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Housewifery,: A manual and text book of…
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Housewifery,: A manual and text book of practical housekeeping,…

by Lydia Ray Balderston

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No dj. Pp edges are discolored, otherwise exc.
Sometimes my contacts in the book world know what I might like better than I do. This book, which is not a cookbook, is one example of this. At first glance, I wondered why I would want to buy it. After all, my main focus is cookery, but as I thumbed through the book’s pages, I quickly discerned its great value.
Here are only SOME of the things that one sees in this book. I will list them within their respective chapters.
I. Housewifery as a Business.
This starts out with a description of the layout of the various rooms. It might be noted that the bedrooms and bathroom are grouped into a category that is called the “Rest Unit”. The kitchen, pantry, laundry, and cellar are called the “Work Unit”. Other rooms, including the dining room, parlor, library, and porches, constitute the “Recreation Unit”. We then learn to read architectural plans before we see some house plans. Skipping along, later in the chapter, we get organizational charts for households with one or two maids.
II. Plumbing.
This chapter is quite comprehensive and starts with topics such as pumps, types of water, and water storage. Then we see how to deal with household waste. Most interesting to me are the views of bathroom, kitchen sink, and laundry arrangements. We even see details on how to construct an out house (also called privy and an earth closet, or merely a closet, in the space of two lines of text). In the realm of indoor plumbing, we see the term “flush closet”. Later we get our first photos—of a porcelain sink, then of a woman doing dishes with a device that is attached to the faucet. The most-interesting thing in this chapter (for me), is the drawing of the sink with surrounding cabinets plus the cabinets on the next wall. This also shows some hanging pots, a cake or bread box, lighting, etc. Also very interesting is the drawing of a “well-arranged bathroom” with its clawfoot tub, hanging toilet tank, etc. It might be noted that this bathroom is fairly spacious compared to the bathrooms in some more-modern abodes.
III. Heating and Lighting.
Most interesting to me are the photos of various kinds of stoves. Also of interest to me: the diagram of a device attached to a stove that allows kerosene to be used; a photo of a coal stove for heating irons (a bit like a parlor stove, but more utilitarian); diagrams of heating systems and hot water circulation; diagram of hot water heater connected to a cookstove; diagram of an instant gas water heater for the bathroom (wow!); diagrams of how different stoves work; explanations, diagrams, and photos of fireless cookers.
IV. Equipment and Labor-Saving Devices-I.
Part I is devoted to the kitchen. It includes photos demonstrating the proper and improper height of kitchen work surfaces and sinks (also showing good and bad posture when working in the kitchen); comprehensive lists of kitchen equipment (great!—I may have to type this for food historians [starts p. 90]); details of appropriate kitchen work tables and cabinets; photos of cooking tools for various tasks (courtesy of Good Housekeeping magazine); prices for some of the items; note the discussion of a dishwashing machine (I never knew they were available so early!); discussion of dumb waiters;
V. Equipment and Labor-Saving Devices-II.
Part II is devoted to the laundry and to cleaning. It includes lists of laundry equipment and supplies; a photo of much of the laundry equipment, including a washing tub on legs with an attached wringer; diagrams of various types of washing machines (old washing machines, some of which I have seen in person) plus some photos plus descriptions of how they work; various drying schemes, most but not all outdoors; ironing equipment; list of materials and tools used for cleaning; photos of some of the aforementioned items; photos of women using devices with good posture; discussion, diagrams, and photos of carpet sweepers and vacuum cleaners (and I gather that the former might have been used ere vacuuming commenced); mops; floor cloths (which were chemically treated... hmmm, sounds almost like Swiffer, etc. pads);
VI. Household Supplies.
The subsections are cleansers and polishers; soap (including directions on how to make soap), soda, and scourers; starch; bluing; sewing supplies (includes a lengthy list); household paper supplies (nonstationery); writing desk supplies (with list; includes carbon paper for copying lists); table of household weights and measures; miscellaneous household measures (some of which are useful and should be captured for food historians [pp 146-147]).
VII. Household Furnishings.
This includes wallpaper (and selecting the proper color and design); wall paint, tile; flooring (with list of woods and their advantages and disadvantages); how to finish wooden floors (various choices); other types of floors including linoleum and oilcloth; rugs and carpets; draperies and curtains (the latter choices including cheesecloth) and shades and screens (the best being copper!); furniture (including fabrics and covers); tables linens and napkins; towels and dish cloths); beds, bedding (including mattress materials), pillows, mattress pads and covers, sheets, bedspreads, blankets, comfortables (?); silverware; pottery and glass; suggested table service for six.
VIII. Storage.
This chapter covers commercial storage; storage in the cellar or basement; laundry storage (and laundry chutes); kitchen storage (including kitchen closets and pantry closets); food storage (including refrigeration—with a photo of an opened refrigerator [actually an ice box], with items in and on top of it); underground garbage containers (I remember those!); special storage closets (including housekeeping closet, linen closet [photo and diagram], medicine closet); list of medical equipment and supplies (including turpentine); bathroom closet and equipment (with lists of equipment and supplies—and another name for the toilet [flush-closet]); clothing storage with diagram; what to do “to close the house” before you go away; etc.
IX. Cleaning and Care of Rooms, Beds, Bathroom, Kitchen, Metals.
Here we find general rules for cleaning a room (very comprehensive list followed by details on how to do it and what to use—also mentions a maid...); bedroom cleaning and care (includes details for bed-making, with photos—boy, the results would satisfy a military inspector; changing bed heights etc. for invalids; preparing the bed at night); bathroom cleaning (before the advent of toilet bowl brushes, one used a mop [ugh] or a what looks to be a sponge gripped with special large metal forceps); brush cleaning; treatment of metals (should be metals and other materials, because this also deals with agate, porcelain, etc.); dish washing and drying and sink care (with list of supplies); stove cleaning (some of which was done with kerosene) plus blacking or oiling; refrigerator (icebox) cleaning and care (with a nice photo in which we also get a glimpse of a nice kitchen cabinet); filter cleaning.
X. Cleaning and Renovation.
This chapter addresses fabric (with much information on stain removal, even from striped fabric; formulae); laundering (including formulae for laundry starch and bleach); specific care for special materials (e.g., silk and lace); washing rugs and carpets (spots or in toto); care of chamois; care of wood (with formulae); etc.
XI. Disinfectants and Fumigants.
Here we find preventive measures in household sanitation (logical things like the need for ventilation [although there may not be enough of it in modern homes], cleaning out the refrigerator [or icebox], not having stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed in); disinfectants and fumigants (and germicides; with tables, formulae, etc.).
XII. Household Pests.
This short chapter covers general pest prevention and extermination as well as specific pests and how to deal with them (note that for clothes moths, less toxic things to deter them are tobacco and pepper).
XIII. Suggestions for Teachers.
This starts with suggestions that are pertinent to classrooms. Later, I was interested to see that some schools were fortunate enough to have a practice home or apartment or a model housekeeping center, where students could, well, practice what they had learned. Sometimes the students practiced at their teacher’s residence, thus earning credit hours. Although students might also practice, for compensation, in other households, this was seen as possibly inferior because the desires and approaches of the housewives varied.
Note: This book is one volume of Lippincott’s Home Manuals, which Benjamin Andrews edited. The author of this book, who apparently went by the name L. Ray Balderston, was Instructor in Housewifery and Laundering at Teachers College, Columbia University.
  ErstwhileEditor | Oct 6, 2013 |
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