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Vintage Household Hints from 1909 to Use Today

Updated on July 13, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.


Household Tips from 1909

I collect old books of household advice and manners. Sometimes the vintage advice seems quaint and outdated, but often the methods are still useful today, 100 years later.

The tips I'll share here come from a slim red pamphlet called Facts Every Housekeeper Should Know. It was published in Detroit, Michigan by the Pohl Printing Company in 1909.

The graphic is a card available from Zazzle: Doing Dishes by lostlit. It shows a housewife washing dishes in her kitchen in the early 1900s.

Food Tips from 1909

  1. Sprinkle the top of a cake with flour as soon as it is turned from the pan. Wipe most of the flour off before icing. The icing will spread more easily and will not be likely to run.
  2. Pumpkins should be kept in a dry part of the cellar, apples in a moderately dry part; turnips should be kept in a damp part of the cellar.
  3. When making pastry, roll in one direction only if you want it to be light. Rolling first in one direction and then in another is almost sure to make it tough.
  4. In making sponge cake, if you desire it to be yellow, use cold water; hot water makes it much whiter.
  5. Add a piece of baking soda the size of a pea when cooking gooseberries. Used with a quart of the tart fruit, it will materially reduce the amount of sugar required to sweeten.

Make a Vintage Apron with This Pattern

1910-1912 Edwardian Apron Pattern
1910-1912 Edwardian Apron Pattern

I remember reading Anne of Green Gables. The farm women wore long aprons like these. With this pattern, you can make your own apron just like your grandmother or great grandmother would have worn in that era.


Cleaning Tip from 1909

To clean bottles, break egg shells In small pieces, Put the small pieces of egg shell and some clear water in the bottles. Cover the opening and shake the bottle repeatedly.

It the bottles are extremely dirty, add a small quantity of baking soda.

(from the 1909 Chicago Tribune Household Hints Column)

Food Tips from 1909

Canning food was a popular way for homemakers to preserve their garden produce.
Canning food was a popular way for homemakers to preserve their garden produce. | Source

Granite Ware Canning Kit - 12 Pieces

Granite Ware 0719-1 Enamel-on-Steel Canning Kit with Blancher, 12-Piece
Granite Ware 0719-1 Enamel-on-Steel Canning Kit with Blancher, 12-Piece

My folks used their granite ware canning kettles for years as they canned the vegetables from their garden. Seeing this brings back memories of their pantry filled with foods preserved by them.


Now We Use the Granite Ware Pot to Steam Lobster

This is the same kind of granite ware pot that my grandmother would have used for so many purposes.
This is the same kind of granite ware pot that my grandmother would have used for so many purposes. | Source

My Parents' Cast Iron Skillets Hung on the Wall in Their Kitchen

They had different sizes for cooking small or large foods.
They had different sizes for cooking small or large foods. | Source

Cooking with Cast Iron - Just like in 1909

You can't use a cast iron skillet on a glass top cook stove but if you have gas or electric burners they are fine.

We even got one of these to use on our BBQ grill. It's great when we cook fish like salmon. Cast iron is great for baking too. You can get cast iron forms for baking cornbread.

An important tip for cleaning your cast iron skillets and other cookware. It needs to be seasoned before the first use. When washing these, dry them immediately and thoroughly to prevent rust.

You Can Get These from Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, 12-inch
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, 12-inch

How nice, they've already pre-seasoned this skillet for you. You can get the frying pans in all sizes from very small ones, to use when you just want to cook a single egg, up to large ones for when you're cooking for a crowd.


Do You Have a Cast Iron Skillet?

Vote in the Poll

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Learn about Vintage Cook Stoves - through videos

Vintage Iron Cook Stove


Tips for a Vintage Cook Stove

A little washing soda mixed in the black-lead will remove all grease and give grates and stoves an excellent polish.

(CAUTION: this tip is intended for a vintage black cook stove, not for a modern enamel stove.)

I Enjoyed Learning Some History of Old-Time Cookstoves

Graniteware and Enamelware Is Still Available - Just like in the good old days

I use graniteware for my roasting pan. The Thanksgiving turkey wouldn't be the same without that great roasting pan. My mom had the big pots for canning, and I have the same kind for cooking lobster in at my summer cottage in New Hampshire.

Granite Ware Covered Oval Roaster

Granite Ware 0509-2 18-Inch Covered Oval Roaster
Granite Ware 0509-2 18-Inch Covered Oval Roaster

I have one of these in the large size for roasting pot roasts or the Thanksgiving turkey. It's one that I wouldn't want to do without. I also have a smaller one which is great for roasting a chicken.


Dish Washing Tips

from 1909

Use a little ammonia in the dish water when washing glassware. It will make it sparkle like cut glass.

When a tea or coffee pot becomes stained inside, fill with cold water, add a teaspoonful of soda. Boil it for three-quarters of an hour, the inside will become as bright and clean as new.

Keep Mice or Moths out of Clothes

Sprinkle some black pepper in the bottom of dresser drawers and then place newspaper over that. The clothes are protected from mice and moths this way. (March 14, 1909 - Chicago Tribune "Practical Housekeeper's Own Page")

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Did you find a tip that you could use?

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    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I was thrilled to see a few I know and use, such as rolling pie dough in only one direction and boiling baking soda and water in a teapot or kettle to remove brown stains. I think I can put that tip for frosting a cake to good use this week. Lots of good tips here. I've been wanting a better apron for years, one like my grandmother had. Those aprons are too long for practical use in my kitchen, but it would be no problem at all to raise them a little. Thanks for this page. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Pinning.

    • SBPI Inc profile image

      SBPI Inc 3 years ago

      Great lens and I do remember my Grandmothers old iron stove. lol Living on a huge farm in Massachusetts she also had a separate cookhouse in back of the house with many what are now antiques. Beautiful job.


    • profile image

      marsha32 5 years ago

      too cool Virginia---with the exception of me wanting my internet, I would love the world to go back to a much simpler time.

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

      These are tips my grandmother might give me!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      My old house actually has a root cellar where I store green tomatoes over the winter!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Great tips! Might have to try some of these. Enjoyed your article.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @hsschulte: My mom had a 1940s Searchlight cookbook, so I finally found one at a garage sale to have for myself.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is great! I imagine we could learn a lot from these housekeeping tips and save time and money!

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 5 years ago

      I have a book called the "Searchlight Homemaking Guide" by Arthur Capper from 1937. It belonged to my grandparents. I keep it because it amuses me and it reminds me of them.