The Old Cow Died

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

Monday, November 9, 1914:  The same old tune, the old cow died. That reminds me of Pa’s increase, namely cows. They arrived today.

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (1911)
Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (1911)

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

Hmm. . . what did Grandma mean by the old cow died?

My first thought: Did a cow on the farm die? . . .Or was Grandma thinking about the end of her romance, and the phrase was an idiom that meant something else?

So I googled it, and discovered that there actually is a song called The Old Cow Died. According to Information Please, the words are:

The Old Cow Died

There was an old man,

and he had an old cow,

But he had no fodder to give her.

So he took up his fiddle and played her the tune:

`Consider, good cow, consider.

This isn’t the time for the grass to grow.

Consider, good cow, consider.’

You can also listen to it (with slightly different words) at: Smithsonian Folkways (click on “play sample”).

I’m still left wondering why the song popped into Grandma’s head. Maybe it was because her father bought some new cows. . . or maybe a somewhat melancholy song was just the right song to hum as she worked her way through the ending of a relationship.

Staying Healthy to 80

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

Saturday, November 7, 1914:  <<no entry>>


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

Another silent day for the dairy, but I came across an article in the March, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal by Charles Eliot, the retired president, of Harvard that I thought you might enjoy. He had lots of advice about how to stay healthy. Here’s a few quotes:


How I Have Kept My Health and Working Power Till 80

My experience does not furnish short, explicit prescription for keeping health and working power til eighty years of age, probably because many and various causes have contributed to the result; but I feel safe in affirming that anyone who desires to have a like experience will do well to eat moderately, to sleep at least seven hours a night with windows open, to take regular exercise in the open air every day, to use no stimulants, to enjoy all the natural delights without excess in any, and to keep under all circumstances as serene a spirit as his nature permits. This is the way to win from life the maximum of real joy and satisfaction.

From the time I became a tutor, at the age of twenty onward, I think that I have done per day an unusual amount of mental work, much of which, however, has had a routine or repetitive character, as in all teaching and administration.

That I have borne much labor and responsibility without ever suffering even a temporary breakdown seems to be to be due—after the inheritance of a sound constitution—to my possessing a good muscular and nervous system, preserved by open-air exercise and the habit of moderate eating.

One result of the balance between my bodily and mental powers has been that I have always been able to sleep well at night, and since I was seventy, briefly in the daytime also.

I am aware of two mental or moral conditions which have contributed to my safe endurance of physical and mental strains. The first is the result of a combination of this temperament with a deliberate practices of avoiding alike anticipation of disappointment and vain regrets. When necessarily involved in contests or critical undertakings I tied first to do my best in the actual struggle, and then not to concern myself too much about the issue.

When blocked or defeated in an enterprise I had much at heart I always turned immediately to another field of work where progress looked possible, biding my time for a change to resume the obstructed road. An administrator can thus avoid waste of energy and a chronic state of disappointment and worry.

My own experience has led me to think that strenuous work, done with interest and zeal, usually promotes health and vigor, and is seldom injurious if kept within the limits set by bodily fatigue.

News Reel with War Scenes Shown at Theater

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

Friday, November 6, 1914:  <<no entry>>

Source: Milton Evening Standard (September 23, 1914)
Source: Milton Evening Standard (September 23, 1914)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I thought that you might enjoy an article in Grandma’s local paper, the Milton Evening Standard, about the showing of a news reel about the War at the local theater.

(I should have posted this back in September. Somehow I lost track of it then, but decided that is still worth posting—even if it is a little late.)

Wait Two Days Before Complaining About a Late Magazine

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

Thursday, November 5, 1914:  <<no entry>>

Railroad tracks at Watsontown, PA
Railroad tracks at Watsontown

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

Sigh—another day with no diary entry., but (smile) another day to go off on a tangent.

Are you indignant when a magazine doesn’t arrive in your mailbox on the anticipated date? . . . or is it par for the course?

Well, apparently the mail was so dependable a hundred years ago that people wrote to Ladies Home Journal to complain if their magazine was even one day late in arriving:

Concerning Late Delivery

There is a large part of the edition of The Ladies Home Journal that is not carried on regular mail trains but is shipped by the Government on freight trains. These copies are subject to the delays incident to that method of transportation.

Every copy sent to a subscriber is mailed by us at a time which should insure delivery on the twentieth of the month. Any delay in transportation is beyond our power to control as the Government selects its own methods of shipment regardless of the wishes of the publisher.

So if at any time your copy does not reach you on the twentieth of the month as it should do not write to us immediately, for the delay is probably not due to any fault of ours. Please wait for at least two days before complaining. The copy will probably be in your hands by that time.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1914)

The Can Opener

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

Wednesday, November 4, 1914: <<no entry>>can opener

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

Another quiet day. . .

Since Grandma didn’t provide any clues about the direction this post should head, I thought you might enjoy this short essay about can openers in the December, 1914 issue of Farm Journal. Technology was changing the way meals were prepared—and it wasn’t like back in the “good old days.”

The Can Opener

This handy tool, the household pet, we ply with skill and speed; and in the modern kitchenette it’s really all we need. The shining tool that opens cans makes household work a joke; it supersedes the pots and pans, the stoves that used to smoke.

In olden times the toiling wives were always on their feet; they wore away their weary lives preparing things to eat. They fried the meat, they baked the beans, they cooked the spuds. They had no time for magazines, for euchre, or bridge whist.

How fortunate the modern wife, with many a leisure hour! For she can fill with glee her life, and languish in her bower.

And when at evening comes her man, impatient for the eats, she say, “I’ll open up a can of beans or deviled beets.” It takes three minutes by the clock to get his meal in shape; he’s so well trained he doesn’t balk, or try to make escape.

It may be, as hand over hand, he throws the victuals in, he signs for grub that isn’t canned, that doesn’t taste of tin. It may be that his vagrant mind recalls the old-time steak, the dishes of the good old kind his mother used to make. But idle are the man’s regrets, and vain his hopes and plans; this is the age of kitchenettes , and things put up in cans.

Walt Mason

Hundred-Year-Old Hand and Nail Care Advice

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

Tuesday, November 3, 1914: <<no entry>>

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

I found a fun description of how to care for hands and mails in a hundred-year-old book. Since Grandma didn’t write anything, I thought you might enjoy reading some quotes from the book.

Care and Treatment of the Hands

Of all the members of the body, next to the face, the hands have the most expression, and serve as an index of character and refinement.

Not only should the most scrupulous attention be given to having clean hands and nails, but every precaution should be taken to keep the skin soft and the nails carefully manicured. This is quite possible for the housewife, simply by wearing rubber gloves while she does her work. It preserves the fine sense of touch in the fingers, which aids in sewing and embroidery at the same time that it adds much to the beauty of the hands.

Chapped Hands: An aid in the prevention of the skin of the hands from becoming rough and chapped, and the best means of curing them if this has occurred, is by the use of a good cold cream at night, just before retiring.

The cold cream should be rubbed into the skin, especially about the finger-nails, and then talcum powder be dusted over. This forms a thick covering for the hands, the talcum powder prevents the cream from being rubbed off on the bed-clothes, and, on getting up in the morning, the skin will be found to be soft. Only in case the hands are very badly chapped should old kid gloves be worn at night.

Finger Nails: There is a natural tendency for the dirt to accumulate on the under surface of the nail, between it and the finger. This is not only unsightly, but it is often the cause of actual danger, as this forms a lodgment for the germs of disease. We must be impressed with the necessity of more careful oversight being given to the hands that prepare food.

For the same reason, it is self-evident that the hands should always be washed immediately before going to the table, and cleaning the nails is always a finishing touch in the washing of the hands.

For the purpose of cleansing the nails, an orange stick or nail-file should be used, After the use of the nail-file, the nail-brush should be used.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna M. Galbraith

Halloween Night

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

Saturday, October 31, 1914:  This is All Saints’ Eve and the moon is shining brightly. Would have liked to have dressed up and gone out Halloweening.

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

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


Boo! What a spookactular night! You should have gone to town and had a little fun.