorhouses shows that not one in 13 of the inmates came from oatmeal homes. Only two per cent of the prisons in four great penitentiaries had oatmeal in their youth. In the lowliest vocations very few are found to be oatmeal bred.

But four-fifths of all college students came from oatmeal homes. So did the great majority of the leaders interviewed in every walk of Life.

Scientific Opinion

This seems to confirm scientific opinion that a child’s fitness depends largely on food. Oats are richer than all other cereals in proteids, the body builders—in organic phosphorous, the brain –builder—in lecithin, the builder of nerves. They form the best-balanced food that Nature supplies, especially for the years of growth.

Quaker Oats

Just the Richest Oats

Quaker Oats is made of just the richest, plumpest oats, selected by 62 siftings. We get only ten pounds to a bushel. Millions know that these selected oats, prepared by our process, form the most delicious oat food in existences. And the cost is only one-half cent per dish.

Regular size package 10 cents.

Family size package, for smaller cities and country trade, 25 cents.

The prices noted do not apply in the extreme West or South.

Look for the Quaker trade-mark on every package.

The Quaker Oats Company


National Foods Magazine (December 1910)


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