Hundred-Year-Old Ways to Prevent and Treat Sunstroke

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

Tuesday, June 23, 1914:   I Boiled, Baked, and Stewed in the hot sun. Please forgive all the capitals, but I want it to stand out from this page in blaring headlines. It wasn’t a very comfortable feeling to be cooked in so many different ways.


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


Are you still picking strawberries for wages? Take care— You’re young and healthy, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to get a sunstroke.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


The object is to reduce the temperature of the body. Generally, the causes of sunstroke are fatigue and sun heat, therefore, keep the head cool as possible and work in moderation while in the hot sun, and if any unusual dizziness is felt, cold water should be applied to the neck and head.

If the person falls unconscious he should at once be taken to a cool, airy place, and the bystanders should keep away so that the patient can get all the pure air possible. Sunstroke may be known by the respiration and pulse becoming slow and the face pale; give stimulants gradually, but do not use cold water too freely. Place the person on his back, the head being raised about two inches and a little ammonia water [smelling salts] given.

The Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908) by Luther Minter

27 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Ways to Prevent and Treat Sunstroke

    1. I can remember that my father occasionally worried about sunstroke or heat stroke on very hot summer days when we were working very hard making hay.

  1. Or end up with skin cancer. When she was in her seventies, my grandmother had some problems, which the doctor said was caused by working out in the sun all those years….

    1. Hopefully your grandmother’s skin cancer wasn’t too serious. All the sun exposure and skin damage can really add up over the years.

  2. Oh dear–I wonder if she knew my trick: wet a bandana and freeze it, then wrap around your neck while working outdoors. I imagine no sunglasses or sun screen back then. And tans were not fashionable until the 1930s. Be careful, Helena!

    1. According to old weather station data for the town of Williamsport (which is about 20 miles from McEwensville), the high was 89 degrees on June 23, 1914. And, the high was 91 degrees on the 24th, 25th, and 26. It then cooled down to a high of 86 degrees on the 27th.

      For details about how to find old weather station data for cities across the US see this previous post.

  3. Interesting diary entry. It’s almost as if she knew others would be reading it when she said “Please forgive the all capitals ..”
    Has she spoken to readers in the past and I’ve just missed it?

    1. Early in the diary she seemed to worry that someone else might be reading the diary–her mother??, her sister??–but for the last several years I haven’t really had a sense that she thought anyone else was looking at it. But maybe she still thought that her mother was looking at it–and wanted to make it to make it clear that she was unhappy with her working conditions.

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