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

21 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Hand and Nail Care Advice

  1. I’ve never thought of using cold cream on my hands at night. Hmmmm. And I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the word “lodgement”….
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cold cream sounds messy–and it’s hard to picture how talcum powder would somehow help keep bed-clothes clean. Talcum powder might make the cold cream less gooey, but it seems like it would leave a residue on clothes.

  2. My grandmother told me that’s why women wore gloves so often back in the day…because their hands were in such rough shape. Speaking of hands, I need a manicure now that I think about it! We are so lucky today.

    1. Interesting. . .I never thought about it, but it makes sense that many women had rough hands back then. They did so much hard physical labor as they took care of their homes and farms back then.

  3. Bag balm! Since I work outdoors, and often need to work without gloves for that “fineness of touch” that ladies used to need for embroidery and such, I spent years with chapped and even cracked hands. Then, the guys at the shipyard told me that cornhusker’s lotion was passé. Bag balm — yes, linament for dairy cows — is the “in” thing. It works, too! I’ver found some goat milk soap and lotion that does very well, but if it seems to be failing in a hard winter, it’s bag balm for me!

  4. Your grandmother’s laxness in making entries in her diary keeps you busy improvising doesn’t it? If I may intrude into the female realm for a moment, during my growing up years a standard item in the kitchen was a tin or Corona wool fat. Lanolin in the original and pure form. Today, it is Corona ointment but appears to be the original formula and there is always a tin of it in our kitchen. In my opinion, it is less greasy and messy than Bag Balm and a very small amount of it seems to go deeper into the skin.

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