Time Required to Complete Housework Tasks a Hundred Years Ago

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

Tuesday, November 5, 1912:  I must excuse myself for this day.

Data Source: “Time Required to Complete Certain Tasks” in the October, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal. (Click on graph to enlarge.)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll tell you how long it took to complete several household tasks in 1912.

Factory managers in the 1910s believed that workers should be timed doing various tasks to determine how long it took to complete each one.

There also was a movement toward the scientific management of households. Homemakers were encouraged to time how long it took to complete common tasks so that they could better plan their daily schedule.

100-Year-Old Halloween Costumes

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

Thursday, October 31, 1912:  And this is Halloween. What a pity it is that I’m not out having a good time, and I’ve never had that pleasure either.

Witch (Source: Ladies Home Journal, July, 1912)

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

Poor Grandma—It’s too bad that she missed all the fun. I’d be bummed, too.

Here’s what was happening in nearby Milton on Halloween, 1912:

HALLOWEEN PARTIES AND MASQUERADERS MADE NIGHT GAY

Young Folks and Old Enjoyed Selves in Various Ways

Streets Were Filled with Merrymakers

Milton was the scene of high carnival last night. Chattering and laughing, it was a merry throng that wandered up and down the length of Broadway and Front last night for hours attired in costumes that represented every character and nation under the sun, and in some costumes that didn’t represent anything in particular. . .

Milton Evening Standard (November 1, 1912)

Recent photo of Broadway and Front Streets, Milton The street is generally very quiet now. Imagine what it was like a hundred years ago with masqueraders parading through the downtown.

What Should Grandma Write?

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

Monday, October 21, 1912:  Some good kind of mortal ought to tell me what to write, for I am beginning to get at the end of my string, as you surely can see by the tone of this entry.

I wish that Grandma had described what downtown McEwensville was like back then. I think that some of these homes were stores back then.

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

It’s interesting how Grandma seemed annoyed with herself when she couldn’t think of anything to write. Since she was keeping the diary for herself, it seems like she might have just some skipped days. But, Grandma seemed very disciplined about writing something every day. She must have been very firm with herself.

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)

Achievement Tests a Hundred Years Ago

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

Thursday, October 10, 1912:  The whole school was examined today in order to find out our deficiencies. I know what mine is.

Recent photo of building that once housed the McEwensville School.

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

We hear so much today about state tests being used for accountability purposes. I’ve always thought that the use of tests to see how students were doing was a relatively new phenomenon—but apparently the use of standardized large-scale assessments has been around for at least a hundred years. What as the test that Grandma took like? . . . and what were her “deficiencies”?

This is the second time in the diary that Grandma has suggested that schools were somehow evaluated for quality. The previous year, on September 29, 1911, she wrote:

Teacher has rearranged our classes, and now we’ll have the program every now and then to see where our class comes.

Tore Good White Dress

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

Sunday, October 6, 1912:  Was rather woe-begone this afternoon. Guess the start of it all was that I tore my good white dress. Just sat down in a chair and there was a nail or some other rough surface.

I picture Grandma’s dress being solid white–rather than a print–and really pretty, but this is the best illustration that I could find. (Source: Ladies Home Journal, July, 1912)

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

What a downer! Did Grandma tear the dress at Sunday School or at home? I hope it was at home—it would be especially traumatic to tear a dress in front of others.

I’m surprised that Grandma was wearing a white dress. It seems like it would have been difficult to keep clean. And, white seems more like a summer color than a fall one.

Biplane Whirling Aloft at the 1912 Milton Fair

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

Thursday, October 3, 1912:  I really did go after all my doubtings, but now I feel just as tired as there is any use in being. Saw a flying machine whirling aloft in the air for at least 10 minutes. I think twas quite a sight to see.

Biplane at 1912 Milton Fair. (Source: Chronicles and Legends of Milton by George Venios. Used with permission.)

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

Grandma went to the fair in the nearby town of Milton. She wrote the previous day that she planned to go.

Whew—I can hardly believe it, but I found a picture of the flying machine Grandma saw.

George Venios, in his book titled Chronicles and Legends of Milton, writes about the Milton Fair. And, he includes a picture of the plane that was at the 1912 fair.

The photo caption in the book says:

The photo, taken in 1912, is a pusher type biplane and is believed to be one of the first aircraft to land here while on a hair-raising “barnstorming” tour.

I contacted George and he generously gave me permission to include the photo in this post, so that you could see it. Thank you!

When I found the photo, I got my magnifying glass out to see if I could find Grandma in the crowd; though, of course, I couldn’t.

George also sent me a picture of a mural in Milton that reflects the history of transportation in the town. The mural includes an image of the 1912 biplane.

Transportation mural in Milton (Source: George Venios. Used with permission.)

Chronicles and Legends of Milton is an awesome resource that tells the story of Milton, and is full of wonderful photos. Milton has a really interesting history—and I’d encourage anyone interested in its story to get a copy of the book.

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