Injured Thumb While Butchering Hogs

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

Monday, December 16, 1912:  Our dearest Ruth left for Sunbury this morning and my heart is rather sad. We killed some pigs and I took a slice off the end of my thumb. Oh sad the day, for I don’t care anything about having a sore thumb.


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

Butchering hogs  is a lot of work.  A hundred years ago today, the yard between the house and barn on the Muffly farm was probably filled  with scalding troughs and  large wooden tripods with hog carcasses hanging from them.

I wonder how bad Grandma’s cut was. A “slice off the end” of her thumb doesn’t sound good. (Click here to read a previous post on how they treated cuts and wounds a hundred years ago.)

Did Grandma  miss her sister Ruth or was she being sarcastic?  (Personally I might be annoyed if I had a  sister who didn’t have to help with the butchering.)

I think that Ruth went to a teachers’ institute. She was a teacher at a one-room school-house near McEwensville. Winter break for the schools began the previous Friday, and I think that teacher institutes were held over the breaks to provide professional development and training for the rural school teachers.

Sunbury is the county seat of Northumberland County and is about twenty miles from McEwensville.


Old-fashioned Tatted Hankderchief Pictures

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

Saturday, December 14, 1912:  Made some handkerchiefs this afternoon. Of course they weren’t very fancy ones, but good enough for me.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1912)

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

Was Grandma making the handkerchiefs for herself –she might have needed them since she’s had colds for much of the Fall—or as gifts for someone else?

In the old days people made lovely handkerchiefs. Some had tatted or crocheted borders . . others beautiful embroidery.

(An aside—Does anyone know how to tat anymore?  It is so delicate and beautiful.)

Grandma said the handkerchiefs weren’t very fancy. Were they actually plain or did she just think that she wasn’t very talented at making handkerchiefs.

From one yard of handkerchief linen six squares may be cut and trimmed.

Ladies Home Journal (December, 1912)


Old-fashioned Mistletoe and Candy Kiss Decoration

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

Wednesday, December 11, 1912:  Miss Wesner was down to stay overnight, and go home tomorrow morning.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1912)

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

Helen (Tweet) Wesner was a friend of Grandma and her sister Ruth. Was it really a good idea for Tweet to visit?  The previous day , Grandma wrote in her diary that she had pink eye.

Setting health issues aside—

What did the girls do? Maybe they were hoping for a holiday romance and made a mistletoe and candy kiss decoration to hang in a doorway. It was featured in the December, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Mistletoe is the classic symbol of Christmas romances—and anyone who stands under the mistletoe is supposed to get kissed.

Here are the directions in the magazine:

Candy kisses for all under the mistletoe bough. Wrap the kisses separately  in paraffin and tissue paper, and then tie them in clusters with ribbon.

A hundred years ago candy kisses could refer to any small candy–though .Hershey’s kisses have been around since 1907.

Paraffin and tissue paper is an old term for waxed paper. Based on the picture, it looks like it night have been available in several colors back then.

Hundred-Year-Old Thanksgiving Poem

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

Wednesday, November 27, 1912:  Guess we aren’t going to have much of a Thanksgiving tomorrow cause Ma is sick and we haven’t got a turkey.

Recent fall photo of fields on the farm where the Muffly’s once lived.

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

Dang it—Thanksgiving was a week later in 1912 than it was in 2012.

From a blog post perspective, it works much better when the dates of holidays are the same for both years—and floating holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving are problematic.

This year Thanksgiving is history—and we’ve moved past Black Friday and Cyber Monday to holiday parties and decorating Christmas trees . But, on the off-chance that you’re willing to read about Thanksgiving at this late date, here is a lovely  Thanksgiving poem that was in the November, 1912 issue of Farm Journal.

Our Thanksgiving Day

By Emma A. Lente

The harvests yielded bounteous store,

In spite of all our trembling fears

Lest this, from drought and storms, might be

One of the fruitless, barren years.


But kindly sun and rain and dew

Have ministered to all our need

The fertile earth has given full store

Her countless multitudes to feed.


No pestilence has stormed our shores,

No wars have racked our hearts with fears;

Strength have been given for minor ills

And smiles have followed transient tears.


So, let us render fervent thanks

For sheltering homes, and kindred dear,

And say with heartfelt gratitude:

“This year has been a goodly year.”

Book Review: Daddy-Long-Legs

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

Thursday, November 7, 1912:  I just finished reading a book a few minutes ago. I have ever so much stuff to read now, but I don’t like to neglect my studies too much. I don’t get them any too well as it is.

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

Grandma was a member of the recently organized Literary Society at her school.

I recently came across a copy a book published in 1912—Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I wonder if Grandma read it.

Daddy-Long-Legs is a good-old-fashioned story with a happy ending. It was a fun, relaxing read compared to the many depressing modern books; and I couldn’t put it down. But the novel also touched upon important issues—Should women have careers?  What role does fate (and hard work) play in success?

The book tells the story of Jerusha, a bright young orphan who wrote humorous stories in her high school English class.

An anonymous trustee of the orphanage where Jerusha lived recognized her brilliance—and offered to pay for her to attend college so that she could become a writer. There was only one requirement—she needed to write him a letter each month to tell him how school was going.

Jerusha did not meet the trustee—but saw his shadow reflected on a wall the evening he agreed to send her to college. The shadow was tall and slender, and looked like a Daddy-Long-Legs spider.

The format of most of the book is letters that Jerusha wrote to her anonymous benefactor—Daddy-Long-Legs.

A developing romance, and Jerusha’s transformation from an orphan into an interesting young woman who went by the name of Judy, kept me turning the pages. The book also gave me a better understanding of the college and career opportunities that women had a hundred years ago.

1912 Bestsellers

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

Wednesday, November 6, 1912:  Am ever so busy these days getting my lessons out, and helping make out that program for our first Literary meeting.

A hundred years ago today Grandma was sitting inside this house writing about how she was trying to juggle many things.

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

On November 1, Grandma wrote that they’d organized a Literary Society at school and that she was on a committee.

Hmm—I wonder what is involved in figuring out the program for the Literary Society.  Did they read classics or popular books?

According to Wikipedia, the Publisher’s Weekly bestsellers for 1912 were:

1. The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter

2. The Street Called Straight by Basil King

3. Their Yesterdays by Harold Bell Wright

4. The Melting of Molly by Maria Thompson Davies

5. A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

6. The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

7. The Just and the Unjust by Vaughan Kester

8. The Net by Rex Beach

9. Tante by Anne Douglas Sedgwick

10. Fran by J. Breckenridge Ellis

Hmm—I’ve never heard of any of these books. Are any of you familiar with any of them?

In a previous post, I listed some of the books on the Goodreads list for 1912 of  books that are still widely read —and that list is very different from this list of 1912 bestsellers. It’s amazing how bestseller status may not mean enduring popularity.

Time Required to Complete Housework Tasks a Hundred Years Ago

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today

Tuesday, November 5, 1912:  I must excuse myself for this day.

Data Source: “Time Required to Complete Certain Tasks” in the October, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal. (Click on graph to enlarge.)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll tell you how long it took to complete several household tasks in 1912.

Factory managers in the 1910s believed that workers should be timed doing various tasks to determine how long it took to complete each one.

There also was a movement toward the scientific management of households. Homemakers were encouraged to time how long it took to complete common tasks so that they could better plan their daily schedule.