1916 Canning Equipment

Canning tongs GH 7 1913With its long vise-like fingers this device reaches down into the boiling water and lifts out the jars with safety.

The July, 1916 issue of Good Housekeeping had several photos of canning equipment. Some of the pictures make me think about how much has changed over the past hundred years in how we can; others make me think that it hasn’t changed all that much.

Canner 1 GH 7 1916An excellent improvised canner is a wash boiler with a wire frames which may be purchased separately in sizes to hold gallon, quart, or pint jars. Any other receptacle with a tight-fitting lid may be used or an outfit may be purchased complete.


Pressure CannerThis water-seal canner has a thermometer, a safety valve, and a pet-cock. It confines steam under pressure, and in it vegetables are canned with one cooking.


Girls’ Frolics in Woods and by Stream: Merry Times on Hikes and Around Streams

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913

I tend to picture women’s activities a hundred years ago being somewhat constrained by the times and their clothes. I was pleasantly surprised to see an article in the July, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal titled, “Girls’ Frolics in Wood and by Stream: Merry Times on Hikes and Around Streams”  that contained lots of picnic and campfire ideas. Here’s a few suggestions for a surprise boat trip:

A surprise boat trip was the pleasure awaiting a crowd of girls invited by their hostess to meet at the boat landing at three p.m. Soon they were moving up the river on a “voyage of discovery.”

A half hour’s ride brought them to a beautiful grove, where they landed, and search parties were sent out in different directions. In a short time triumphant cries were heard over the discovery of large watermelons found hidden in secluded spots. (A boat with supplies had been sent up the river ahead of the party.) After justice had been done to the melons the girls went upstream until they landed and were told to raid the country.

The enthusiasm of the moment sent everyone forth to discover this time ears of corn. These were loaded into the boat, and the party again set forth toward other lands, in search of whatever they might find. . . fruit hanging from branches of trees.

The last voyage brought them to land just about sunset. They did not need to search long before many parcels were found, containing ham, bacon, beefsteak, sandwiches and marshmallows, which, with the corn for the corn roast and the fruit, provided a substantial supper. Further search brought them to a pile of wood for a bonfires, just waiting to have the match put to it.

It was not long before the girls were sitting around a roaring fire, cooking their meal, and last of all, toasting marshmallows and telling stories as they watched the fire die out. The trip down the river by moonlight was not the least of the afternoon’s enjoyment.

Picnic LHJ 7 1913

Should We Eat Candy?

Sour Cream Fudge
Sour Cream Fudge

I like candy, but always feel guilty when I eat it, so I was pleased to discover hundred-year-old advice on the role of candy in the diet.

The Use of Candy in the Diet

Candy is an energy-giving food, but, unfortunately perhaps, it is not (at all times) a most desirable energy-giving food. Sugar exists in candy in concentrated form. In this condition, sugar is irritating to the organs of digestion.

Sugar is contained in large quantity in some fruits, especially in dried fruits, figs, dates, prunes, etc. These fruits are a much better source of sweets for children than is candy, because they do not contain as much sugar, and have, in addition, valuable food materials in the form of ash.

Candy should never be used to excess. A little eaten at the end of a meal is not harmful to a normal person. At that time the sugar does not come in direct contact with the walls of the alimentary canal, as it would if eaten between meals.

A Text-Book of Cooking by Carlotta C. Greer (1915)

The quote mentions “ash” in fruits. Ash is an old-time term for the minerals in foods.

Cuts of Beef a Hundred Years Ago

Source: Foods and Household Management : A Text-book of the Household Arts (1913(
Source: Foods and Household Management : A Text-book of the Household Arts (1913)

Here’s some  hundred-year-old advice for selecting meat:

Beef should be a bright red and well streaked with fat.

To understand the difference between the tough and tender cuts we must be familiar with the structure of the muscle. Each muscle consists of bundles of tubes held together by connective tissues. In tough meat, the muscle tubes are thicker and there is more connective tissue present.

Exercise strengthens the muscle, and this accounts for the fact that the unexercised muscles of the young animal give us a softer meat. In the mature animal the muscles most exercised furnish a tough meat, and the less-used muscles the tender.

The tough cuts come from the neck and legs, the tender cuts from the middle of the back, the toughness increasing as the cuts approach the neck and the hind legs. The muscles of the abdomen are also tender, but they give a coarse-grained meat.

The tender cuts from the ribs and loin are the most highly prized, and therefore bring the highest price. These cuts are liked because of their tenderness although the nutritive value of the tough meat is as high or possibly even higher than the tender. We must take pains to use the cooking processes that will make the tough meats palatable.

Excerpts from Foods and Household Management : A Text-book of the Household Arts  by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1913)


Enjoying Friends, Family, and Dessert on the Porch on Hot Summer Days

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

A hundred years ago the summer heat could be oppressive. For example, on July 3, 1911 my grandmother wrote in her diary:

Almost roasted today. Went to Sunday school this afternoon. We had company this evening.

Air conditioning didn’t exit, and my grandmother’s family didn’t have electricity so there were no electric fans.  In those days families congregated on the porch on hot summer days to relax and enjoy the breezes. Friends would often stop by, and a dessert would generally “just appear.”

I’m glad that modern technology makes our summers more bearable now, but I sense that we’ve also lost something. Does anyone sit (or entertain) on their porch anymore? (As I write this, I realize that we now have decks and outdoor rooms. Maybe they serve the same purpose that porches did in days gone by.)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)

Hundred-Year-Old Grocery Store Scorecard

Source: The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915)
Source: The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915)

When I walk into a supermarket, I informally evaluate it. Is the produce fresh? Are the clerks friendly? Does it stock all of the grocery items that I regularly buy? Is the location convenient? Does it have good prices? . . .  And, if it doesn’t meet my standards, I might go to a different store the next time I shop.

Similarly, a hundred years ago people also evaluated their grocery stores; but that’s where the similarities end.  A hundred-year-old home economics textbook had a Grocery Scorecard that students could use to evaluate their grocery stores – but frankly I’ve never considered the proximity to stables, or most of the other old-time criteria.

I tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, but when I’m honest with myself, I must admit what while some things were better a hundred years ago, I think I prefer modern food stores.