The Christmas Gift that Saves Work

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

Wednesday, December 9, 1914: Went to Milton this afternoon on a shopping trip. Took my camera down and had the film changed. Bought some Xmas presents and had a time getting them home.

hundred-year-old kitchen gadgets
Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1914)

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

Welcome back, Grandma-

Tell us, PLEASE. What did you buy? Maybe some of the latest kitchen and cleaning gadgets for your mother? They might be awkward to carry.

Milton’s at least four miles from your home. You didn’t walk the whole way did you? . . . Did you take the trolley from Milton to Watsontown, and then walk the last mile and a half or so?

old egg beater and potato masher

grapefruit and orange knife

flour sieve


31 thoughts on “The Christmas Gift that Saves Work

  1. I’m always interested in how Helena just pops back into her diary–doesn’t try to catch up with what’s been going on, just gives the most basic details. If only she knew we’d be hanging on every word!

    1. In recent weeks, it seems like she tended to skip writing on days when she was at home doing routine chores and tasks, and only wrote something on days when something out of the ordinary occurred–like going Christmas shopping.

    1. Over the years of the diary I’ve been somewhat surprised how seldom the family seemed to use a horse and buggy. They generally just walked to town. I guess that it probably was a time-consuming task to get a horse harnessed and hitched up to the buggy–and equally time-consuming to get the horse unharnessed when they got home– so it often was just easier to walk.

      1. That’s why so many people now drive to Dallas from Houston, rather than flying. By the time you get to the airport, park, get inside, go through security, discover your flight has been delayed a half hour, and then get boarded, you’re more than halfway there on the road. Not only that, there’s no need to rent a car once you get there. Helena may have discovered the same dynamic.

  2. Helena’s camera was a big part of her life during this year – I wonder how long she stayed with her interest? It would have been a lot more unusual a hobby back then.

    1. I think that she continued to take family pictures–at least through the years when her children were young–though I am not aware that any of those photos still exist. My memory is vague, but I think that my father once told me that she occasionally turned the stair landing on the steps that went to the basement into a dark room and developed photos when he was a child.

  3. I have one of those metal dustpans. It doesn’t go back to 1914, but it does go back to the 1930s in depression green with an art deco decal. I love it.

    1. I’m surprised they don’t still sell them I can remember using a hand-powered egg-beater when I was about 8 or 9, and my mother didn’t quite trust me with the electric ones.

  4. Glad Helena got out and did some shopping. I hope there were decorations in town. You can bet she didn’t lug things home in plastic bags 🙂 The one thing I wish had never evolved.

    1. I think that the commercial area of towns were generally decorated a hundred years ago. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever seen a picture of stores decorated for the holidays in any old magazines. How true about the plastic bags.

    1. I hadn’t thought about the camera. You’re absolutely right, that’s another thing that she would have had to carry. I wonder if the camera had a neck strap.

  5. I use my mother’s flour sifter all the time: likewise the combined grater, the curved grapefruit knife, and the little carpet sweeper that doesn’t even require being plugged in. The grater has one dented corner, but otherwise they’re all fine and functional, after at least 75 years in the case of the sifter. It was a gift at her wedding shower.

    1. Wow, it’s amazing that the flour sifter is still functional after all these years. It probably has been used to make thousands of cakes and batches of cookies over that time span.

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