Building the Brick Road Between Watsontown and McEwensville

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

Monday, September 23, 1912:  Walked the muddy way to school this morning. Don’t have much to write these days.

Recent photo of the road that went between McEwensville and Watsontown in Grandma’s day.  . . Once dirt, then brick, and now paved. . .

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

With all the mud, it’s a good thing that Grandma got new rubber overshoes  the previous Saturday. September, 1912 must have been a rainy month.  On September 18  Grandma also wrote about the muddy walk to school.

1912 was the last year that Grandma had to walk the entire way on dirt roads.  She lived between McEwensville and Watsontown, and a brick road was apparently under construction that would replace the old dirt road.

According to George Wesner in  History in McEwensville (1976):

The brick road leading from McEwensville to Watsontown was one of the first of its kind to be built in Pennsylvania. Construction was begun at McEwsville in 1912 and completed the following year. . .

It was built by the construction firm Fiss and Christiana of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. In grading, the ground was moved by horse-drawn dump wagons which were loaded by manual labor. While some local people were employed most of the laborers were Italian immigrants. Very few could speak English. They were quartered in a labor camp which was located in a ravine on the farm of Isiah Elliot,  now owned by Samuel Raup. All the materials, sand, gravel, brick and cement were hauled by teams and horses. The only mechanical equipment used was a steam roller. . .

On an occasion when a period of bad weather had caused the operation to run behind schedule, the contractors, in an effort to catch up, requested that they work on Sunday. . . .

I wonder if the wet days that Grandma wrote about during September 1912 were when the road-building crews got behind schedule.

Grandma would have walked this road to school every day while it was being transformed from  a muddy dirt road to fancy brick one. It sounds like a major activity to me, yet she never thought it worth mentioning in the diary. Sigh. . .

How Does Catechize Differ From Catechism?

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

Sunday, September 22, 1912:  Went to S.S. this afternoon and attended Catechize.

Recent photo of the site where the McEwensville Baptist Church once stood.

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

When I read this diary entry, I got stuck on a simple vocabulary question. I remember going to “catechism” class when I was in middle school. How does “catechize” differ from “catechism”? Is it a different part of speech?

The Free Online Dictionary defines catechize as “to teach the principles of Christian dogma, discipline, and ethics by means of questions and answers.”

While catechism is “a book giving a brief summary of the basic principles of Christianity in question-and-answer form.”

Grandma  was 17-years-old when she wrote this entry. I’m surprised that she hadn’t completed catechize and joined the church when she was in her early teens.

Mother Remodeled Skirt

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

Saturday, September 21, 1912:  Ma made over a skirt for me. Got a pair of rubbers today.

From Bedell Company advertisement in November, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

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

I guess that Grandma’s mother was trying to save about $1.98 by making over the skirt. I can’t remember the last time I remodeled a skirt . . . or dress.  (Actually, I don’t think that I’ve ever remodeled one.) Yet, Grandma and her mother did it regularly.

On June 3, 1912, Grandma wrote:

I am trying to remodel a skirt which was once the property of the benevolent Ruthie. I’ll know whether I’ll wear it or not after it’s finished.

And, on February 24, 1912 she wrote:

I fixed over a dress for myself this afternoon. It was one of my Aunt Annie’s cast-offs. I had one trying time a getting the waist and skirt together. I have it fixed now and tried it on to see the result. I’m not so much pleased with my sewing. It seems rather short in the back.

Grandma sounded like she wasn’t very satisfied with either of her remodeling efforts, but she didn’t express any similar qualms about the skirt her mother remodeled.  Apparently her mother was more proficient at sewing than she was.


On September 18, Grandma mentioned walking to school through the rain and mud—hopefully her new rubber overshoes made the trek slightly less arduous the next time it rained.

Average Salaries, 1912 and 2012

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

Tuesday, September 16, 1912:  Just about the same things done over every day with just a little change here and a little more there.

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

Both then and now– some days are just the same old, same old.

Since Grandma didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’m going to share some interesting data that I found about the average salaries for selected occupations a hundred years ago and now.

The 1912 data are from an article in the September, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal titled “How Other People Live.” The current data was from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average Salaries, 1912 and 2012

average salaries, 1912 and 2012
Click on table to enlarge

Of course all the salaries are much higher now than they were back then because of inflation. But it’s interesting to compare which salaries were relatively high and which were relatively low across the two years.

Data Sources

This is what the 1912 Ladies Home Journal article said about the data sources for 1912:  “The industrial incomes were obtained from the Government’s’ investigation of the incomes of over 3,000,000 adult males. The income for public school teachers is taken from a report of the United States Commissioner of Education for 1911. The salaries of city and country ministers are from the United States Census reports.”

I used the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the 2012 data. It actually was 2011 data, but I assumed that salaries haven’t changed much over the past year.

Fashion A Hundred Years Ago

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

Wednesday, September 11, 1912:  So say we call it a day again.

Fashion a Hundred Years Ago

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

Since it was another slow day for Grandma, I’d like to tell you about my latest blogging adventure.

I’ve enjoyed occasionally sharing hundred-year-old fashion pictures with you. I’ve found lots of pictures in old magazines—and can’t possibly use all of them on this site since Grandma only occasionally mentioned clothes or shopping.

I decided that it would be fun to feature a one-hundred-old fashion each day, so I started a new blog called Fashion A Hundred Years Ago.

You might want to check it out if you enjoy looking at the old fashions.

Hundred-Year-Old Fashions for Stout Women

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

Thursday, September 5, 1912: Ditto.

1912 Dress and Coat for Obese Women
Source: Ladies Home Journal (February, 1912)

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

Hmm—I guess that it was a slow week for Grandma. This is the third day in a row that she hasn’t written much. It seems odd. It’s the second week of the school year—and I’d have guessed that she would have been bubbling about the happenings.

In any case, I’m going to go off on a tangent . . .

Several days ago, a reader commented that in the old days that wealthy people were often overweight—or to use the term that was commonly used a hundred years ago, “stout.”

Her comment reminded me that the February, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal showed fashions for stout women:

Many distinctive features favorable for the woman who is included to stoutness of form are typified in the graceful, fringed wrap on the first figure in the group above. It is made of dull-finished black satin—for the stout woman will wisely pass by the more lustrous satins, which tend to accentuate plumpness.

A charming house dress for afternoon or for more informal evening occasions is pictured on the second figure in the group above. Here a soft old-rose satin is used for the foundation dress, brought into a subjection more becoming to the stout woman by the overdress of marquisette in the same shade.

1912 woman's suit

There is a pleasing fitness not only in the quiet colors used for the semi-dressy tailored suit, but also in the right placing of the lines of the coat and skirt for a figure inclined to overfullness.

The 1912 Presidential Campaign: The Republicans, the Democrats and the Bull Moose Party

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

Tuesday, September 3, 1912: Nothing doing today.

Willaim Howard Taft
President William Taft (Republican)

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

Since nothing much happened in Grandma’s life a hundred years ago today, I’m going tell you a little about the 1912 presidential race.

(Somehow with the Republican convention last week and the Democratic one this week, this seems like an appropriate time to step back and take a look at the big picture.)

Lots of economic, social, and environmental issues dominated the campaign rhetoric in 1912:

  • How much power should corporations have?
  • Should tariffs be high or low?
  • Was the government corrupt?
  • Did political machines have too much power?
  • How important were environmental issues?
  • What role should government play in developing social welfare policies?
  • Should woman have the right to vote?
  • What role should Blacks have in the political process?
  • Should children be allowed to work?

In 1912, William Taft was the current president, but there was a three-way race between Taft (Republican), Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose Party), and Woodrow Wilson (Democratic).

Theodore Roosevelt
Former President Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose)

There had been a schism in the Republican Party between Taft and Roosevelt, which led to Roosevelt breaking away to form the Bull Moose Party.

Roosevelt had been president early in the 20th century. He was part of the progressive wing of the Republican party, but in 1908 he decided that he did not want to run for re-election and supported Taft as the Republican nominee.

However, by 1912 Roosevelt felt that Taft had not appropriately continued the progressive path he’d begun, and ran against him for the Republican nomination. When Roosevelt lost the nomination he founded the Bull Moose Party.

(Roosevelt said that he was as fit as a bull moose—and somehow it ended up being the party name.)

This split basically ensured that Woodrow Wilson would win.

Wilson was the governor of New Jersey when he received the Democratic nomination. He’d previously been president of Princeton University—but in 1910 ran for governor because he was frustrated by the infighting within the university over issues such where the graduate school building should be located, and whether or not there should be eating clubs on the campus.

woodrow wilson
Woodrow Wilson (Democrat)

Wilson stayed out of the brawl between Taft and Roosevelt, and easily won the election.

Many of the campaign issues soon seemed less important. . .

. . . . in 1914, World War I would  break out in Europe.


How aware was Grandma of the national issues? Did she listen to any campaign speeches supporting one or another of the candidates? Did her father talk about who he planned to vote for? Did she hope that within a few years that she’d be able to vote?