Museum Blog

Don’t Try This At Home

A compilation of useful (?) tips and tricks of surviving in the west in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It goes without saying, don’t try these at home!


“A Cure for the Cold” from Practical Housekeeping, 1883

“To Cure a Cold – A bad cold should be “nipped in the bud.” To do this no medicine is required. A person who finds he has taken cold should bundle up unusually warm in bed with a bottle of hot water at his feet. The object is to create a mild perspiration the entire night. Before dressing in the morning take a sponge bath in cool water and apply friction to the skin until it is in a glow. The cold, probably will then have disappeared, but if not follow the same course another night. But this remedy must be applied promptly after noting the first indications – such as sneezing or running at the nose; if left a day or two, the cold will be sure to run the course. Often toasting the feet the whole evening by the fire will answer the purpose.”[1]

“To Care for Injuries” from Practical Housekeeping, 1883

“For Sprains – The white of an egg, and salt mixed to a thick paste is one of the best remedies for sprains, or bruises, or lameness, for man or beast. Rub well the part affected.”[2]

To Cure Those Addicted to Drinking Wine

“Put in sufficient quantity of wine 3 or 4 large eels, and leave there till quite dead. Give that wine to the person you want to reform, and he or she will be so much disgusted wine, that though they formerly made use of it, they will now have an aversion to it.”[3]

Rattlesnake Bite

“Kill a chicken by cutting off the head at the breast. Place the chicken breast over snakebite until venom is drawn out, 30 minutes to 1 hour.” (John Thomas, Southeast Colorado Rattlesnake Country in Thomas-Brunelli Family Papers)[4]

Cures of Denver Quakers – Ringworm

“Smoke a fine Cuban cigar and take one-half inch of ash. Wet the skin with saliva and rub the ashes in thoroughly; do this three times each day and in a week all will be smooth and well.”[5]

Exercise for Women in What a Young Woman Ought to Know, 1898

Running. To Strengthen abdominal muscles, run, lifting your feet high, like a spirited horse.”

Skipping. There is some prejudiced against this form of exercise from the fact that it can be overdone, and also from the popular idea that it is injurious to girls to jump. If they are properly dressed, and their muscles are gradually developed, and they use good common sense as to their amount of exercise, there are practically no dangers to skipping.”[6]

A printed advertising flier for Buchu Bitters, a cure all for all ails sold at the Beecher Drug Store in Cañon City, CO, ca. 1890; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center archives
A printed advertising flier for “Buchu Bitters”, a cure all for all ails sold at the Beecher Drug Store in Cañon City, CO, ca. 1890; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center archives

[1] Donald J. Berg ed., Homestead Hints: A Compendium of Useful Information from the past for the Home, Garden, and Household, (New York, Antiquity reprints, 1985), 102.

[2] Ibid, 105.

[3] Carol Padgett comp., Keeping Hearth and Home in Old Colorado: A Practical Primer for Daily Living, (Alabama, Menasha Ridge Press, 2002), 72.

[4] Ibid, 80.

[5] Ibid, 81.

[6] Ibid, 8.

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