Hundred-Year-Old Bird Drawings

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

Monday, February 23, 1914:  Nothing hardly worthwhile.


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


For crying out loud, how can nothing be happening when you got invited to a party yesterday?  The party’s on Friday—aren’t you thinking about what you’ll wear? . . . what you say? . . .

At least you could have told us about everyday events. . . even if it’s boring stuff because I’d find it interesting.

For example, what birds did you see and hear today? I heard a woodpecker pecking (hopefully not on my house) today. Are there woodpeckers on your farm?

And, this time of year the trees in my yard are often filled with noisy crows. Are there crows cawing in your yard?


Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I share some pictures from a book of birds published in 1914.


Crow: These birds, against which the hand of every farmer is uplifted, are very shy and cunning, as is well-known, they nearly always post a sentinel in some tree top to keep watch while the rest of the flock is feeding in the field below. In the fall and winter, large numbers of them flock, and at night all roost in one piece of woods.


Screech Owl: This well-known species, which is often called “Little Horned Owl” because of its ear tuffs. They nest anywhere in hollow trees, being found very frequently in decayed stubs of apple trees. They also often nest in barns or other old buildings which are not frequented too freely. Their food consists chiefly of mice and meadow moles, and occasionally small birds.


Chickadee: The Chickadee is too well known to need any description; suffice it to say that they are the favorites with everyone among all the North American birds.

The Bird Book (1914) by Chester A. Reed

25 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Bird Drawings

  1. Well although we can hardly stand that she is not telling is more I suppose she had no idea that all these years later hundreds would be waiting on her every word. 🙂

    1. The diary seems like something that was meaningful and personal to her-but I’m sure that she’d be absolutely amazed that people are reading it a hundred years later.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how little we can have to write down when we are young!!! I’ll bet though that she would have a lot to say were we there!!! And she probably did. I wonder if the diary wasn’t exactly her idea. I found two handmade quilt tops in a steamer trunk. Upon investigating, I was told that two sisters made them back in the 30’s because their mother thought young girls needed something to do in the summer. They weren’t finished and weren’t necessarily valued by them but…they are valued by me as is the diary of your grandmother valued by you.

    1. I’m glad you liked it. Somehow the phrase “for crying out loud” reminds me of my grandmother and some of my great aunts. I think that is was used more frequently in the past than what it is now.

  3. Little did she know that what might have seemed uninteresting to her, would have been very “worthwhile” to us. But how could she have known that 100 years later people would be reading her diary and talking about it! 🙂

    1. I’ve very grateful that I have the diary. Working with this diary has made me very aware of the fact that it really difficult for someone to guess which of their “artifacts” will survive across they years.

    1. I saw a chickadee in a bush outside my kitchen window this morning. And, as a result of writing this post, I took a moment to appreciate what a lovely bird it is. (In the past, I’ve tended to think that chickadees were rather boring birds.)

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