1900s

Bidets past and present

antique bidet 1800

Do you have a bidet in your bathroom? It’s always been a difference between English-speaking countries and France. Bidets have never quite caught on in the USA or the UK, except for an occasional “trend” that never really went very far. Some upper class ladies in 19th century England had French-made bidets, and in the […]

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Rag rugs – hand-made craft in an industrial age

rag rug

Rugs made from strips of cloth existed well before factories began producing cheap fabric, but not in anything like the same quantity. Even in quite poor households, rag bags of the 1800s were filling up with old clothes and scraps left over from dress-making. In the factories, there were clippings and oddments to be sold […]

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Cornishware: what did people like about it?

Cornish ware

Why did Cornishware appeal to people in its early days? Now we think of it as a British “design classic”, collected above all for its distinctive broad blue and white stripes, the core pattern of the original TG Green Cornish Kitchen Ware range. Some collectors also like less common variations: black stripes, or a storage […]

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Muff warmers & other antique hand warmers

stoneware hand warmer for muff

A hundred years ago a woman going out in the cold of winter could tuck a miniature hot water bottle inside her fur muff to keep her hands warm: like Maw’s Dainty Muff Warmer in the photo. This kind of hand warmer was on sale in late Victorian and Edwardian England. The Thermos Hot-water Muff […]

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Sock stretchers, stocking airers, and sock blockers

sock blockers stretchers

In the late 1940s a Canadian housewife, Joan Colborne,† counted her sock stretchers before tackling a backlog of laundry. She “only” had four pairs and so could not wash more than eight woollen socks at a time. If socks were not stretched out while drying they might shrink. Stretchers like the ones in the photo […]

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Showers – 19th century luxury and health

Victorian shower

The earliest showers were rather like having a pail of water tipped over you from a height. By the 1880s there were some more sophisticated contraptions available. They could be fully integrated with indoor plumbing, and came complete with an array of taps and valves to adjust temperature, water flow, and more. Patent mixers were […]

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Boot scrapers

Thumbnail image for Boot scrapers

Who uses boot scrapers in the 21st century? Portable ones are on sale for gardeners, and for anyone else who wants to tackle muddy boots before approaching clean houses, cars, or paths. But the days of iron scrapers being placed at every door are over. The finest ornamental 19th century scrapers are still there beside […]

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The White Frost Refrigerator: unique 100-year-old icebox

white frost refrigerator

Most iceboxes looked like plain wooden cabinets in the early 1900s. Without electric refrigeration, they were fitted inside with a space for  ice, which had to be topped up regularly to keep food cool and fresh. Keeping the butter hard, the milk and cream sweet, and the meat from spoiling, is a part of the […]

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Drying clothes near the ceiling

ceiling clothes dryer

It’s winter in northern Europe, and there’s no electricity. How can you dry your laundry? One of the best places of all is a laundry room in the servants’ quarters of a mansion house. A generous ceiling height means you can have frames for wet clothes and household linen in the warmest, dryest part of […]

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Pie birds: how old are these collectibles?

pie bird funnel

How many pies today are baked with a little ceramic chimney inside that supports the crust and channels away steam so that hot fillings don’t burst out in places where they shouldn’t? Also called a pie funnel, vent, or whistle, they don’t actually have to be birds, though using a little pottery bird with dark […]

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