Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Make a Snowman, 1895

"The first process in this, as in all large constructions in snow, is to roll up large snowballs; two large ones are wanted for the body, and one of lesser dimensions for the head... Having selected a suitable site, one of the great snowballs must be rolled thither, and firmly set in its place by mounding up and ramming the snow all round it, and the top flattened off to receive No. 2. Now comes the difficulty how to lift No. 2 into its place. A hand-barrow, shutter, or hurdle are the best things, but if none of these be available, a very effectual substitute may be extemporized out of a few stout sticks lashed crosswise... No. 3 must be set up in like manner, and the block now stands ready for the sculptor. The elaboration of detail must, of course, depend upon the genius of the carver... the most satisfactory tool to work with is a pointed mason's trowel: with this the whole of the carving, however elaborate, may be done... By the way, it is quite useless to attempt to stick limbs or features on–they must all be cut out of the solid mass. Your snow giant complete, the more eccentric the accessories with which you can provide him the better, such as a shocking bad hat, a long pipe, a besom for a sceptre, or, best of all, a good big dilapidated umbrella; and having got him you may do what you like with him; but decidedly the very worst use you can put him to is to knock him to pieces." 
J. G. Wood, The Modern Playmate
In olden times, men were giants and snowmen were snow giants.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Cure Stomach Pain, 1697

Conrad Gesner, Historiae animalium
"If you apply a living duck, the feathers being pulled off behind, to the Stomach, it will ease the Pain of the Cholick." 
John Pechey, A Plain Introduction to the Art of Physick
Feeling a little crampy? What you need is the soothing touch of a duck's bare bottom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to Use a Standing Desk, 1888

"The desk at which the individual stands when writing, should slightly incline from the front upward. It would so project as to give ample room for the feet beneath, which should be so placed as to be at nearly right angles with each other, the right foot forward, the principal weight of the body resting upon the left. Incline the left side to the desk, resting the body upon the left elbow, as shown in the above engraving, thus leaving the right arm free to use the muscular or whole arm movement, as may be desired. The desk should be so high as to cause the writer to stand erect, upon which the paper should be placed with the edge parallel with the desk." 
Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms
Between the mustache and the standing desk, the 1880s have all the style cues you need to be the hippest guy in the office.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Be a Novelist, 1901

"Most authors indulge in little eccentricities when working, and, if the time should ever come that your name is brought before the public notice, it would be advisable to develop some whimsical habit so as to be prepared for the interviewer, who is sure to ask whether you have one. To push your pen through your hair during creative moments would be a good plan; it would reveal a line of baldness where you had furrowed the hair off, and afford ocular proof to all and sundry that you possessed a genuine eccentricity. Or if you prefer a habit still more bizarre, you might put a hammock in a tree, and always write your most exciting scenes during a rain-storm, and under the shelter of a dripping umbrella."

How to Write a Novel: A Practical Guide to the Art of Fiction

Characters? Check. Plot? Check. Charmingly grotesque neurosis? Check.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Have Beautiful Arms, 1896

"Beautiful arms are a powerful weapon in the armory of beauty; but though most women appreciate to the full the charm of this possession, the fact remains that in America undeveloped arms are the rule, and rounded, dimpled symmetry the exception. Lately, however, the gymnasium is producing charming arms. Exercise is essential to the development of the arms: exercise, that is, of the arms themselves. Gymnastic exercises that bring the muscles of these into play should be, as far as possible, encouraged in girls, as tending not only to their improvement in this particular, but as being beneficial to the general health."

Maud C. Cooke, Social Etiquette

Finally, the secret of powerful and dimpled arm perfection: go to the gymnasium and exercise the arms themselves. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Make Turnip Wine, 1796

"To make Turnip Wine. Take a good many turnips, pare, slice, and put them in a cyder-press, and press out all the juice very well; to every gallon of juice have three pounds of lump-sugar, have a vessel ready just big enough to hold the juice, put your sugar into a vessel, and also to every gallon of juice half a pint of brandy; pour in the juice, and lay something over the bung for a week, to see if it works; if it does, you must not bung it down till it has done working: then stop it close for three months, and draw it off in another vessel. When it is fine, bottle it off."
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

When will your turnip wine taste fine? Maybe right after you've downed the last bottle of non-turnip wine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to Entertain a Lady, 1883

"On all occasions when a number of people convene together, whether indoors or out, the laws of courtesy should be obeyed. It is the duty of the gentlemen to be ever attentive to the ladies. If it be a picnic, the gentlemen will carry the luncheon, erect the swings, construct the tables, bring the water, provide the fuel for boiling the tea, etc. On the fishing excursion they will furnish the tackle, bait the hooks, row the boats, carry the fish, and furnish comfortable seats for the ladies. In gathering nuts, they will climb the trees, do the shaking, carry the nuts, and assist the ladies across the streams and over the fences."
Thomas E. Hill, Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms
Attention, gentlemen: it's not enough to hold the door for the lady. You must also be prepared to construct an alfresco playground, transport trout, and scale a nut tree at any moment. This is the law of courtesy.