Saturday, December 14, 2013

The American Frugal Housewife, part 2

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

In her 1832 book, The American Frugal Housewife, Lydia Maria Child passed along “interesting recipes and remedies, advice on parenting and [a] myriad responsibilities of housekeeping.” The American Frugal Housewife remained a popular book for decades and, undoubtedly, many copies of the book made their way west with young brides and experienced mothers alike.

 Some of her advice to the would-be frugal housewife:

Make your own bread and cake.  Some people think it is just as cheap to buy from the baker and confectioner; but it is not half as cheap…your domestic, or yourself, may just as well employ your own time as pay them for theirs.

An ounce of quick-silver, beat up with the white of two eggs and put on a feather, is the cleanest and surest bed-bug poison….

It is a good plan to put earthen ware into cold water, and let it heat gradually, until it boils, —then cool again. Brown earthen ware, in particular, may be toughened in this way.  A handful of rye, or wheat, bran thrown in while it is boiling, will preserve the glazing, so that it will not be destroyed by acid or salt.

The oftener carpets are shaken, the longer they wear; the dirt that collects under them, grinds out the threads.

Feathers should b thoroughly dried before they are used. For this reason they should not be packed away in bags, when they are first plucked.  They should be laid lightly in a basket, or something of that kind and stirred up often.

After old coats, pantaloons &c. have been cut up for boys, and are no longer capable of being converted into garments, cut them into strips, and employ the leisure moments of children, or domestics, in sewing and braiding them for door-mats.

Cream of tartar, rubbed upon soiled white kid gloves, cleanses them very much.

Do not wrap knives and forks in woollens. Wrap them in good, strong paper. Steel is injured by lying in woollen.

Where sweet oil is much used, it is more economical to buy it by the bottle than by the flask.  A bottle holds more than twice as much as flask, and is never double the price.

The neatest way to separate wax from honey-comb is to tie the comb up in a linen or woollen bag; place it in a kettle of cold water, and hang it over the fire. As the water heats, the wax melts, and rises to the surface, while all the impurities remain in the bag. It is well to put a few pebbles in the bag, to keep it from floating.

Mrs. Child was a fascinating character of her time, and I thought I’d done a previous blog on her, but I can’t find it.  I do know I investigated her life, which was not an easy one. So, not sure what I did with the information after I found it, but if you have a few minutes, look up Lydia Maria Child on the internet.  And if you write in the 1800’s, look up her books, too.  They are great insights for that era.

Oh, I see that I’ve already passed on some of Mrs. Child’s tips (including some repeated here…I must have really liked those).  Check out more of her tips HERE.


  1. She was certainly famous, wasn't she? Didn't she lose her readership by delving into politics? Thanks for a great post, Anna Kathryn.

  2. Yes, Caroline, she did. I know I actually wrote on her, because I know way too much about her not to have. But I can't find that post anywhere. At the very least, it should be in my computer. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I adore this book. Some of Mrs. Childs' advice could be put to good use today, and other bits seem more than a bit strange by contemporary standards.

    Although her very vocal stands on rights for women and Indians got her into trouble politically and lost her readers by the score, her poem "Over the River and through the Wood" never suffered during the holidays. (In Child's original version, the poem mentions Thanksgiving and grandfather; later versions, including a song, refer to Christmas and grandmother.)

    Thanks for bringing Mrs. Child to the blog, Anna Kathryn! She must have been a fascinating woman. :-)

  4. Great ideas. I remember my Danish grandmother used to have those rag rugs she'd made from fabrics of outgrown clothes or rags. I'd forgotten about them. Thanks for a good memory, Anna Kathryn.

  5. Awesome household hints, Anna! I am not much of a housewife I guess. And I am terrified of baking with yeast!

    And I so love the Over the River and through the Wood poem/song. Thanks for a great post.

  6. These hints are absolutely fantastic. Why didn't I think of that remedy for bedbugs?
    Rag rugs...even my mother made rag rugs, and let me tell you, they lasted forever. However, she could never get me or my sisters to elarn how to make them.
    Feathers? Yes, I recall Granny doing this. She had a huge feather bed, where she slept alone. I bet you never saw a more wonderful, perfect feather bed. Every morning, she fluffed and turned that bed, put on the sheets and spread and the top was perfectly rounded. No one, and I mean no one better try to sit on that bed...or even touch it. The men in the family--who all wore Stetsons..really! came in and gently laid their hats on there, careful not to make a dent.

    But at age 3 or 4, I had my tonsils out--in a doctor's office with chloroform--and Mother and Daddy took me to Granny's house. Guess where she let me lie down with a feather pillow under my head, next to an open window so I'd get the summer breeze? Right in the middle of her made-up feather bed.
    Wonderful post. Thanks.

  7. Hi, Everyone! So sorry for not checking in before now...I think we all know this is a very busy time of year. Oh, lordy! I found Mrs. Child to be a fascinating. I really wish I can find my blog on her! LOL. I know I wrote it out, but I don't think I ever used it.


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