Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ladies Home Journal

Today is the 128th anniversary of the Ladies Home Journal magazine,
originally published as a newspaper under the title
"Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper."
photo from Ladies Home Journal, January 1886,

I've always enjoyed looking at old newspapers and magazines.
I love the language, the stories, the advertisements,
and the glimpses of what concerned people generations before.
So today, I'm going to share some of the more interesting items
from the first issues of the 1885-1886 Ladies Home Journal.

In the earliest issues, each page is dedicated to a concern of women:
a page for mothers, for needlecrafts like tatting lace, crocheting, and sewing.
Also included, a "Brush Studies" page for drawing, painting, and enameling,
even an advertisement for a portable kiln for firing china.

Of course, it wouldn't be a woman's magazine without advice. 
One title warns young girls about the "Dangers of Flirting."
The short article chides  girls who are taking part in street flirting,
explaining that it will result in a "stain" on their reputations, 
causing young  men to look elsewhere for a marriageable girl.

photo courtesy of

And more concern for a girl's future prospects 
is seen in this bit of advice to mothers:
"Mothers! I say, make practical housekeepers of your daughters,
whatever else you make of them" 
because if they don't know how to keep house,
they risk an unhappy husband.

This following advertisement for an advice book
is hardly subtle in its message:
"Talks with Homely Girls,"
 an 1880's version of today's beauty magazines and makeover shows,
it offers advice on a range of topics: bathing, care of hands, teeth, 
and complexion, proper dress and manners, and deportment.

photo from Ladies Home Journal, December 1885,

And what is a 19th-century woman without an hourglass shape?
There was one fine hand-sketched advertisements for women's corsets,
"Ball's Health Preserving Corsets,"
designed to cinch in one's ample waist to Scarlet O'Hara size.
photo from Ladies Home Journal, December 1885,

 I was surprised that there were also ads for similar corsets for young children.
One, from the Ferris Company, admonished mothers not to put their children
in stiff corsets, when they should be putting them in a Ferris "Good Sense" corset,
recommended by "all physicians."

It's amazing how things change--and sometimes, don't change-- over time.
Still, I imagine some day our great grandchildren will look back at 2013
and ask, "What were those people thinking?"
And honestly, I sometimes ask myself that same question.

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