Play Aprons for Children Making Mud Pies

burlap bag 1

Are children’s play aprons and mud pies a relevant topic for a post on A Hundred Years Ago? This blog is about food and related topics. Today I may be stretching the limits,  but somehow it seems to work on this muddy spring day.

Now that spring is on the horizon, children are playing outside again—and horror of horrors– perhaps making mud pies. They may need a play apron.

Here are hundred-year-old directions for making one:

Play aprons for children may be made most satisfactorily of burlap. An ordinary feed bag will do.

For the material on the shoulders cut a kimono clip apron having a square neck large enough to permit dropping of the apron over the child’s head. Do not seam it, but bind it all around with some bright-colored material and fasten under the seams with large buttons and loops.

This kind of apron requires little washing, as the coarseness of the material prevents the dirt from sticking to it. Such aprons will protect the children when playing in the sand or dirt, or making mud pies.

Ladies Home Journal (April, 1914)

Sometimes when I read old magazine articles, I’m surprised how much times have changed. A hundred-year-ago so many people must have still had such close ties to farms that a mass-circulation magazine like Ladies Home Journal thought that readers could easily get an “ordinary feed bag” made of burlap.

I also can’t quite picture parents putting burlap aprons on their children today. And, do kids still play in the mud? What about the germs?

P.S. I know that the burlap bag in the photo is not anywhere close to being a hundred years old, but it brought back nice memories of Agway feed bags that we had on the farm when I was a child.

Raising Pineapple in Hawaii a Hundred Years Ago

Source: American Cookery (February, 1917)
Source: American Cookery (February, 1917)

Did you ever wonder what it was like in Hawaii a hundred years ago?  Well, according to a 1917 magazine article there were huge pineapple plantations – and there were tourists. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Hawaii’s Immense Fields of Pineapples

The Islands of Hawaii possess many interesting sights, but they have none that elicit more universal admiration from the tourist than the immense pineapple plantations, which, in some localities, spread over the landscape as far as the eye can see.  While pineapples are grown on nearly all of the islands of the group, by far the larger part of the acreage is on the capital island of Oahu.

The larger portion of the Hawaiian pineapple crop is consumed by the canneries and juice-makers on the Islands. The raw or fresh fruit comes chiefly to the mainland ports of the United States, but the juice and the canned product go, also, to Canada, Great Britain, and the continent of Europe.

American Cookery (February, 1917)

Pound Equivalents for Recipe Ingredients

Source: The Housewife's Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)
Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

Today there’s lots of discussion about whether it is better to measure recipe ingredients by volume (teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, etc.) or by weight (typically grams).  A hundred years ago cooks apparently wanted to go back and forth between volume and weight measures. Here’s a table from a 1917 cookbook which shows approximately how many cups (or other measures) of various ingredients were the equivalent of one pound.

When Potatoes Are Expensive, Substitute Rice


In 1917, food prices were rising rapidly in the U.S. because of World War I and the demand for food in Europe. Magazines were filled with articles about how to cope with the high food prices. One article encouraged readers to substitute rice for potatoes. Here’s a few excerpts:

Who Cares for Potatoes?

When there are cheaper foods that can take the place of Irish potatoes, why do we worry over their increasing cost? Besides, mankind has not always had potatoes to eat. The potato became widely popular only about one hundred years ago. It was the middle of the sixteenth century that the Spaniards found the potato in Peru and took it back to the Continent where it was cultivated as a curiosity.

In our own country we know the potato was cultivated in the temperate sections, for we have record of Sir Walter Raleigh’s taking it in 1585 from North Carolina to Ireland, to be cultivated on his estate near Cork. Its cultivation first became general in Ireland (whence its name) and not until a little more than a century ago did it come into widespread popular usage.

Certainly  we are not wholly dependent upon the potato for a well-balanced dietary since our ancestors thrived without it. To be sure, the potato has justly soared its popularity because of its cheapness, its food-value, its palatability, the convenience with which it can be shipped and stored, and the ease with which it can be prepared in a surprisingly large variety of attractive ways.

Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

It is true that men and women are largely creatures of habit, but the time has come when the women, as controllers of at  least seventy-five percent of the incomes of the men of the nation, must look to our habits to see whether they are expensive and whether they need to be altered.

Starch is not the only necessary constituent of a substitute for potatoes. The potato is rich in vitamins. This property, however, is possessed by most fruits and vegetables, and by milk.

Rice would more than fit the bill, as it contains nearly three times as much energy-building material as the potato. If we substitute it for potatoes, me must have at the same meal vegetables or fruits that will supply the needed potassium and bulk. Such vegetables and fruits are: Cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, celery, string beans, parsnips, rhubarb, rutabagas, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, bananas, apricots, lemons, oranges, peaches pineapple, strawberries.

In purchasing rice we have a chance to economize by buying the broken kernels, which sell for several cents a pound cheaper than the whole grain, and have exactly the same food value.

Not that we wish to taboo potatoes–far be it from that–but since their price is relatively high we can save money by using potato-less menus.

Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

Is the Bread Crust Less Digestible than the Inside?


People have strong opinions about whether bread crusts are worth eating. I was surprised to learn that people have been questioning the value of bread crusts for a long time. Here’s a question and response that I found in a hundred-year-old magazine:

Is the Crust of Bread Less Digestible than the Inside?

No! The crust is satisfactorily digested when properly chewed. Part of the protein of the crust is present in a more soluble form and some of the starch has been partly digested to dextrin through the action of the heat in baking. The crust is fully as nutritious as the crumb or the inside of the loaf.

Ladies Home Journal (February, 1917)

Diet for the Expectant Mother

Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1917)

A hundred year ago, just like now, expectant mothers worried about their diet. Here is some hundred-old-advice:

Diet for the Expectant Mother

The ever-great importance of diet is multiplied many times during pregnancy. If children are to be born healthy, mothers can not be starved. If we accept this fundamental, the rest of our course is easy. The mother needs not only the amount of food necessary for her own sustenance and to keep up her own bodily functions, but also a very large increased amount for the growing child.

The food of the expectant mother must be real food. There is no place during the period of pregnancy for the ornaments and finishings of the menu. Every mouthful that she eats should be adapted to the purpose of real nutrition and not merely serve to tickle the palate, or to comply with the follies of fashion. To this end the diet should exclude practically all desserts. These are not so harmful in themselves as they are in taking the place of the necessary things. Cakes, ices, sweets, pudding, and other such accessories are to banished entirely from the table.

It is desirable to omit from the diet during pregnancy tea, coffee, and chocolate. If the craving of the mother is great for these stimulants, then the least harmful of them should be chosen, namely cocoa or chocolate. The more milk the preparation contains, the better for the mother.

The breakfast should always have a fruit; the particular kind is not so important. It is well to interchange them, having a citrus fruit one day and a malic fruit the second day. Apples, pears, and peaches are examples of fruits in which malic acid is predominant; oranges and grapefruit are examples of fruits in which citric acid is predominant. After the fruit a bowl of cereal ground from whole wheat or whole Indian corn or whole oats is to follow. The bread for breakfast should be baked from whole-wheat flour or whole Indian corn meal.

For luncheon, the bread used should be of the same kind as that for breakfast. In addition to this a fresh egg, best coddled or soft boiled, or a lamb chop with a steamed or baked potato carefully cleaned before cooking and eaten with the skins with milk for a beverage is advised.

For dinner the bread and milk are the same character as for breakfast and luncheon. A small piece of roast, preferably of beef or leg of mutton or lamb, with potato and one other vegetable, will be added. Vegetables have little value as food, but great value as regulators and they contain an abundance of minerals and vitamins. A salad, best of lettuce or fruit, will make up the dinner.

I am wholly opposed to alcoholic stimulants, once commonly recommended during pregnancy and motherhood. I suppose it can not be denied that these stimulants do add to the appetite, but a healthy woman does not need any stimulus for her appetite while her child is growing.

As to the quantity of the diet, it has already been intimated that it must be greater than that for normal conditions. The average woman of 130 pounds engaged in the ordinary duties of the household and taking the proper amount of outdoor exercise, requires food to furnish about 2250 calories a day. In the beginning of pregnancy an amount of food should be taken to increase this number by at least fifty a day at first, and soon by 100, 150, 200, 250, and finally 300 or 350.

For about a month or three weeks previous to the birth of the child – as the attending physician will indicate – the mother’s diet should be diminished. The child is then fully formed. This will be no further great drain upon the mother and the burden of nutrition is lessened. It would be well if immediately prior to the birth of the child the mother’s diet should be reduced almost to the normal for her ordinary state of health. This precaution will aid the mother to bear the pain and burden of childbirth better than if she were fully fed up to the very moment.

Good Housekeeping (April, 1917)

Woman’s Wit Pitted Against High Food Prices

Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1917)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1917)

1917 was a rough year for families. World War I was raging in Europe, and inflation was rampant. Food prices increased that year at the fastest rate they have ever increased in U.S. history. According to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report titled Consumers and Food Price Inflation, “Food inflation hit its all-time high of 28.7% in 1917.”

There are lots of articles in 1917 magazines about the high cost of food. Here’s some excerpts from a hundred-year-old article about how to beat the high cost of food.

Woman’s Wit Pitted Against High Food Prices

We’re racing this year against an ever-soaring opponent, an opponent who has no thought of fairness or humanity, no thought of anything but his own variable wish. You all know whom I mean – Mr. High Cost of Food.

He is a strong opponent. We’re finding him pretty hard to beat. When he rises as he as risen in just the last year, we’re apt to forget about beating him, and give up in despair, for most of our incomes have remained stationary, while the cost of food has grown to monster size, and the elephantine cost of food, we shudder with a “What’s the use?”

To win in any race one must know one’s ground. And the ground in my case was food values–what foods give the most nourishment for the money expended, what foods can take the place of others; it was knowing how to market in order to find out what was there, and to get the best of what I wanted; it was saving of food through proper cooking; it was making use of every ounce I had of brains, perseverance and skills.

It isn’t easy to win the race against food prices- I  haven’t won yet, but I’m constantly finding new ways of economy, from studying and discovering food facts. But I know I am going to win, for practical knowledge is the best sort of whip. And when I have the whip hand, why fear even Mr. High Cost of Food?

Ladies Home Journal (April, 1917)