Victorians took their hair seriously: “Want Good Hair?” asked Godey’s Lady’s Book (1861). Throughout the nineteenth century, much advice circulated in magazines, newspapers, and cook books regarding how to cleanse hair (long before shampoo was invented), use of combs, whether or not to cut kids’ hair and more!
In this Blog Article Series about Victorians and Oatmeal, we’ve seen cookies (both with and without raisins), Victorian attitudes about oats for food (rather than fodder), and vintage newspaper clippings highlighting the attitudes of some American Victorians. This article is still about oatmeal–and Victorian woman using those rolled oats in bath sachets to soften the skin. See the Victorian-American bath sachet recipe(s).
If you had to guess, would you suppose that petroleum jelly (specifically, Vaseline brand) was a nineteenth century “invention”? Too late? Too early? Pick a year, any year. Then open this article. Prepare to be amazed!
While bath tubs of various styles were available in cities by the mid-nineteenth century, the American Old West didn’t have easy access to delivery of such finery until after the Transcontinental Railway in 1869 (followed by additional railroads bringing delivery nearer to home) eliminated freight by horse-drawn wagon. Historic images of Montgomery Ward & Co. catalogs and Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs illustrate available options–some of which are simply too ingenious to miss! Who knew a kitchen sink so easily doubled as a bath tub? Or that a five-and-a-half-foot bathtub could fold up? Price comparisons (then to now) show why it took a good long while for most folks to afford more than a public bath (next post) or a bowl and pitcher to make do.
Open discussion of a woman’s menstrual cycle (and hygiene needs) are a relatively new development, but women have been coping without modern feminine hygiene products for millennia. The Victorian-era American women had many conveniences for their day, including ready-made, catalog-ready products marketed specifically for them. Hygiene often included douching with specially designed syringes. The timing of the first truly disposable product just might surprise you. This article contains images from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog and Montgomery, Ward & Co. catalog of the day.