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Selecting a Husband - 1890's style

Updated on October 20, 2014

J.H. Kellogg tells you - Everything You Always Wanted to Know...

...but were afraid to ask, is answered by J.H. Kellogg MD, in his book,

'Ladies Guide in Health and Disease' (1893)

For example, he begins his section on 'Marriage' by stating -

"The scope of this work does not permit us to consider the subject at any length in other than its physical relations."

His interpretation of 'not at any length' utilises the next 40 pages - all dedicated to this subject alone! But considering the amount of 'in depth' thinking he devoted to all things he turned his mind to - and that this was only one of his literary 'works' - maybe it is somewhat short!

Additionally, he also patented a process for making peanut butter and invented healthful, 'granose biscuits' (maybe a precursor of 'Granita' biscuits?) And I imagine you can guess what else?

Photos in this hub are courtesy of John EverBlest -

and also scanned directly from my copy of the book 'Ladies Guide in Health and Disease'

It's True - way before Snap, Crackle & Pop

...there actually were Cornflakes!

Equally true, this Dr. Kellogg is the very same inventor and producer of whole grain breakfast cereals that would evolve into the famous and much-loved Kellogg's Cornflakes.

To be perfectly honest, it was his brother, Will Keith who was the one to develop the cereal fully into the one that we know and love today, following a bitter dispute between the brothers regarding the addition of sugar to the product. Will went on to found the Kellogg Company - today producing a vast array of breakfast products.

And John became the Chief Medical Officer of the Battle Creek Health Sanitarium to further his concepts of good health through diet and exercise, good living and abstinence from many things.

Photo courtesy of John EverBlest (link in first paragraph)

His Initial Advice?

'Young ladies must understand that preservation of the species is the primary object for the institution of marriage. And most certainly not to simply gratify the 'animal' passions...' No! Definitely not. 'Any really, truly, genuine young woman would be attracted to marriage for 'the possibllities of motherhood'.

This assumes monumental importance when Dr. Kellogg tells of countless women who suffered terribly from all manner of distress and illness caused by the 'excesses' of the early weeks of marriage! He further recommends that these violent passions should be kept under control, insisting that -

'The opportunity for the gratification of the animal passions is no part of the function of marriage.'

-and that Nature's 'animal instincts' were never intended to become dominant over the dignified purpose that marriage was exclusively designed for, namely procreation and continuation of the species.

Photo courtesy of John EverBlest - (link in first paragraph)

Some Important Do's - and Don'ts

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Gentle Gymnastics are Good for Girls!Specifications for Spinal Suffering.  Moral of the Story?  'Straighten That Back!'Corsets Create Curves...and 'Crunch' you in the Middle!
Gentle Gymnastics are Good for Girls!
Gentle Gymnastics are Good for Girls!
Specifications for Spinal Suffering.  Moral of the Story?  'Straighten That Back!'
Specifications for Spinal Suffering. Moral of the Story? 'Straighten That Back!'
Corsets Create Curves...and 'Crunch' you in the Middle!
Corsets Create Curves...and 'Crunch' you in the Middle!

Optimum Age for Marriage?

Dr. Kellogg unequivocally declares that 'physiological science dictates....when the body completes its development...20-22 for a female, and 24-26 for a male'. Deviation could prove disastrous, as the progeny of 'girl-mothers' would unquestionably result in a defective child with diminished intellect, destined to live a 'short and inefficient life' - and, to prove his point, he poses the question of how many great statesmen, philosophers or authors have been born of 'girl-mothers'? See? In even further justification, Dr. Kellogg points to stock-raisers who never allow immature animals to breed!

And then there is the question of whether a young wife should take an old husband? Most definitely not, as she faces dire consequences with her offspring (IF indeed there are any), as the 'old, unhappy faces of such little ones are sad to look upon'. The good Doctor believed early death to be inevitable .... and the best possible outcome for the parents and the world in general.

Even in the 1890's, Dr. Kellogg notes that society is shocked too often by 'a matrimonial union between a blooming young girl and some infirm octogenarian whose only charm is his large fortune'.

(Some things never change, it would seem! I know there were newlyweds in America recently with a vast age difference, but unsure of the surname. However, names that do spring to mind are Hugh Hefner plus all his 'lovelies' in USA, and here in Australia, the names Geoffrey and Brynne Edelsten - 66 and 25, respectively - and he is very, very rich, and she is very, very blonde and very, very 'well endowed'.

If you need verification, check this out -

The 'engaging' Edelstens at the Brownlow Football Awards)

**In breaking news - a series of tragedies have befallen the Enchanted World of the Edelstens. The bountiful Brynne was dumped. The Gorgeous Geoffrey traded her for a new, younger, blonder and equally well-endowed number. But wait, worse has followed - he's been declared bankrupt, owing millions to many creditors. Perhaps most tragic of all, Brynne hasn't yet received her divorce settlement, and may not... ever! Could this be Karma?

Whom to Marry?,genetics, physical attributes - ALL serious considerations.

Naturally, Dr. Kellogg has a wealth of worthy (and wordy) advice. Good health and constitution are of prime importance, because the wife, who will inevitably become 'enfeebled by the duties of maternity and the double burdens of caring and providing for her household', will need to rely heavily on the strength of her spouse. (Oh yes...we women really 'get' this!)

If she ignores this advice, her children's lives could be 'blighted with disease', and when the sickly husband dies and the good woman remarries (even a healthy man!), Dr. Kellogg warns that the subsequent offspring would still have a high likelihood of being affected by the 'feebleness' of the first husband. (Now that is something to consider!)

The young lady should ascertain that her intended and/or his family have never suffered any of the following:

any contagious disease (and Dr. Kellogg dares to mention, after a lengthy preamble, that this includes venereal variety), consumption, insanity, epilepsy, congenital defects of any kind, dyspepsia, rheumatism, scrofula, and in fact, any deviation from standard health.

A strong word of warning at this point! She should never, but never take the young man's assurance alone. Checking with his parents, his relatives, his friends, and not the least, his family doctor is absolutely essential, as you can't be too careful in this matter.

Another vastly underrated aspect of husband selection is proportionate size of the couple. Large men and small women should steadfastly avoid each other, as such unions are 'physically improper' - likely to produce 'no small amount of physical suffering, and increase the dangers of childbirth manyfold.'


... now this gets ugly!

He should be 'steady, industrious and thrifty', able to 'economize and avoid extravagance'. He should NOT 'partake of the weed' (smoke) or use liquor, narcotics or other stimulants. In fact, women are advised to 'rise up en masse against the tyranny of these barbarous and debasing habits'.

(Dr. Kellogg does not publicly acknowledge female smokers in this book, most probably because smokers of the 'fair sex' had long been associated with loose morals, dubious sexual behavior, fallen women and prostitutes. And surely none of us could be in doubt at this stage of the good Doctor's feelings on this subject!) It is unknown however, how much input he had into the poster pictured.

Danger and heartbreak face the young woman who marries a man who has been 'just a little fast' - because if the young man does not care enough for the young lady whom he wishes to become his wife, to reform before marriage, he will never reform afterward.

Dr. Kellogg firmly advocates against a young woman adopting a 'missionary spirit' in the mistaken belief she can 'reform a rake'. He sternly lectures that this reformation is an impossibility, observing that time and opportunity will inevitably convert evil thoughts into evil acts.

His predicted outcome of this situation is nothing less than a fall from the path of virtue, followed by desertion, ruination, becoming an outcast from society and undoubtedly enduring eternal ruin in the afterlife.

Photo courtesy of John EverBlest - (link in first paragraph)


On the this subject, the advice is clear. 'Neither similarity or oppositeness should be sought for, but agreeableness.'

It is exceedingly important to avoid the conceited, proud, jealous and suspicious; and also phrenologists, who have 'attempted to regulate matrimonial unions according to their opinions of the bumps on the respective heads.'

As always, Dr. Kellogg has strong feelings about this question -

'Nothing is more absurd than the supposition that the adaptation of young men and young women for each other can be decided by scrutinizing the physiognomy or fumbling the cranium.'

One wonders if different conclusions would be reached according to whether the bumps had been inherited or inflicted! And could a 'phrenologist' decipher and 'read' the difference, anyway?

Many readers may be unaware that 'phrenology' was the belief that intelligence and personality traits could be 'read' by the shape of the skull and the size and shape of protuberances (or bumps) in various areas of the skull and of course, a 'phrenologist' was the 'learned'(?) practitioner.

Photo courtesy of John EverBlest - (link in first paragraph)

Some Other 'Habits'

...of the 'thirsty' kind must also be avoided at all costs.

'Habits of dissipation when once thoroughly fastened upon an individual are not easily shaken off, and though he may reform for a time, favorable circumstances will be likely to lead him back into the same channel again.'

And the poor, broken-hearted and impoverished wife says -

"The Saloon is well-named the Poor Man's Club - it keeps its Members and their Families Always Poor!"

Photo courtesy of John EverBlest - (link in first paragraph)

Parental approval?

Oh yes, this is crucial, and he firmly admonishes Mothers to -

'... exercise careful supervision over their daughters when they have reached an age proper for marriage, and have begun to receive the attentions of gentlemen friends...' and to win confidence and respect, and become their daughter's closest confidante.

Of course, this will only ensue if the Mother has 'pursued the right course from early childhood to maturity', and developed the ability to exert enough strength of influence to 'mold her child's very actions'. In other words, a young woman should never even vaguely contemplate committing her precious self to any young man 'without first consulting her mother.'

(I can hear the collective Mothers' sigh - 'If Only!')

'The young women who marry contrary to their parents' wishes and against their advice almost always regret having done so, and endure life-long misery in consequence of the one false step.'

Photo courtesy of John EverBlest - (link in first paragraph)

Many Unfortunate Accidents of Nature Can Happen...

IF a young lady ignores Good Advice, like -

'It is a weak sentimentality which leads a young woman to think it her duty to marry a young man in order to be his nurse' and -

'Hereditary tendency to insanity should also be sufficient to render a young man, otherwise in every respect unobjectionable, ineligible to marriage.'

A Word of Caution

... another one??

'Favourable opportunities for lapses from virtue' must be avoided at all costs, and the good doctor draws our attention to the fact that it is not a good idea to develop the habit of sitting up late at night, and in fact, this practice 'should be condemned and discountenanced', as he firmly believed characters should be judged by daylight, not lamplight!!

And remember - 'Every true man despises a flirt.' Trifling with affections, fascinating and entangling affections - for the sole purpose of amusement or rousing jealousies, is unworthy, to say the least. Such affections will wither and motives will become depraved! This is an utterly unfit woman.

And what do you think about all this 'under' clothing? Cannot imagine anything untoward happening with this many 'smalls' - layer upon layer.

At Last! Your Intended has passed 'GO'! - for the intimate 'family' Engagement Supper.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Looking for inspiration?  Just a suggestion!Recipes with 'likely' labels - like Lady's Fingers, Kisses, Harts and Darts!
Looking for inspiration?  Just a suggestion!
Looking for inspiration? Just a suggestion!
Recipes with 'likely' labels - like Lady's Fingers, Kisses, Harts and Darts!
Recipes with 'likely' labels - like Lady's Fingers, Kisses, Harts and Darts!

Now that you have Really Truly Found HIM

...there is little I can add to the good Doctor's worthy and wordy advice, except - isn't it comforting to be facing all this in the present - and NOT in the 1890's?


Photo courtesy of John EverBlest -

However, if Marriage is Not for You

....and you consider 'Something Else' - here are some carefully chosen words on the subject of -

'The Social Evil':

'This portion of our subject is one which we would gladly avoid; but we have a few words to say which we think ought to be said, and which we may not depend upon being said by any one else to the same audience to which we wish to speak, and so we address our self to the subject, though with real reluctance, with a sense of duty to be done regardless of its unpleasantness.

Prostitution is an evil which is undoubtedly rapidly on the increase.'

Whilst admitting the subject is a large one, he decides to note only a few points 'in connection with the question of causation and prevention'. (Which he does - over the next 10 pages). And his last words on the subject?

'If young ladies were brought up to work as their grandmothers were, there would be far less need for books of this character, and the army of outcasts from society which now infests every city in the land and is pouring out into the life blood of the race a horrible stream of death, deformity, and disease, would receive a much smaller number of recruits'.

(Grannies of the world - Unite!)

And Here is the Book Itself! - ...and it's SO heavy!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Front Cover - Dark Brown Leather, with Gold Embossed Title BoxThe First Page - no publish date recorded - but believe to be 1893The Spine - enclosing 672 thick pages!
Front Cover - Dark Brown Leather, with Gold Embossed Title Box
Front Cover - Dark Brown Leather, with Gold Embossed Title Box
The First Page - no publish date recorded - but believe to be 1893
The First Page - no publish date recorded - but believe to be 1893
The Spine - enclosing 672 thick pages!
The Spine - enclosing 672 thick pages!

Are You Edified and Enlightened? - or Simply Stupefied Speechless by Science?

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    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Excellent lens, Dr. Kellogg I guess had everyone's best interests at heart, but life without fun (in moderation of course) would be very dull. Very entertaining, blessed.

    • iijuan12 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      Nice lens! Very entertaining. Liked.

    • SayGuddaycom profile image


      6 years ago

      Must get the wife to read it!

    • GonnaFly profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Must get my teenage daughter to read this =D

    • stephenteacher profile image

      Stephen Carr 

      7 years ago from Corona, CA

      I enjoy old fashioned books and times. Nice lens! Is truth timeless? Or is it just reworked into new ideas?

    • avgsuperheroine profile image


      7 years ago

      fascinating! This was really original

    • profile image

      Pete Schultz 

      7 years ago

      I am somewhat stupefied, and I now realize why I always preferred Cheerios.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Where was this book 21 years ago before I married? I am going to have to find this book to give to my teenage daughters.

    • profile image

      flowski lm 

      8 years ago

      There's actually a couple of good ideas buried somewhere in this very entertaining 1890's guide for the ladies!

    • profile image

      flowski lm 

      8 years ago

      There's actually a couple of good ideas buried somewhere in this very entertaining 1890's guide for the ladies!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Congrats on your Purple Star. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a fabulous lens! Really interesting and "his not at any great length" consisting of 40 pages made me laugh out loud. I really enjoyed reading this. Great work here.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      8 years ago

      Oh my, I believe I am stupefied speechless! Imagine being a woman in that century. Fascinating stuff. Congrats on the purple star too.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I love and collect old books on ettiquette and housekeeping. This is one I had not seen. Aren't they a hoot! Actually it's a little frightening to think of women's roles back then.

    • dancerene profile image


      8 years ago

      I am Stupefied Speechless!! =S

      Congratulations on your purple star :)

    • blujeanmomma profile image


      8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Congratulations on your purple star. Although many of the above ideas may seem ridiculous to us, imagine what they'll think about our way of "selecting a husband" and our lifestyle 100 years from now. They'll probably just shake their heads and wonder how we survived.

    • drifter0658 lm profile image

      drifter0658 lm 

      8 years ago

      I, for one, am heartened by the obvious fact that most women that this was satire (at least I would hope so) :D

      Funny stuff and kudos on the Purple Star!

    • LadyLovelace LM profile image

      LadyLovelace LM 

      8 years ago

      I am mostly speechless. Well, not so much, because I've read a lot of this good ol' Victorian advice before and it's usually hilarious, but this particularly so.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      8 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I guess I fall in to the Stupefied Speechless category. Thank you for sharing this amazing book!


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