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5 Great Skincare Tips (From 100 Years Ago)

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Beautiful skin. It's not a vanity to desire it. In fact, doing whatever you can to get it may very well be God's will. Marie Montaigne explains in 1913's How to be Beautiful:

Almost while I was writing this, a learned Presbyterian minister reminded the sisters of his flock about the loveliness of flowers and admonished them that women were the flowers of the human family, and, therefore, that it was a woman's sacred duty to do everything she could to enhance her beauty and so confer upon the world the pleasure in the gift of a human blossom. [How to be Beautiful]

In 1913, many women were also the cows, pack-mules, kangaroos, and brood sows of the human family. Though it may be difficult to maintain your blossom while constantly pregnant, caring for six children, driving a plow, and hand-washing the clothing of an entire family while elbow-deep in lye, it is not impossible. A true woman can surely manage it!

Here, some helpful skin-care tips from 100 years ago.

1. Avoid the salad oil

To nourish the skin on your face, Dr. William A. Woodbury, dermatologist and author of 1910's Beauty Culture: A Practical Handbook on the Care of the Person, prescribes a mix of lard, lanolin, boric acid, and white wax. Ms. Montaigne, however, sees no need for such harsh ingredients. Furthermore, she cautions against what can happen if you use the wrong skin food.

An important thing to consider in the selection of skin foods is their tendency to darken the skin or make it hairy… Salad oil, unless made from pure olives, will make the skin hairy, while pure olive extracts will not. [How to be Beautiful]

Perhaps using salad oil on your skin never occurred to you in the first place. Good! It, like impure thoughts, causes unwanted hair growth. Avoid at all costs. However, dairy products may be just the thing!

Sour milk or that which has curdled, is very whitening to face and neck. Mixed with cornmeal it cannot be surpassed as a softening bleach for the skin. [How to be Beautiful]

You can be one of those rare human blossoms that smell like curdled milk. God's skunk cabbage.

2. Don't move

If you believe that wrinkles are an unavoidable part of aging, sister, you're just making excuses. You have wrinkles for two reasons. One, you didn't rub your face correctly, and two, you will not control your emotions. Why can't you be more like the Turks?

According to Beauty's Aids, a book written in 1901 by the anonymous Countess C__:

The most simple and most effective way to avoid the appearance of lines, is to try as far as possible to keep an immobile face — that immobility which amongst the Arabs and the Turks preserves for so long the purity of their skin. And it is the same even in our country. Many unimpressionable women are such mistresses of their nerves that nothing surprises them or troubles them, they remain always serene, never crying, never laughing, hardly smiling, until they reach that stage of force of will, that they prevent their passions from showing in their faces. [Beauty's Aids]

Faces aren't for feelings, dear. If they were, what would you bottle up inside, enabling you to build enough wrenching inner turmoil to keep your figure trim? Hmm?

But if you insist on being so gauche as to have visible emotions, you have the option of a facial "massage." From The Countess:

The cheek muscles… are manipulated with a clawing motion which must be light and quick; not pinching. This will fill out hollow cheeks, while it gives firmness to the tissues and banishes the tell-tale lines of worry. [Beauty's Aids]

Presumably to be replaced by the tell-tale signs of clawing your own face daily.

3. Be good for beauty's sake

According to Daniel Garrison Brinton and George Henry Napheys, who wrote Personal Beauty: How to Cultivate and Preserve it in Accordance with the Laws of Health in 1870, the placement of wrinkles reveal your inner soul. And you can prove this theory simply by electrocuting a corpse.

Connect the poles of an electric battery with these separate muscles on the face of a corpse, and you will see the ghastly spectacle of the passions of rage, of mirth, of lust, of hate, one after another brought into horrid relief on the countenance of death. The habitual use of one of these muscles above the other, enlarges it, and leaves on the countenance marks which observers ever associate with the passion. [Personal Beauty: How to Cultivate and Preserve it in Accordance with the Laws of Health]

4. Stock up on hog's lard

The anonymous Countess C__ gives serious consideration to many injurious skin conditions: carbuncles, blackheads, warts, and, of course, freckles.

These spots, which are ordinarily called freckles, and by the learned, ephelis, are the horror of blondes, red-haired, and dark people, with a fine white skin. How do they come? Medici certant — the doctors disagree, said one of my friends, a Latin scholar. Are they a sign of an excess of iron in the system? Do they denote an anaemic temperament, a feeble circulation? No one knows. However they come, they are very disagreeable for those who are afflicted with them. Fortunately it is possible to prevent them, and, as a rule, one can get rid of them. [Beauty's Aids]

Modern times tell us, of course, that freckles actually denote a lack of soul. Still, the Countess then offers a variety of recipes, principle ingredients including turpentine, hog's lard, and acetate of lead. It may seem drastic, but it's a small price to pay to be able to walk amongst the normals without having the blackness of your heart speckled all over your face.

5. Make your own dimples

The Skin: Its Care and Treatment by Emily Lloyd is a turn-of-the-century study manual for women considering becoming "beauty operators." Most of the book is dedicated to instruction on how to use what appears to be a car battery to electrically stimulate a client's face. (A live client this time, presumably).

The sections on cosmetic surgery, though detailed, do indicate that a professional surgeon should be called upon. However, an operator can make dimples for her client, all by herself. All you need is a very sharp knife, a hook and some scissors.

After the skin has been carefully cleansed the sharp point of a very fine knife is carried into the cellular and fatty tissue of the cheek, and then these tissues drawn up with a very sharp hook and snipped off. The amount of tissue excised is hard to describe as it will depend largely upon the location selected, also upon the style of a dimple preferred. [The Skin: Its Care and Treatment]

You don't think Shirley Temple was born with those dimples, do you? Only her beauty operator knows for sure.

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This Just In
A Connecticut Farm Purchased by Mark Twain for His Daughter, Jean Clemens, Is Up for Sale
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Mark Twain—whose wit was matched only by his wanderlust—had many homes throughout his life: a small frame house in Hannibal, Missouri; a Victorian mansion in Hartford, Connecticut; and "Stormfield," a country estate in Redding, Connecticut, just to name a few. Now, the Connecticut Post reports that a farm adjacent to Stormfield, purchased in 1909 by Twain for his daughter, Jean Clemens, is up for sale.

“Jean’s Farm,” as Twain nicknamed the home, is priced at $1,850,000. In addition to a storied literary legacy, the refurbished five-bedroom estate has a saltwater swimming pool, a movie theater, and a children’s play area. It sits on nearly 19 acres of land, making the property “well-sized for a gentleman's farm, for horses, or as a hobby farm,” according to its real estate listing. There’s also a fish pond and a 19th-century barn with an extra apartment.

While scenic, Jean’s Farm has a bittersweet backstory: Jean Clemens, who had epilepsy, enjoyed the pastoral property for only a short time before passing away at the age of 29. She lived in a sanitarium before moving to Stormfield in April 1909, where she served as her father's secretary and housekeeper and made daily trips to her farm. On December 24, 1909, Jean died at Stormfield after suffering a seizure in a bathtub. Twain, himself, would die several months later, on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74.

Twain sold Jean’s Farm after his daughter’s death, and used the proceeds to fund a library in Redding, today called the Mark Twain Library. But despite losing a child, Twain’s years at Stormfield—his very last home—weren’t entirely colored by tragedy. “Although Twain only spent two years here [from 1908 to 1910], it was an important time in the writer’s life,” historian Brent Colely told The Wall Street Journal. “Twain was always having guests over, including his close friend Helen Keller, hosting almost 181 people for visits in the first six months alone, according to guestbooks and notations.”

Check out some photos of Jean’s Farm below, courtesy of

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.

 Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.

[h/t Connecticut Post]

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The Dangerous History Behind the Word 'Deadline'
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Nowadays, the word deadline is used all but exclusively to refer to a date or time by which something must be accomplished. But over the centuries, the term has been used in a number of different contexts: Among early 20th-century printers, for instance, a deadline was a line marked on a cylindrical press outside of which text would be illegible, while the Oxford English Dictionary has unearthed a reference to an angler’s “dead-line” dating from the mid-1800s referring to a weighted fishing line that does not move in the water.

The modern sense of deadline, however, may be influenced by a much more dangerous meaning. It originated during the Civil War, and came to prominence during the much-hyped trial of an infamous Swiss-born Confederate leader named Henry Wirz.

Wirz was born Heinrich Hartmann Wirz in Zürich in 1823. In his early twenties, a court forced him to leave Zürich for 12 years after he failed to repay borrowed money, and in 1848 he left first for Russia before eventually settling in America. After working a string of jobs at several spots around the country, Wirz married a woman named Elizabeth Wolf in 1854 and moved to Louisiana. After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, he enlisted as a private in the Fourth Louisiana Infantry.

One of Wirz’s first engagements in the war was the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862. He was badly wounded in the fighting, losing the use of his right arm, and when he returned to his unit a few weeks later he was promoted to the rank of captain in recognition of his bravery and service. From there, Wirz rose through the ranks to become an adjutant to John H. Winder, an experienced and high-ranking general overseeing the treatment of Confederate deserters and Union prisoners. In 1864, Wirz was put in control of Camp Sumter, a newly-established internment camp for Union soldiers located near Andersonville in rural Georgia.

Over the remaining 14 months of the war, Camp Sumter grew to become one of the largest prisoner of war camps in the entire Confederacy. At its peak, it held more than 30,000 Union prisoners, all of whom shared an enormous 16.5-acre open-air paddock—conditions inside of which were notoriously grim. Disease and malnutrition were rife, and a lack of clean water, warm clothing, and adequate sanitation led to the deaths of many of the camp’s prisoners. Of the 45,000 Union prisoners held in the Camp at one time or another, it is estimated that almost a third succumbed to Sumter’s squalid and inhumane conditions.

In his defense, Wirz later claimed to have had little real control over the conditions in the camp, and it is certainly true that the day-to-day running of Camp Sumter was a disorganized affair divided among numerous different parties. Incompetence, rather than malice, may have been the cause of many of the camp's horrors.

Execution of Captain Henry Wirtz (i.e. Wirz), C.S.A, adjusting the rope
Execution of Captain Henry Wirz in 1865

In 1865, the war came to an end and Wirz was arrested in Andersonville. He was eventually sent to Washington, and held in the Old Capitol Prison to await trial before a military commission. That fall, more than 150 witnesses—including one of Wirz’s own prison staff and several former prisoners—took to the stand and gave testimony. Many provided damning evidence of Wirz’s harsh treatment of the prisoners (although historians now think some of these testimonies were exaggerated). As accounts of him withholding food and other supplies from prisoners found to have committed even minor offenses were relayed in the press—and as the full extent of the terrible conditions inside Camp Sumter became public—Wirz emerged as a much-vilified symbol of the camp’s inhumane treatment of its Union prisoners.

One of most damning examples of his inhumanity was his implementation of what became known as the Camp’s dead line:

Wirz, still wickedly pursuing his evil purpose, did establish and cause to be designated within the prison enclosure … a “dead line,” being a line around the inner face of the stockade or wall enclosing said prison, and about twenty feet distant and within said stockade; and so established said dead line, which was in many places an imaginary line, in many other places marked by insecure and shifting strips of [boards nailed] upon the tops of small and insecure stakes or posts, he … instructed the prison guard stationed around the top of said stockade to fire upon and kill any of the prisoners aforesaid who might touch, fall upon, pass over or under or across the said “dead line” ...

—Report of the Secretary of War, October 1865

In other words, this deadliest of all deadlines was a line Wirz implemented just inside the inner wall of Camp Sumter. Any prisoner wandering beyond the line would immediately be killed.

Stories like this were all the evidence the court needed: Wirz was found guilty of violating the rights of wartime prisoners, and was hanged on the morning of November 10, 1865.

Widespread press reports of Wirz’s trial and the horrors of Camp Sumter soon led to the word deadline being popularized, and eventually it passed into everyday use—thankfully in a less severe sense.

By the early 20th century, the word’s military connotations had all but disappeared and the familiar meaning of the deadlines we meet—or miss—today emerged by the early 1920s.


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