Drink Pure, Safe Water: Hundred-Year-Old Advice

I don’t generally worry about the safety of the water I drink. That wasn’t always true a hundred years ago. Here’s  an abridged version of what a home economics textbook from the early 1900’s  had to say:

Pure water is the most important of our foods. Water may contain impurities that come from decaying vegetable or animal matter, or it may carry the germs of disease, or minute insects or their eggs. Where shallow wells are used, water may wash filth into them. In deep wells, properly protected from insects and animals by high curbs, the water is usually pure because the many layers of soil, gravel, and rock through which it has filtered have taken out the impurities.

Even apparently pure water may contain germs only visible under the microscope. If there is any questions as to the purity of the water, send a sample to the state health laboratory or to a chemist for analysis.

If water is muddy let it settle, then pour off the clear water and boil it hard for five minutes. Put it into clean glass jars or bottles, cover it, and keep it cool. Boiled water is flat because the air is driven off, and may be aerated by being poured from a pitcher held at some height into a drinking receptacle. Distilled water, if bottled under clean conditions, is very useful in times of typhoid or epidemics of like nature. 

The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915) by Emma E. Pirie

22 thoughts on “Drink Pure, Safe Water: Hundred-Year-Old Advice

  1. If water is muddy let it settle, then pour off the clear water and boil it hard for five minutes.

    While I appreciate this advice I hope I never have to use it. What a time it was back in the early 1900s. 😳

  2. Of course, even water safety has its downsides for some. I have to catch and store rainwater for my African violets and a few other plants. When they used chlorine in our water supply, you could let it sit in an open container and the chlorine would dissipate. Now, chloramines (ammonia derivatives) are being added, and they’ll turn various plants yellow and sickly, because they don’t dissipate.

    1. Whew, I hadn’t been aware of this. I don’t think that they use chloramines yet where I live. At least, I use city water to water my plants (including a violet) and they all seem okay.

    1. You are absolutely right. It’s very frustrating that even with modern technology that sometimes people do not have access to safe water.

  3. The thought of having to boil all drinking water all the time, makes me aware again of how blessed I am where I just go to the tap. Good to be reminded of that.🙂

    1. Like you, I was really surprised when the hundred-year-old article suggested that people could get water tested at a state healthy laboratory. More technology existed a hundred years ago than what we sometimes realize. I wonder how accurate the tests were back then.

  4. I bet it was important to take these precautions when water sometimes came from wells. And considering some of the issues some areas have today, maybe it’s still a good thing to do!

    1. Your comment makes me wonder about what percentage of the U.S. population had water that came from wells a hundred years ago. I’m guessing that it was very high back then.

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