Our Victorian American ancestors were inventive people. They needed a solution for perishable food in the worst of summer’s heat (and beyond). They came up with a remarkably well-insulated icebox (officially called a refrigerator far earlier than you might guess), designed to be a beautiful piece of furniture and functional. Some iceboxes went so far as to serve the melted ice water by silver tap. This article contains Victorian instructions for care and cleaning of 19th century refrigerators, advertisements, a crime committed with an industrial-sized (believe it or not: a walk-in) refrigerator, current images of antique iceboxes (both family size and commercial size), the icebox’s impact on beer, and so much more.
Pop Quiz! Were screen doors (and window screens) invented BEFORE or AFTER 1870? Do you know?
This article includes images of the screen doors on historic homes (taken recently), images from Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalog and Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog, as well as historical information about why and how screens were invented during the Victorian era, as well as a solid answer about whether these household basics were invented before or after 1870. The answer just might surprise you.
The history of indoor toilets (including those that flush) goes back further into history than you might expect. I share the timeline of such facilities, followed by surviving examples of Victorian indoor toilets, schematics of proper plumbing techniques of the day, and floor plans including indoor tubs and toilets. Victorians–at least late Victorians–had life pretty comfortable.
Old West homemakers churned their own butter as part of a time-intensive process. Churning butter depends upon much more than simply agitating cream–temperature matters. Can you imagine trying to churn butter on a bitterly cold day or in the heat of the summer when the process depended upon a narrow range of temperatures?
Despite knowing this book was probably only about the Victorian Era in England, and hence households in Great Britain, I was hopeful I’d learn plenty in this nonfiction volume about households of the era outside of GB. I’m satisfied that I did, without the author touching on it.
While America wasn’t mentioned, more specifically, my specialty of the Western United States, the fact remains that the Old West (and the U.S. at large) did have a Victorian Era. England’s Victorian attitudes, practices, expectations, and culture most certainly did impact and strongly influence the United States. It’s evident that many things would be the same in all western cultures, e.g. housekeepers dyed curtains and repainted furniture as needed– upkeep that is most out-dated presently.
I read this book specifically for my own ongoing research and understanding of history. It explains a great deal in four chapters: 1) Middle-class Victorian Homes, 2) Mistress of the Household, 3) Recruiting and Replacing the Servants, and 4) Life Below Stairs.