When repairing a wall in my last house, my husband and I found a book tucked between the wallboards. The salesman’s bound sample of excerpts from The People’s Home Library belonged to Edwin J. Finley, Jr., who signed an enclosed selling creed May 10, 1920.
The People’s Home Library consisted of three volumes, medical, domestic science, and live stock. This 3 volume compendium was described as a republication of information contained in Dr. Chase’s Receipt Book, a discontinued book originally published in German and “Danish-Norwegian.” The original copyright on the series is 1910, 100 years ago.
The salesman’s copy of The People’s Home Library provides a glimpse into the era in which it was peddled, both through its published content and through additional 1920s-era documents salesman Finley appended to the book. The medical advice, provided by leading experts of the day, is sometimes apt, sometimes amusing.
Flu in the Wake of the Spanish Flu Epidemic
Mr. Finley glued inside his salesman’s sample of People’s Home Library news articles to support the need for information contained in the various volumes of the library. For the medical volume, he included a news clip noting that influenza caused more deaths than World War I caused to the American Expeditionary Forces from the time the first unit landed in France until hostilities ceased.
A second article with a dateline Brainerd, Nov. 24 attests to the power of onions to protect from flu, with farmer Cod Kimball of Crow Wing County declaring that his 10 acres of the curative bulb saved his family despite the presence of disease all around them.
For treating tough or thick mucous related to bronchitis or coughing associated with flu, the medical experts 100 years ago recommended this treatment for adults: five grains of chloride of ammonia four times per day with ¼ grain of coedine and 1/24 grain of heroin. For persistent coughing, doctors prescribed 5 drops of sandal wood oil four times per day.
Early 1900s Medical Advice on Menstruation, Menopause
With respect to the onset of menstruation, the medical excerpts advised “a girl should never get wet feet when she is ‘unwell.'” The first time a girl menstruates, she should be very quiet, according to the 1910 era medical experts.
The medical advice on the onset of menopause says that the appearance of profuse bleeding or slight bleeding occurring more often than monthly should “excite the alarm of the woman,” for it is caused by a diseased condition of the womb.
In addition to symptoms like hot flashes, women may become very fat during menopause, the doctors warned, and may suffer from nervous derangement which in severe cases may result in insanity.
The general advice prescribed for menopausal women was fresh air, proper exercise and limits on the consumption of rich foods.
What Doctors Said about ‘Men Sowing Wild Oats’ 100 Years Ago
Gonorrhea and syphilis result from immorality and uncleanliness, according to the prevailing medical wisdom of the early 1900s. Men exposed to gonorrhea and syphilis were advised to not wait even 10 minutes before washing the exposed parts with antiseptic solution such as carbolic acid, corrosive sublimate, or permaganate of potash.
Young girls were advised “Never have anything to do with a man who is ‘sowing his wild oats’ or who has sown them.” Doctors warned that such a man may be afflicted with a venereal disease that “can be given to an innocent and pure wife and thus entail upon her life-long suffering.”
Preventing the Spread of Scarlet Fever
Because scarlet fever can be spread through contact with a scarlet fever rash, this home medical book sold in the 1920s suggested greasing the patient head to toe with fat bacon to help keep the scales from flying off the body and infecting others.
Proper Nutrition for a Two Year Old
One hundred years ago, doctors advised parents to give two year olds two meals per day, starting with the juice of an orange 45 minutes before breakfast to maintain good health. A healthy breakfast for a two year old child was said to be two tablespoons of a well cooked cereal with cream, a little sugar and salt; stale dried bread and butter; and a glass of warm milk. This breakfast was to be supplemented with soft egg three times per week.
The second meal of the day for a two year old was either a glass of warm milk or a cup of chicken or mutton broth with a slice of stale or dried bread; a piece of unsweeted zwiebach or Huntley Palmer breakfast bisquit.
Compare this to today’s medical advice to provide two year olds 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day including foods from all major food groups: grains, vegetables, fruit, milk, and meat and beans. In 2010, nutritionists tell parents that 5 slices of bread, 2.5 cups of oatmeal, or 2.5 cups of rice or pasta would meet a two year old’s daily need for grains. One and one-half cups of vegetables and one and one-half cups of fruit is recommended daily. Two cups of milk or yogurt or 4 slices of unprocessed cheese will meet the two year’s old’s daily dairy needs, while the meat and beans daily requirement for a two year old can be satisfied by either 4 eggs, 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, 12 slices of luncheon meat or 1 cup of cooked beans.
Medicinal Uses for Lemons
Wisdom from 1910 and the decade that followed identified lemon juice as a cure or palliative for multiple medical ailments including sore throat; diptheria; corns; tans and freckles; colds; coughs and hoarseness; scurvy; fevers, rheumatism and gout; jaundice; biliousness; stomach hemorrhage; vomiting; erysipelas (cellulitis); asthma; alkaline poisoning; syphilis; and headache.
Lemon juice is still widely accepted as a curative or preventative for many medical conditions in 2010 by naturopaths. In addition to the older uses, lemon juice is now sometimes promoted as useful for travel sickness, sunstroke, whooping cough, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and acute menorrhagia.
Sources: http://www.babycenter.com/0_nutrition-guidelines-for-young-children_64359.bc?showAll=true; http://www.online-family-doctor.com/fruits/lemon.html; The People’s Home Library, R.C. Barnum publisher, 1913.