Around the House – Soap

Recipe for Making Good Hard Soap – Eds Genesee Farmer: – In the May number of the Farmer, among the “Inquiries and Answers,” I find that C. A. Chase, of Ohio, is desirous of obtaining a recipe for making good hard soap. If he will be very particular and attend fully to the following recipe, he will possess as good, and as pure a chemical soap as he ought to desire. But let me warn him, just here, that if he deviates from the principles laid down here – which are simple and comprehensive – the chemical process will thereby be destroyed. I know this to be so from experience.

PURE CHEMICAL SOAP  – Pore 12 quarts of soft boiling water upon 5 lbs. of unslaked lime. Then dissolve 5 lbs. of washing soda in 12 quarts of soft boiling water. Then mix the above together, and let the mixture remain together from 12 to 24 hours for the purpose of chemicalizing. Now pour off all the clear liquid – being careful not to disturb the sediment. Add to the above 3 ½ lbs of clarified grease, and from 3 to 4 oz of rosin. Boil this compound together one hour; pour off to cool’ cut up into bars for use, and you are in the possession of a superior chemical soap.

The cost of this superior article is about 3 ½ cents per lb. (The Genesee Farmer, June 1860)


To Make Hard Soap – One of your correspondents – C. A. Chase, Ohio – wishes a recipe for making hard soap. I think if he will try this one he will be pleased with it. Take six pounds of soda, seven pounds of grease, three pounds of unslaked lime, and four gallons of water. Put the soda, lime and water in a pot, and boil until they are dissolved; let the dregs settle; pour off the liquid and throw away the dregs; add the grease to the liquid and boil until it is the consistency of honey; then pour it off to cool; set it in a dry place and in a few days it will be dry enough for use. (The Genesee Farmer, July 1860)

Totally random photo:

Published in: on July 20, 2013 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Around the House – Tasty Bits of Food

Okay, these are things that sound tasty to me….

Baked Egg-plant – Parboil it until it is soft enough to stick a straw into; then cut it just in half; scoop out the inside, leaving the hull; shop it up very fine, and season very highly with pepper and salt, a good deal of butter, and crumbs of bread. Mix all well together and return it into the hull; then strew crumbs of bread on the top, and bake it for about an hour. (The Genesee Farmer, September 1860)

Fried or Broiled Egg-plant – Parboil it; cut into slices and season very highly with pepper and salt; fry or broil it (as you do mushrooms.) in a pan with butter. If nicely done, it is very similar in flavor to the mushroom. (The Genesee Farmer, September 1860)

To Preserve Rhubarb – Cut the stalks into pieces an inch or so in length; string and dry the same as apple, and stow away in a dry place for winter and spring use. (The Genesee Farmer, September 1860)

Published in: on July 13, 2013 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Around the House – Water-proof Cloth

I find these directions for water-proof cloth interesting, as well as their uses.

Transparent and Water-proof Cloth – To every quart of raw linseed oil, add half a pint of copal varnish and two ounces of sugar of lead. Mix well together and apply with a brush. This mixture applied to thin sheeting, answers a good purpose in place of glass, for hot-beds, letting in plenty of light, excluding cold and wet equally well, and protecting the young plants from the hot breath of the old shiner, which proves often time fatal to them. (The Genesee Farmer, April 1860)

 To Make Cloth Waterproof  – Take half on ounce of isinglass (Russian is best), put it into one pound of rain water, and boil until dissolved; take one ounce of alum, put it into two pounds of water, and boil till it is dissolved; take a quarter of an ounce of white soap, and one pound of rain water, and boil till it is dissolved. After each of these ingredients has been separately dissolved, strain them separately through a piece of linen; afterwards mix them well together in a pot, put it on the fire again till it simmers, then take it off, and while thus near boiling, dip a brush into it, and apply it to the wrong side of the cloth intended to be waterproof.

The cloth must be spread out on a table during the operation, and remain there until it is dry; after it is dry must be brushed on the wrong side against the grain; and then dipping the brush in clear water, pass it lightly over, and leave it again dry.

After that, the gloss caused by the application of the ingredients can be taken off.

Three days after the operation has been done, the cloth will be impervious to water but not air. (The Workwoman’s Guide)

You can also find an expanded description of water-proof cloth in Thomas Webster’s An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy.

Published in: on June 22, 2013 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Around the House – Purchasing Furniture

Advice for purchasing new furniture, from The Workwoman’s Guide:

A misfortune of not very rare occurrence, is the splitting of valuable tables that are veneered. We have known the infliction, and we guard others from a similar annoyance.

One of the causes may be traced to the cabinet makers; it is not unusual for them to make use of wood for the foundation, that has not been sufficiently seasoned, and is besides of an open porous texture, so different from the close hard grained wood, which is to form the veneer, that a very long time is requisite before they can manufacture their goods without risk of shrinking.

In order to ensure this certainty of seasoning, a larger stock of wood is required than is always convenient to be on hand by a cabinet maker, either from want of capital or accommodation; hence, the purchase of new furniture requires circumspection.

In this, as well as every other requisite, we would enforce the oft repeated advice, that a preference is always given to the trader of know probity.

Chance bargains, cheap to the eye, almost always become dear and unsatisfactory in the end.

Veneered furniture which is purchased from a damp warehouse, and brought suddenly into a well aired warm room will almost infallibly fly.

Chests of drawers, particularly if they be made of coarse Honduras mahogany, scarcely fail to crack, and throw up from their edges slips of veneer, which snap off, and are swept away, leaving unsightly white gaps; these have to be replaced, and look shabby and patched.

Spanish mahogany, though much more expensive in the first purchase, is far more certain, hard, rich-coloured, and durable.

It is essential that new furniture should be insured by degrees to change temperature, in order to prevent this hazardous warping, and unequal contracting of the wood. Tables in particular, if intended to occupy a station opposite a fire, should be kept with the grain of the wood laying longways; not the ends of the grain and the joint pointing into the fire; for want of this simple precaution, we have known a beautiful rosewood table entirely spoiled.

Spanish mahogany was the beautiful wood which was first known in England, and which was said to be of so hard and close grain as to turn the edges of our workmen’s tools’ but since our possessions and commerce have been extended to the North of America, we have been stocked with vast quantities of that open grained inferior kind, that is made into almost all our household goods, and which, from it facility of working, is so cheap, that purchasers are continually deceived by unprincipled tradesmen, by the substitution of on for the other.

No person can well be deceived, however, to whom the two sorts of wood have been explained; the one (Spanish) being rich coloured, of an even texture, like satin, when polished, with not grain visible; the other plate, rough, and uneven when highly polished, shewing the coarse grain like threads; the latter too is so soft, that it is dented with the slightest touch, a pencil-case falling upon it, six inches from its surface, will leave a dent that never can be removed, unless the whole is plained over.

Published in: on June 15, 2013 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Around the House – Laundry

Lets start the summer series, “Around the House”, with a little laundry.

Okay, I wasn’t going to start with laundry. But, then I found this section in Elizabeth Haskell’s The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia on cleaning particular fabrics and items. I just knew you would all want to see it. (It is a PDF)

Here are a few more interesting snip-its:

To Polish Flat-Irons – If your flat-irons are rough, rub them well with fine salt, and it will make them smooth. (The Genesee Farmer, June 1860)

 To Wash Ribbons – Ribbons of any kind should be washed in cold soap-suds, and not rinsed. (The Genesee Farmer, June 1860)

 Old Crape – A pint of glue, dissolved in milk and water, will restore old crape. (The Genesee Farmer, June 1860)

 To Clean Silk – I have seen a good receipt for cleaning all kinds of silk, which I have used with good effect. Take equal quantities of alcohol, wood ashes, soft soap, and molasses. Mix them, and rub with a cloth on the silk; afterward rinse in a clear water with a little salt or alum. Your silk will look as good as new if it has never been washed before. (The Genesee Farmer, July 1860)

 For Cleaning Silk – (Correction from the July number.) – Take equal quantities of alcohol – whiskey will do – soft soap made of wood ashes, and molasses. Mix and rub with a cloth; afterward rinse in clear water once or twice, and dry it or wrap in cloth till ready to iron. (The Genesee Farmer, September 1860)

 Method of Cleansing Silk, Woollen, and Cotton. – Take raw potatoes in their natural state, and when well washed, let them be rubbed on a grater over a vessel of clean water, to a fine pulp; pass the liquid matter through a coarse sieve into another tub of clean water; let this mixture stand till the fine white particles of potatoe are precipitated, then pour off the liquor, which preserve for use.

The article to be cleaned should be laid on a table, and well rubbed with a sponge dipped in the liquor until clean, when it is washed several times in clean water, and then dried and ironed.

Two middle sized potatoes will suffice for a pint of water. The coarse pulp of the potatoe, which will not pass the sieve, is of use in cleaning worsted curtains, tapestry, carpets, and other coarse goods, while the liquor prepared as above, will clean silk, cotton, and woolen goods. (Workwoman’s Guide)

Published in: on June 8, 2013 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Summer Series – “Around the House”

I’ve decided the summer series will take a look “Around the House”. To kick this off, lets start with a bit of perspective.  

This passage comes from the “Ladies’ Department” of the June 1860 Genesee Farmer, published in Rochester, New York. Do keep in mind this is the forward thinking “Burned Over District.”

Women’s Occupation – In these days of progress and improvement, not the least among the many evidences we meet with of the triumph of science over difficulties hitherto supposed insurmountable is the invention of the sewing machines. Women need no longer be a mere mechanical drudge, doomed to pass her days forever in the seclusion of home – wasting away her energies, and her life in the everlasting occupation of needle-work. The days when Tom Hood wrote his pathetic “Song of the Shirt” have passed away, and are numbered among the things that were. It may perhaps be said by some, that with the introduction of the sewing machines, women’s occupation is gone. This, perhaps may be true of  many of those who, having been educated in a former age, find that education too limited for the present time, and have no resource to fall back upon, or the ability to adapt themselves to follow new channels of life

So long as the present system of female education is followed, the effect of this loss of her occupation will be to make her still more dependent. But a revolution in the system of education must sooner or later take place, and woman must be fitted – not to be a mere ornament to the house – a gewgaw to be taken around for show, like a little dog led by a golden chain, or as a mere household slave. No! woman must be be  [sic] so educated as to become not merely the companion, but the teacher of man. Her education must be carried out on a sounder and broader basis. She must be taught so as to be fitted to become herself a teacher. She must be fitted to take care of herself, and to feel that she has a mind, and that her mind is capable of being directed into channels of thought – by which she can acquire a position of independence and exercise a greater and better influence than she at present does. She should also become more accustomed to out-door exercises, and should study physiology; and take an interest in the discoveries of science, and what is going on outside of her immediate circle. ~~Progress.

 As I’ve been thinking a good deal about cooking lately, thanks to my little sister, I expected to find a similar passage regarding the leap forward in a stove for cooking. I have not, yet. It seems, period literature is far more concerned about the heat stove than the influence the cooking stove had on the daily life of women. (Or, atleast I should say the pieces of literature I have thus found.) I did find this to share: From Eighty Years of Progress of the United States, by CL Flint (1861) I suggest reading the entire chapter beginning on p245

Cooking was performed over an open wood fire; a mode in many respects more laborious and less convenient than the present use of stoves and ranges; but which, if skillfully conducted, gives the food a flavor more perfect and delicate than can be attained in any other manner.

As has been implied, the changes in food have thus been more in the treatment than in the materials of it. The chief of these changes, like those in warming houses, have arisen from the introduction of anthracite coal into use, which has caused the employment of cooking-stoves and ranges, instead of the open fire. Nearly four hundred patents for cooking-stoves and ranges were issued from 1812 to 1847, and great numbers of others have been granted since; the total number of such patents may safely be estimated at not less than six hundred.

An early style of cooking-stove, and quite a favorite ne in its day, was the rotary, whose top could in its day, ws the rotary, whose top could be swiveled round by a crank and cog-wheel geared to a ratchet underneath its edge, so as to bring any underneath its edge, so as to bring any sauce pan or kettle forward to the cook. This variety is, however, now nearly obsolete, and innumerable later inventions have succeeded, each enjoying a brief reputation, usually conferred rather by diligent advertisement than by any real peculiar merits in the stove itself.

The cooking range may be described as a modified stove bricked into a fireplace, instead of standing out in the room. Its oven, instead of being [in] back of the fireplace, as in a stove, is above it; and most patterns, so far back as to render it very hot and inconvenient for use. Some late patterns, however, have brought the oven sufficiently far forward to remedy this objection.

The use of stoves and ranges has rendered cooking much more convenient, but has, in a great measure, substituted the baking of meats in the oven for the better old fashion of roasting. Their advantages, however, are greater than their disadvantages; they are far cheaper and easier in management than an open fire; and in all older portions of the country are necessary, because would could not be furnished to supply the kitchens.


 Just a few other pieces:

If you are interested in perspectives on the duties or position of women entering the mid-century, you may find these of interest:  Woman’s Rights and Duties    Volume 2  and Lectures on the Sphere and Duties of Women 

 Of general, useful interest, I came across this: Hand-books for Home Improvement: Comprising, How to Write, How to Talk, How to Talk, How to Behave, How to Do Business.(1857)

Published in: on June 1, 2013 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)