Friday, May 4, 2012

A Glimpse at Daily Life a Century Ago (and some rummage sale tips)

There are lots of rummage sales in the springtime in our area.  I suppose it goes along with spring cleaning - once you sort your belongings and find a lot that you no longer need, it's nice to donate them for a charitable sale.  My husband's parents and sister usually spend a week in late April or early May helping to run the sale at their church.  I love a treasure hunt and we always have a great time, find some interesting things and buy our fair share of unwanted items (I just tell my husband "honey, it's for the church!").

The process of setting up and running the sale takes an entire week.  By Thursday night, most of the items are organized and ready for "Friends and Family" member sale.  Here is a glimpse of the main area.  There are books upstairs along with some furniture and toys and games in another section.

This book caught my eye - I liked the pattern on the cover.

The book was published in 1909 by "The Success Company" and it contains a lot of interesting information about daily life over a hundred years ago.

The end papers have the same design as the cover and some of the household items shown are no longer in common use.  There are actually two volumes combined - the Household Discoveries section is about 750 pages and the Cookbook adds another 250 or so pages.

The style of the inside cover page is very typical for the era.  I particularly like the font used.

I always like to look for bits and pieces that have been tucked into an old book.  I found a few in this one.  First is this Notice with directions on "How to Open a Book."  I remember that we were taught to do this when we received new books at school.

This little note to "Kathy" from her Dad was tucked in at the page showing a hammock.  I thought his word choice was interesting and wondered about the circumstances that made him write the note.

The third interesting thing tucked inside was this Christmas card - very different than the cards we send today.

There are some line drawings that illustrate the text.  This rocking chair is very similar to some that we have in our family.

The Craftsman and Mission styles of furniture are described as "modern" - and of course, we think of them as antique!

Indoor plumbing and a bathroom is described as "no longer a novelty" and there is a recommendation that a furnace should be added before running water is added to a bathroom.

These are the items needed to do laundry and there are separate chapters for preparations for wash day, soap making, wash day and ironing day.  The next day after that is sewing and mending day.

 A separate sewing room is considered very important for a woman.

 A dressing table is also a necessity and I thought this image was sweet - the table is an ordinary table covered with a "dainty dimity" (dimity is a lightweight fabric woven with warp threads that create a raised stripe).

In the cookbook section, there are suddenly some colorful illustration plates.  These are table settings for a picnic or a meal at home.

Some yummy desserts...

and some more desserts - and fruit.

Jellies and molds for shaping them were explained at great length.

There was an entire chapter devoted to left-over potatoes!

One more thing I found amusing was in the preface to the cookbook section.  Isabel Gordon Curtis ("Mrs. Curtis") writes, "I believe that every woman should know how to cook, whether she is compelled to use that knowledge or not.  The knowing how is not unlike being able to swim:  you may spend nearly all your life upon dry land, then suddenly comes a crucial moment when swimming means life or death."

I think I'll find more interesting passages in the book and I have some ideas of ways to incorporate some of them into a crafty project.

So - do you think this is the only thing I brought home?  Not by a long shot!  I'll share a few more of my finds another day.  If you have similar sales in your area, here are a few things that are commonly found that I always look for when I go to a sale...

1.  Picture frames of all sizes and types.  Often there is something rather hideous in the frame - just ignore it and look at the frame to see if it could be useful.  I also look for the acrylic box frames that are easily scratched and end up at sales.  I use them as storage trays for stamps and other items in my craft room.

2.  Glass vases - there are usually an abundance of florist shop standard styles for 25 or 50 cents - great if you want to practice glass etching and not worry about ruining a more expensive piece of glass.  Look for the ones with straight sides to make it even easier to apply the vinyl or contact paper for your etching stencil.

3.  Any sort of craft supplies - sometimes there are craft kits that were never used that contain nice "ingredients" for a very low price.  These are often found in the "kids" section.  Old costume jewelry that can be altered or disassembled and used in pieces for embellishing a project is another good thing to look for.

4.  Books - some have wonderful covers, some are full of interesting images and information, some may be more or less worthless due to their condition but could be good for making paper flowers.  You might also find old music that can be used for craft projects - I have a huge stack of organ music that I lugged home from Wisconsin a few years ago...where did I put that?

5.  Baskets and small plastic crates for storage.  I found some white crates that match others that I have in my craft room already for 25 cents each.  Shelving units or racks that were meant to hold CDs or tapes are also easy to adapt for craftroom storage.

6.  Unusual bowls or canisters - these can also be attractive for storing things in a craft room.  I have all sorts of odds and ends collected in dishes and bowls that appealed to me for their color or patterns.  I like to have odd old things around to soften the effect of lots of standard white shelving.

7.  Interesting linens, fabrics and trims.  Some of these can be reused to cover mini albums or create embellishments for cards and pages.  I also look for 100% wool sweaters that can be washed in very hot water and felted (these are getting harder to find with the development of "washable wool").

Those are just a few ideas - you just have to keep your eyes open and sometimes a "treasure" will find you!

Thanks for the nice comments and emails about the superfine cuts I have been experimenting with.  I'll do a post with more details about the settings and tips for getting a perfect cut soon.  We have a lot going on this weekend so it will probably be sometime next week.  

Have a great Friday - check your local paper for notices about rummage sales!

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  1. Great find! Can' t wait to see your other treasures.

  2. This has been one of my fave posts....LOL I love love love old books. That and old craft items is what I gravitate to at rummage sales.
    Great find!!!

  3. Hi Diane, love your post, and the book. Every Saturday morning I make myself a coffee and put it in a carry cup and head out to rummage sales (we call them garage sales) and there are plenty around here. I just love finding little treasures. One man's junk is another man's treasure! Great post.

  4. I agree great post. I guess it is time for me to have a rummage/garage sale for myself. Hee Hee. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Really cool find! Can't wait to see what else you brought home.

  6. I found this so interesting! Thank you for taking the time to create this post and share it.

  7. Love this post and agree wholeheartedly. I wish I would have known you before I gave away my wool sweaters from Iceland but atleast they are being used for mittens.

  8. Hi - I am in the midst of doing an ancestors book going clear back to my grandchildren's (21-26) great, great, great, great, great grandmother. Lots of writing in the book - snippets of things my mom told me. Oh would a book like this one be helpful for the drawings and ideas of decor for pages. I am trying to make it fun - not a boring book of pictures of stiff people in stiff clothing. I hope it will be treasured for many years.

  9. What a neat find! Thanks for the trip back in time.


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