Turn of the Twentieth Century: Gloves

Fine leather gloves were once a staple of a lady’s wardrobe. In Victorian times, watching a lady carefully unbutton and remove a glove might set a man’s heart racing.
          When writing about a woman wearing such gloves, it is helpful to know how she would properly put on or remove them. Below is an instruction for putting on, and removing, a brand new pair of gloves, from The New Little Giant Cyclopedia of Ready Reference, 1903:
          A great deal depends on the first putting on of gloves. Have the hands perfectly clean, dry and cool, and never put on new gloves while the hands are warm or damp. When a person is troubled with moist hands, it is well to powder them before trying on the gloves; but in most cases, if the hands are cool and dry, this is not needed.
          First, work on the fingers, keeping the thumb outside of the glove, and the wrist of the glove turned back. When the fingers are in smoothly, put in the thumb, and work the glove on very carefully; then, placing the elbow on the knee, work on the hand. When this is done, smooth down the wrist, and button the second button first, then the third, and so on to the end. Then smooth down the whole glove and fasten the first button.
          Fastening the first button last, when putting on a glove for the first time, makes a great deal of difference in the fit, although it may seem but a very little thing. It does not strain the part of the glove that is easiest to strain at first, and prevents the enlarging of the button hole, either of which is sure to take place if you begin at the first button to fasten the glove.
          When removing your gloves, never begin at the tips of the fingers to pull them off, but turn back the wrist and pull off carefully, which will, of course, necessitate their being wrong side out. Turn them right side out, turn the thumbs in, smooth them lengthwise in as near as possible the shape they would be if on the hands, and place them away with a strip of white Canton flannel between if the gloves are light, but if dark colored the flannel may be omitted. Never roll gloves into each other in a wad, for they will never look so well after.

Turn of the Twentieth Century: Housekeeping

Home interior Salida, Colorado ca 1900

This 1900-era home interior offers lots of descriptive opportunity for the writer setting a scene in these rooms.
          If the woman of the house is a character in the story, her lifestyle might be illustrated with a few examples of her household chores. Below are a few household tips from The New Little Giant Cyclopedia of Ready Reference published during this time period. (See previous post for more examples.)

To toughen lamp chimneys and glassware. Immerse the article in a pot filled with cold water, to which some common salt has been added. Boil the water well, then cool slowly. Glass treated in this way will resist any sudden change in temperature.

Iron stains may be removed by the salt of lemons. Many stains may be removed by dipping the linen in sour buttermilk, and then drying it in a hot sun; wash in cold water, repeat this three or four times.

To remove tea stains, mix thoroughly soft soap and salt — say a teaspoonful of salt to a teacupful of soap – rub on the spots, and spread the cloth on the grass where the sun will shine on it. Let it lie two or three days, then wash. If the spots are wet occasionally while lying on the grass, it will hasten the bleaching.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Turn of Twentieth Century: Housekeeping

Home interior Salida, Colorado ca 1900

The New Little Giant Cyclopedia of Ready Reference offers an entertaining peek into life in times past and a great research source for writers. First published in 1889, the pocketsize volume sold for one dollar, prepaid, by mail from Columbia Publishing House, Chicago. 
          Here are a few tidbits that tell us about the challenges of keeping a house over 100 years ago.

To brighten carpets:  after the dust has been beaten out [carpets] may be brightened by scattering upon them cornmeal mixed with salt and then sweeping it off. Mix salt and meal in equal proportions. Carpets should be thoroughly beaten on the wrong side first and then on the right side, after which spots may be removed by the use of ox-gall or ammonia and water.

Kerosene stains in carpets may be removed by sprinkling buckwheat flour over the spot. If one sprinkling is not enough, repeat.

To preserve brooms: dip them for a minute or two in a kettle of boiling suds once a week and they will last much longer, making them tough and pliable. A carpet wears much longer swept with a broom cared for in this manner.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection