The Can Opener

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

Wednesday, November 4, 1914: <<no entry>>can opener

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

Another quiet day. . .

Since Grandma didn’t provide any clues about the direction this post should head, I thought you might enjoy this short essay about can openers in the December, 1914 issue of Farm Journal. Technology was changing the way meals were prepared—and it wasn’t like back in the “good old days.”

The Can Opener

This handy tool, the household pet, we ply with skill and speed; and in the modern kitchenette it’s really all we need. The shining tool that opens cans makes household work a joke; it supersedes the pots and pans, the stoves that used to smoke.

In olden times the toiling wives were always on their feet; they wore away their weary lives preparing things to eat. They fried the meat, they baked the beans, they cooked the spuds. They had no time for magazines, for euchre, or bridge whist.

How fortunate the modern wife, with many a leisure hour! For she can fill with glee her life, and languish in her bower.

And when at evening comes her man, impatient for the eats, she say, “I’ll open up a can of beans or deviled beets.” It takes three minutes by the clock to get his meal in shape; he’s so well trained he doesn’t balk, or try to make escape.

It may be, as hand over hand, he throws the victuals in, he signs for grub that isn’t canned, that doesn’t taste of tin. It may be that his vagrant mind recalls the old-time steak, the dishes of the good old kind his mother used to make. But idle are the man’s regrets, and vain his hopes and plans; this is the age of kitchenettes , and things put up in cans.

Walt Mason

Hundred-Year-Old Hand and Nail Care Advice

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

Tuesday, November 3, 1914: <<no entry>>

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

I found a fun description of how to care for hands and mails in a hundred-year-old book. Since Grandma didn’t write anything, I thought you might enjoy reading some quotes from the book.

Care and Treatment of the Hands

Of all the members of the body, next to the face, the hands have the most expression, and serve as an index of character and refinement.

Not only should the most scrupulous attention be given to having clean hands and nails, but every precaution should be taken to keep the skin soft and the nails carefully manicured. This is quite possible for the housewife, simply by wearing rubber gloves while she does her work. It preserves the fine sense of touch in the fingers, which aids in sewing and embroidery at the same time that it adds much to the beauty of the hands.

Chapped Hands: An aid in the prevention of the skin of the hands from becoming rough and chapped, and the best means of curing them if this has occurred, is by the use of a good cold cream at night, just before retiring.

The cold cream should be rubbed into the skin, especially about the finger-nails, and then talcum powder be dusted over. This forms a thick covering for the hands, the talcum powder prevents the cream from being rubbed off on the bed-clothes, and, on getting up in the morning, the skin will be found to be soft. Only in case the hands are very badly chapped should old kid gloves be worn at night.

Finger Nails: There is a natural tendency for the dirt to accumulate on the under surface of the nail, between it and the finger. This is not only unsightly, but it is often the cause of actual danger, as this forms a lodgment for the germs of disease. We must be impressed with the necessity of more careful oversight being given to the hands that prepare food.

For the same reason, it is self-evident that the hands should always be washed immediately before going to the table, and cleaning the nails is always a finishing touch in the washing of the hands.

For the purpose of cleansing the nails, an orange stick or nail-file should be used, After the use of the nail-file, the nail-brush should be used.

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

Days Are Growing Murky

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

Sunday, November 1, 1914:

Chill winders are howling at us now,

And days are growing murky.

The weeks sweep on onto the doom,

Of the saddened sorrowful turkey.


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


Is something wrong? The poem this month seems gloomier than most. You’ve never looked forward to the coming of winter, but other years you also could see that there were also a few upsides to November.

Here are the November poems from previous years:


November now is here again

Upon her scenes we’ll linger

Thanksgiving comes e’er she has gone

We count the days upon our fingers.


November brings us many things

And among them is Thanksgiving

The first of the snow

The winds that blow

And all that makes life worthwhile.


November, hastening before the fool steps of winter,

Brings back the stark realities of life.

It is not all the cup of brimming pleasure.

That crowns the triumph of a common strife.

Monthly Poems

Grandma began every month with a poem. For more details see this post:

Monthly Poem in Diary

Halloween Night

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

Saturday, October 31, 1914:  This is All Saints’ Eve and the moon is shining brightly. Would have liked to have dressed up and gone out Halloweening.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

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


Boo! What a spookactular night! You should have gone to town and had a little fun.

Replenished Pocketbook, But Didn’t Attend Halloween Masquerade Dance

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

Friday, October 30, 1914: Tis the last of the month e’er I take it into my head to jot down a few more items. In the meantime I have replenished my pocketbook. It was entirely empty. Taking that trip did him up entirely. My last payday was last night. I just finished rolling that one bill (not a little one) in with the rest awhile ago.

Mollie’s little calf weighed 160 pounds so that helped considerably towards filling up the yawning gap in my pocketbook. So much for financial circumstances and my rough hands.

Ruthie Dearest is going to a Halloween masquerade dance tonight, but I’m not cause I never learned to dance. I had thought of going and making a brave attempt at it, but my courage failed me. Was afraid I’d make some awful blunders.

DSC06562.cropMaybe Grandma’s sister Ruth wore a witch costume to the masquerade dance. (Source: Ladies Home Journal, July, 1914)

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


Welcome back! We missed you. It sounds like you worked hard in October—but a least your pocketbook is full. The trip to Niagara Falls in August sure did a number on it; but, in my opinion, the trip was worth every penny.

P.S. You should have gone to the Halloween masquerade dance. I bet a cute guy would have been willing to teach you how to dance.

Grandma probably was paid for helping with the corn harvest. On October 11, 1913 Grandma wrote that she received $12 as part of her pay for husking corn.

And, on October 18, 1913, she wrote:

At last my job is finished. I call it about 600 bushels more or less. This will add some to my spending money.

Grandma’s cow, Mollie, had a male calf on September 16, 1914. When Grandma sold a calf in 1912 she wrote:

Sold Mollie’s calf today. It wasn’t a very big one and I rather feared my fortune would be pretty small, but after all it weighed one hundred and forty-four lbs. Received a neat sum of $11.56.

December 27, 1912

Based on these previously diary entries, I’m guessing that Grandma made at least $24.00 from harvesting corn, and at least $12.00 from the sale of the calf for a total of $36.00.

According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1914 would be worth $23.81 today. So if Grandma received $36 in October that would be worth about $883 today. It sounds like her pocketbook was probably nice and fat.

The Role of Librarians

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

Tuesday, October 27, 1914:  << no entry>>


Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

I found this interesting opinion piece about the role of librarians in the November, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal. Since Grandma again didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I thought you might enjoy it.

Do We Have the Best Man or Woman?

Fifty of every one hundred persons who go to public libraries ask, according to librarians: “What is a good book for me to read?” In other words the choice of reading is, in this large percentage, left to the discretionary direction of the man or woman behind the public,-library desk. Very few persons, it is said, ask for a definite book.

Accepting this condition as a fact, the responsibility of the librarian is great, but the responsibility of the community in selecting the librarian is even greater.

In other words, communities should think a little more carefully of the fitness of those whom they place in charge of the public libraries, and of those who are already there. Are they the best that can be secured to direct the reading of the community?

I also found it interesting that both men and women were librarians a hundred years ago. It was one of few jobs that were not gender specific back then.

Sanitation and the Prevention of Epidemics

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

Sunday, October 24, 1914: << no entry>>

Public Health Expert, Dr. Manton Carrick (Source: Ladies Home Journal, September, 1914)

Public Health Expert, Dr. Manton Carrick (Source: Ladies Home Journal, September, 1914)

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

Sometimes I’m amazed how a hundred-year-old  article can seem uncannily similar to current news stories. Since Grandma didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I’m going to go off on a tangent.

Texas had a meningitis epidemic in 1912—and the state was trying to figure out how to prevent future epidemics. Here’s some quotes from an article in the September, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

The Man Who is Cleaning Up Texas

Down in Dallas, Texas lives Doctor Manton M. Carrick, a man who studies medicine to learn to live. All about him in that great open country of the Southwest people were dying of tuberculosis, meningitis, and other equally preventable diseases.

Two years ago Texas was panic-stricken at the spread of a meningitis epidemic that for some time baffled the most frantic efforts of all the medical authorities. Dying out as it had begun, without any apparent cause or reason, the epidemic left the people aghast at the destruction wrought and anxious for a remedy for the future. “How shall we prevent the recurrence of this dread disease?” was the universal question.

Into this dubious crisis there came the suggestion that a cleaner Texas would mean a healthier Texas.

To the supervision of this war for sanitation was appointed Dr. Carrick. Dr. Carrick’s method of procedure was always simple and straightforward.

Arriving at a town, and depositing his baggage at the hotel, he wasted no time in preliminaries, but went straight out to his work. Parks, streets and alleys; water-supply and drainage systems; garbage disposal; general appearance of homes, condition of vacant lots; ventilation, sanitation and evidences of care taken of public buildings; toilet and lighting facilities in schools, prevalence of flies, mosquitoes and vermin; methods of storekeepers and butchers—none of these escaped his searching eye.

With his pad and pencil he tabulated the relative condition of every town that he visited, and when he could escape the importunities of the townspeople for a lecture on public health, was off to the next city. In every town he judged the points of the town—to use his own words—“as the points of a hog, a steer or a chicken would be judged.”

At first the visits of the Doctor were looked upon with some distrust and dismay by the town authorities. Bat as news of the campaign spread and the citizens of the towns learned that Doctor Carrick’s errand was on of helpfulness, the dormant spirit of civic pride became, thoroughly aroused and the towns set to work with a will.

Dr. Carrick and Texas have indeed “made good health contagious.”


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