Eleanor M. Rockwell Bennett was the wife of Hiram H. Bennett, son of Oliver Roby Bennett and Betsey Ford. These housekeeping hints from Eleanor's journal offer a look at how rural folk in the late nineteenth century handled some common household problems. These are presented here for historical purposes only and not as suggestions for contemporary use. Following the hints I've added some notes to explain some of the terms used by Eleanor. I've placed a question mark following terms I don't recognize. I've left the original spelling intact.
To drive away ants that infest the pantry, get 5¢ worth of Tartar Emetic1. Mix half of it with sugar and water to a thin syrup and put in a dish where they are troublesome. They will take French leave2. and they will not come back, not even the second season.
Mix common litharge3 and glycerine to the consistency of thick cream or fresh putty and apply. Let it stand in a cool place for a few days until dry and hardened before using. This cement is good for mending stoneware, coarse earthenware, stopping leaks in the seams of pans and washboilers, fastening on lamp tops and various other purposes.
3 qts cold soft water.
1 cake of Acme soap, 6 teaspoonsful of common salt, 6 teaspoonsful of salsoda4, 6 teaspoonsful of rosin5. After it has boiled enough, add three qts of cold soft water, then six teaspoonsful of turpentine.
1 oz salmoniac6, 1/2 oz salts of tartar7, 2 lbs Babbits potash8, 5 lbs grease, 5 gallons boiling soft water, 1 oz oil of sassafras9.
Take a peck of wheat bran, put in a tub with water on it,
let it stand till it rises, take it off and strain the liquor
and let it sour, the sourer the better. Soak the madder over night in
vinegar, put 1/2 lb alum in a boiler with soft water,
put in rags and boil 2 hours, then throw out alum water, put dye
in boiler, let it come to a scalding heat for 2 hours, wash it in hot suds,
and you will have a splendid red.
1 lb madder, 2 lbs goods. -- This from the Detroit Tribune.
Two lbs of cloth, one of madder, 1/2 lb red sanders10, 1 oz of cochineal11, 1/2 lb alum, 1 oz cream of tartar12 . Put the coloring stull (?) in a brass kettle, water to cover goods. Keep as hot as you can bear your hand in. Air the goods, let them remain in the dye 2 hours, rinse in cold water and dry.
Sugar of lead13 8 oz, bichromate of potash14 4 oz. Dissolve in separate vessels. Soak the garments thoroughly in the lead solution, then dip in the potash solution until the color sets. (To make an orange from this dip the goods while yet wet in hot lime water15.)
Melt together with a gentle heat 1 oz white wax and 2 oz spermaceti16. Prepare in the usual way a sufficient quantity of starch for 12 bosoms. Put into it a piece of British Enamel17, the size of a large pea and it will give your clothes a beautiful polish.
Rinse the articles to be starched carefully in three waters, then dip in the starch which should be previously strained through muslin. Squeeze and shake them gently and hang up to dry. When dry, dip them in clear water and squeeze again. Spread on linen and roll up and let remain an hour.
Melt over a slow fire 5 lbs refined parrafin and when it is all melted add 200 drops oil of citronella18. To a pint of starch add a little of this mixture. This gives an elegant luster to linen or muslin.
Peel and grait two good sized potatoes in a pint of warm water. When settled, pour off the liquid, sponge the silk on the right side and iron on the wrong. Rhoda
A good polish for furniture -- take one third vinegar, one third boiled oil (linseed), one third spirits of turpentine. Apply with a soft woollen rag and rub well.
Take guttapercha19 and dissolve it in chloroform to the thickness of honey. Warm the paste when ready to use and apply with a brush. It will stand all the elements except heat.
First, remove the legs and other useless parts and soak the skin soft, then remove the fleshy substances and soak in saltpeter and Glauber's Salt20, of each 1/2 oz, and wet with soft water sufficient to allow it to spread in the flesh side of the skin. Put it on with a brush thickest in the center or thickest part of the skin and double the skin together flesh side in, keeping it in a cool place for 24 hours, not allowing it to freeze.
Second, wash the skin clean and then take salsoda 1 oz, salsad boras21 1/2 oz, refined soap 2 oz (use white hard soap), melt them slowly together being careful not to allow them to boil and apply the mixture to the flesh side as at first. Roll up again and keep in a warm place for 24 hours.
Third, wash the skin clean as above and have 3 oz of saleratus (baking soda) dissolve in hot rain water sufficient to well saturate the skin, then take 4 oz of alum, 8 oz of salt and dissolve also in hot rainwater. When sufficiently cool to allow the handling of it without scalding, put in the skin for 12 hours, then wring out the water and hang up for 12 more hours to dry. Repeat this last soaking and drying 2 to 4 times according to the desired softness of the skin when finished.
Lastly, finish by pulling, working, etc. and finally by rubbing with a piece of pumice stone and fine sandpaper. This works admirably on sheep skins as well as on fur skins of dogs, cats or wolves, making a durable leather well adapted to washing.
Dissolve 1/2 oz of gum accacia22 in a wineglass of boiling water; add Plaster of Paris sufficient to form a thick paste and apply with a brush.
Dip into melted paraffin and withdraw quickly. The paraffin should simply be melted, not hot. The flowers should be fresh and perfectly dry. They should be dipped one at a time, holding them by the stalk and removing them gently to prevent air bubbles.
Take soda 4 parts, chloride of lime23 one part, boil the soda with one gallon of water for 15 minutes, then stir in the lime previously pulverized. When cold, it can be put in a jug and kept ready for use.
Eleanor Rockwell's household hints courtesy Paul Lowrey.
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Last modified by pib on April 17, 2005.