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Could You---Would You?

Updated on August 29, 2009

If you could go back in time to a different era, would you?  Could you have managed the everyday life?  Our history has taught us one thing that there is no perfect place on this planet.  Yet, that being said at one time or the other, we will read something about the past era's and imagine what in our mind it must have been like.  "Oh, I wished I could have lived then," or "Oh, those were the good ole days,"  We said these phrases or we heard others say them.



 A simple fire place, sawbuck table and straw mattress was as far as luxury went on the frontier.  Other regions enjoyed abodes, as many city dwellers couldn't afford their own homes and lived instead in boardinghouses and dingy tenement buildings.  Many of the poor picked through the rags and trash to exist, this called rag-pickers.

Most of the 1800s the citizens knew nothing or could they have imagined the conveniences that spoil homeowners--- of today.  Yet we complain?

1874 Kitchen
1874 Kitchen

Electricity arrived late in the century.  So did the telephone.  There was no television, radio or stereo, no microwave or flick on a switch for lighting.  No! lighting came from candles or from oil or gas lamps.  Refrigeration was unknown until the invention of a simple icebox.  The kitchen in the summer must have been sweltering.  Their water had to be heated over the stove, little wonder that irregular bathing was referred to as Saturday night baths.  The typical family didn't own a built-in tub until well into the second half of the century.  A round wooden or tin tub was hauled out onto the kitchen floor or into a bedroom and filled with hot water from the fireplace or stove. 

1874 Market
1874 Market

The home was a woman's domain or maybe one might describe as her confinement.  She did all the chores by hand.  The wash, cleaning.  Just imagine making all your family's clothes by hand, and then preserving of the food and cooking all the meals from scratch. 

At that time a publication, "The Frugal Housewife" by Mrs Child was widely used for its household tips:  The following was published in 1836, in "The American Frugal Housewife."

•  Always see that beef and pork are always under brine; and that the brine is sweet and clean.

•  Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared.  One pint of course salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water.  If there be to much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs.  They should be kept covered with lime-water, and in a cool place.  They can be kept perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years...

  New England Rum, constantly used to wash the hair, keeps it very clean, and free from disease, and promotes its growth a great deal more than Macassar oil.

  Honey mixed with pure pulverized charcoal is said to be excellent to cleanse the teeth, and make them white.  Limewater with a little Peruvian bark is very good to be occasionally used by those who have defective teeth, or offensive breath.

Many European travelers complained bitterly of the awful food that the Americans ate.  Some said that it would certainly injure the stomach.  "In the morning at breakfast they deluge their stomach with a quart of hot water, impregnated with coffee and they swallow that with half-baked bread soaked in butter and slices of salt or hung beef."


Cracklin' Bread:  Corn bread mixed with the residue of fried hog fat.

Beef Dodger:  A corn cake filled with minced beef, eaten through out the century.

Chicken Fixins:  Chicken was eaten fried, or in stews, pies.  The fixins, implied to dressing or any added combinations that were left over that could not be preserved---no food was wasted.

Oysters:  Hugely popular nationwide from 1810-1870.  They were sold in the streets, in saloons with drinks, they were broiled, boiled, deviled, curried, fricasseed, fried, scalloped, steamed, stewed and tossed into omelette's and many other dishes.  Oysters were the center attraction of many wealthy parties.

Mock Oysters:  Imitation oysters made from a mixture of corn, eggs, butter and flour fried in oil, were concocted in the South during the Civil War.  This was a substitute for those that had very little provisions.

For those that had homes, root cellars were a place under the house or dug out in a hill, where turnips, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, squash and onions could be kept relatively fresh throughout the winter.


In the 1800s, four-fifths of all Americans worked on farms.  The second half of the century, many abandoned farm life to work in the city.  Some of these people found a better way of life but many others became disillusioned.

About forty thousand women were working full-time jobs in New York around 1870.  Most sewed garments.  Yet, all had one thing in common, they were paid a fraction of what the men received.  The abuse to working woman were bad, but those of the children were even worse.  Despite child labor laws, tens of thousands of children could be found working in shops and factories, sometimes for ten and twelve hours per day, for negligible pay.

Many men turned to being "Street Vendors," hawking a wide variety of boods.  It was common to hear daily vendor cries:

Fish:  Fishmongers with carts shouted, "Fresh fish fit for the pan," or "Shad! buy shad!" "Here comes the fishman bring out your dishpan, Porgies at five cents a pound."  This was sometimes folloed by the blowing of a tin horn.

Fruits & Berries:  When in season, fruits and berries were hawked with the cry;  "Raaaaaaspberrrries!   Blaaaaaackberrrries!"

Pepperpot:  Women hawked kettles of stew from carts, with shouts---"Pepperpot, righthot!"  "All hot come buy my pepperpot!"

Milk"  Sold early in the morning on city streets, with cries of "milk---fresh milk!"

Now please don't get me wrong, there were many new inventions, and without those simple but great people like Edison, Wright Brothers and many more we would not be enjoying the life that we live today.

Oh yes, I stand there and impatiently tap my foot waiting for the micro-wave to take thirty-five seconds to re-heat my cup of cappuccino.  Then standing in line at the super market with a big cart full of prepared meals----that's just plain ridiculous.

No! my dear friends as my Cajun Grandfather who lived 100 years of this life, said many times---"Man or Animals do not walk backwards.  I have learned from the past but it's the future that I look forward to.


The Future
The Future




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    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Pachuca thanks, I think we should always learn from the past.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I would love to go back to the former days. I would live off the land like the Natives did....What a wonderful hub full of so much education!

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      OK Cris, I was going to invite you to go along on a outer space ride to ??????. I know about the past but I'm mystified about the future---COME ON LETS GO!!!!

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I wouldn't even if I could. I'd like to be always mystified of the past. I guess it's the sentimental in me. Besides what I have now, or where I am now is just fine by me. Still, thanks for putting forward that interesting question and prospect :D

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Feline you are right, if you didn't have it you---don't miss it!

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      9 years ago

      GN, people who lived back in those times were probably happy with their lot, since they didn't know what to expect in the future. Why shouldn't we be happy with our times? :)

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Yes Jerilee, we all seem to pick out the good things in the past and dream on those. Yet, as you know my 34 years making a living in the electronic world has made me a electronic gadget--Freak, I want them all. Love ya.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      I sometimes like to wax poetic about the times past and dream endlessly about what it would have been like to live in those times. Yet, when it comes down to it, technology excites me, like my IPOD and my computer -- even when it frustrates me and I can't keep up with it. I want it all to time travel back to see for myself certain moments in history and to be able to come back and enjoy my comfortable life, especailly in the a/c. Great hub mom!

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      GT-what tribe would you have been in? My Cajun roots show Huron. I too would have liked to seen our wilderness in that time era--untouched by man. Just think the indians walked on land that no one else had. As far as you adjusting to technology---I think that I would have to whip someone's butt if they took that computer away from you!!!!

      Smireles, I'm with you all the way---I love both.

    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 

      9 years ago from Texas

      I love to think about the old times and I am a history buff but I love my technology and anything about outer space. I know it is a contradiction but I believe we must look ahead! Great hub!

    • goldentoad profile image


      9 years ago from Free and running....

      I'd like to go all the way back to the tribal indian days. I am having a difficult time adjusting to the ever changing technologies. But I am know I have to, or at least try.

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Yes, William I agree in some areas we are taking two--steps forward and one--back, yet yesterday will never come back--so we will just have to keep on walking forward.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I was born 30 years too late. If I could do it over I'd begin life in 1905. That's because I think the best time on earth was from 1910 to 1963, despite the fact that they included two world wars and the Great Depression. We didn't have all the luxuries of today, but the music was fantastic, talking pictures and movies were wonderful in the Golden Age and the friends and family lived in the neighborhood (not all over the country as they do today.) We're making progress in a lot of ways today, but we're also sliding backwards in some very important ways.

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Yep Teresa---I agree I've been in some of those times and I love today and especally---Tomorrow

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Yeah -- I'm happy right where (and when) I am. . . you describe a life full of way too much hard work, for me.


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