Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 2

Hello, again History Lovers,

In 1923 The Farmer’s Wife—A Magazine For Farm Women invited farm women to write in regarding what pictures they admire and why. Hundreds of women responded to the prompt describing some of the most famous works of art in the world. Ten of the best letters were published. Over the course of the next several months, my Sunday posts will be some of these letters along with images of the artwork they describe so that we too might be enriched.  

What would you hang above your mantle?

Beauty and Joy

The Madonna of the Chair 1515, Raphael–Italian High Renaissance

Instead of buying each other Christmas gifts this year, my husband and I used the money to buy what we have long wanted for our home—Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair. I think the most important picture in a home should be a Madonna. As the mother is the center of the home, one of the great ideals of motherhood should hold first place.

How can anyone look at Raphael’s Madonna and not feel the majesty, love, and tenderness it portrays? It helps me to be a better mother. It is the emblem of peace and happiness that are found only in a true home. Our picture is in sepia with a perfectly plain black oak frame. It is truly “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”

Dance Under the Trees at the Edge of the Lake 1870, Camille Corot–French Landscape

Another picture which I want for our home is a landscape, Dance Under the Trees at the Edge of the Lake by Corot.

I should like this picture to be a reproduction of the dainty colors in which the original was painted and with a narrow gold frame. As a lover of beauty in nature, this picture impressed itself upon me the very first time I saw it. The word that comes to my mind when I think of it is “joyful.” Youth and joyousness fairly radiate from the wonderful landscape. Even if the youthful figures were not dancing around the tree, one would still feel this happiness, I think.

These two pictures I want for my living room. One the emblem of peace and happiness, the other of joy—pictures which have long pleased the world and made it better. –Mrs. J.A.R., Minnesota

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 359; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

My Improved Kitchen

Hello, again History Lovers!

In contrast to my previous post regarding a farm family who wired their home and farm buildings for electricity, today’s post is a letter from a Maryland farm woman who writes to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women to share how beneficial the small improvements made to her kitchen were. Her husband moved the hand water pump and sink indoors so she would no longer have to pump water in the cold and carry bucketsful into the kitchen for cooking and cleaning. He also built a worktable, moved the cookstove to a better angle, and framed in the back porch all of which created better working conditions for her.

When we bought our home, the kitchen was just a plain room about 15 ½ ft. x 15 ½ ft. with the chimney in the center back of the room. The only convenience it possessed was a large case or cupboard built on one side of the chimney. Our water supply was at the back porch, about 12 steps away from where it was needed.

The first thing we did was to build a worktable from the cupboard out toward the door that opened on the back porch. Then we moved in the pump and sink from the porch, and put them at the end of the worktable. A small case was built up over the sink between the window and the door which holds articles such as toothbrushes, paste, shaving equipment, and so forth. The sink has a drainpipe to a cesspool which carries away all the wastewater without walking a step. This is one of the best things about having a sink in the kitchen.

We were able to save a few more steps by turning the range around so that the oven door opens toward the worktable. This makes my work in that corner of the room in a space about 6 x 8 ft. and I have very few steps to make to cook a meal.

A stool that can be pushed out of the way under the worktable adds also to the general convenience. A wire dish drainer (cost 20 cents) that fits the sink saves good time in dishwashing. A rack with hooks on the wall between the cupboard and the window over the sink, hold all the little cooking utensils used daily such as eggbeater, can opener, grater.

We have recently enclosed the porch and built some shelves in same and it now makes a very useful store room and laundry.

Of course, my kitchen does not compare with one equipped with running water but for the cost, it has been worth an untold amount. I do not have any water to carry. Of course, I have it to pump, but it is much easier to do in a warm kitchen than out in the cold, and it does not seem so hard when I do not have to carry it several steps and lift it up to the table.

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 745; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Cooking With Ida–The Range

Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen cooking in her home kitchen 1917
Cast Iron Wood Cookstove 1800s

Hello History Lovers!

One hundred years ago, Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen, a prolific cookbook author, and home economics educator published a cookbook titled the Woman’s World Calendar Cook Book 1922. Each month featured menu suggestions, recipes, and an article on a topic of importance to an early twentieth-century homemaker. December’s article is titled The Range and Its Operation. By reading the article I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about the development of cookstoves. My perception was that homemakers cooked on behemoth wood-burning stoves (see image above) up until electric stoves magically appeared in kitchens across America sometime in the early twentieth century. As it turns out there were many improvements that took place along the way.

In the 1700s cooking took place in an open hearth. Late in that century the fire was taken from the hearth and placed in a cast-iron box with a flat cooking surface giving birth to the woodburning cookstove. During the 1800s these stoves became more and more user-friendly, less bulky, and highly decorative. By the 1900s experimentation with different types of fuel (coal, manufactured oil/gas, and kerosene) led to the development of cookstoves that could not only burn a different type of fuel (Kerosene) but some models could burn several different fuels (wood, coal, oil/gas) with little adjustment to the stove.

Below are advertisements from the 1920s illustrating cutting-edge ranges of the day. I have also included excerpts from Ida’s book most of which focus on economizing on the use of cooking fuels.


Advertisement for a Combination Wood and Coal Range 1924

The Coal Range

To get the best results from a coal range it is necessary to understand thoroughly its drafts and mechanism. A little practice will soon show you how to adjust these so as to economize on fuel.

In no part of one’s housekeeping is proper planning of greater value than in connection with the range, whether it be gas or coal. On ironing day, when a hot fire is needed to heat the irons, plan an oven meal of the kind which needs little actual attention—Baked Potatoes, Poor Man’s Rice Pudding, or some Casserole dish. Then, on your regular baking day, plan for further baked dishes which can be held over for a subsequent day’s meals, because the same heat which will bake your pie will also bake potatoes, or will cook the cereal.

As far as the care of the coal range is concerned, there are only two things which must be given serious consideration:

  1. Keep a clear fire by shaking down the greater part of the burned-out ashes which collect in the lower part of the grate, that the air may circulate freely, making the coals glow and give off their stored-up power.
  2. Keep the flues clean and clear of soot and dust, for if these are not kept clean you cannot have proper heat in the oven.
Advertisement for a Combination Coal and Gas Range 1924

Gas/Oil Ranges

This type of fuel was particularly interesting to me. Sometimes called gas and sometimes called oil it refers to a manufactured fuel made from coal, petroleum, waste fats, oils, or gasoline.

A little thought and care will result in materially reducing the cost of cooking by gas/oil. For instance, a steam cooker that operates over one burner makes it possible to cook two or three things at one time, and even without a steam cooker, one can still do this by the use of double and triple saucepans, all of which are placed over one burner.

The newest style of gas/oil range has a solid top like that of a coal range (as opposed to individual burners), the heat from each burner radiating so that a large surface of the stovetop around it is heated, and this materially reduces the gas/oil bill because two or three things can be cooking by this radiated heat.

There are three sizes of burners on almost all gas/oil ranges:

  1. The simmerer
  2. The regular-sized burner
  3. The giant burner

The simmerer is actually used less than any other burner, whereas it should be the hardest worked, for its heat is quite enough to carry on cooking operations after the boiling point has been reached. The giant burner should be employed only when very large cooking utensils are being used.

Be sure that the mixer is properly regulated so that enough air is burned with the gas to give a blue flame and not a red one. The latter wastes gas/oil, soils the pans and gives off less heat than the blue flame.

Advertisement for a Kerosene Stove 1920s

The Kerosene Stove

As ranges moved away from being the cookstove as well as the main heat source in a home, the kerosene stove was touted as an appliance that would help keep the kitchen and the cook cool. However, kerosene stoves never became wildly popular as they were perceived by consumers as a real fire hazard.

A kerosene stove is invaluable, especially for summer use, where gas or electricity are not available. It is sometimes stated that oil is a dangerous form of fuel to use. All fire is dangerous unless intelligently handled, and there is no more reason for banishing an oil stove than any other stove.

A three-burner oil stove with a portable oven will do the necessary cooking for a small family. Give it the same care that you would give to oil lamps. See that the oil tank is properly filled, that the wicks are trimmed, that they are long enough to reach properly into the oil, and be careful that the saucepans placed on the oil stove are not over-filled so that there is no danger of boiling over.

Baking can be done just as thoroughly with oil as with any other fuel. In baking, use the upper shelf of the oven as much as possible, especially in the baking of pies with a bottom crust, because if baked too close to the flame the under crust may become overdone before the top and filling are cooked.

Oven Temperatures

In baking with any form of fuel—electricity, gas, coal, or oil—remember that more food is spoiled by too much heat than by too little.

Accustom yourself to the use of an oven thermometer. It is inexpensive, and it does give a feeling of assurance.

  • A very slow oven, 250 to 300 degrees F.
  • A moderate oven, 325 to 350 degrees F.
  • A hot oven, 350 to 375 degrees F.
  • A very hot oven, 375 to 450 degrees F.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the use of natural gas and electricity was in its infancy in urban areas. In very rural areas it would be decades before either was available.

Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

How We Keep Christmas: A Veteran’s Family’s Burned Out Christmas 1922

Hello Friends!

The final story in my How We Keep Christmas series has given me much food for thought. The challenges faced by this young family in 1922 have made my heart ache yet filled my heart with an extra measure of gratitude for the blessings my family and I enjoy. While pondering I have wished for the “Paul Harvey’s Rest of the Story” version (for those of you old enough to remember his weekday radio broadcasts) telling us that this family lived happily ever after. Sadly that version doesn’t exist except perhaps with their descendants.

Wishing everyone a blessed and healthful Merry Christmas.

A Veteran’s Family’s Burned Out Christmas 1922

WE HAD been burned out about a year before last Christmas, losing our home and also nearly everything that we possessed. So that winter found us living in a miserable little un-plastered homestead shack, twelve by fourteen feet in size, on land adjoining our own, all we could rent until we could get on our feet again. There were four of us to occupy this gloomy, cold, little shanty, Daddy, the two boys, and myself. We had no visible means of support except to chop and haul wood. Prospects for “a happy Yuletide” were not a bit cheerful. Yet we determined to keep Christmas.

Daddy’s health was quite poor and we did not know but that he might have to go to the National Soldier’s Sanitarium and leave us on our own resources. Then a few days before Christmas, he sprained his ankle. He had a few unfilled orders for Christmas trees which had to be delivered in town seven miles away. It was miserable cold with considerable snow on the ground. Our older boy, William, aged ten, helped me to hitch the team to an old stone boat and we two hauled those Christmas trees to town. We got back long after dark, a hard cold trip down close to the snow.

While we were gone, Daddy and the younger boy, Donald aged five, had crawled out in the woods at home and cut a pine tree for our Christmas. He dragged this to the house and had it there when I arrived.

It was a question where to set up a tree in a twelve-by-fourteen house which already held two beds, a table, cupboards, a cooking stove, and a trunk. On the trunk at the foot of our bed was the only place we could set it unless we put it on one of the beds!

When both boys had drifted off to sleep,” the job of setting up and trimming the tree began.

We crowded the limby-pine through the door and succeeded in making it stand nicely on the trunk. Distant relatives in other states had mailed us small Christmas packages. These were opened and their contents hung on the tree. A friendly merchant and his wife, in town, had given me a box saying it was the “the boys.” This box proved to contain a lot of nice toys. When it and the other packages were opened and all the things they held were placed upon the tree, it made quite a display.

We squeezed out enough money from the sale of wood and Christmas trees to buy a few presents, a little candy and nuts, and some Christmas candles. It was late in the night and we were considerably tired by the time the tree was all trimmed. But we went to bed with a satisfied feeling of having done something for our boys.

Early next morning, Dad built a fire, pulled down the shades, and lighted the candles. Then he came back to bed and called to the boys. They awoke with a start and the first thing they saw was the great bright tree in all its splendor. I am sure no greater light of happiness could come into the eyes of the richest or wealthiest children on earth than that which shown in our two boys’ eyes.

For a moment, they stared in delighted, happy wonder; then there was a mad scramble for the tree. Santa Claus had been here indeed!

Our younger boy, Donald, likes engines and Santa had brought him a pretty nice big one the year before. But it had grown rusty and old-looking. So, I painted it green (a job for which Santa was given the credit) and gilt the wheels and it looked quite nice backed up under the foot of the big tree. Of course, he made for that first. William found gifts which were for him and soon each lad had an armload and were both trying to look at everything at one and the same time.

How much better Daddy and I felt than if we had followed our earliest impulse and let Christmas go by without celebrating.

We shall never let the Christmas spirit die in our home no matter how poor or hard-up we are. To be without Christmas would be like being without a home! —Mrs. Freda Klock, South Dakota

Cooking With Ida: Potato Stuffing–1924

Hello Friends,

Over the weekend, I did some Cooking With Ida, this time exploring stuffing recipes from a hundred years ago. Mrs. Allen’s book Cooking Menus Service (1924) was my source. The heading of the Meats and Meat Dishes section restates Ida’s primary focuses in her cookbooks–economy through self-reliance (cooking with what you can produce and preserve yourself) and zero-waste. This section includes several inventive/frugal stuffing recipe options. Each recipe includes bread, however, bread is not the main ingredient.

Sage and Onion Stuffing

The first recipe, Sage-and-Onion Stuffing, begins with familiar ingredients–bread, sage, poultry seasoning, and onions–six large onions! The onions are to be boiled in water until tender then finely chopped. Two cups of bread that has been soaked in cold water for one hour then squeezed dry is combined with the onions and seasonings and is then stuffed in the bird.

Giblet Stuffing

Giblet Stuffing, a common stuffing even today, is to be prepared by simmering “one set” of giblets until tender and chopping them. Two cupsful of bread are prepared (similar to the recipe above) by soaking the bread in water and squeezing it until “quite dry”. The moist bread is then tossed with two minced apples, two minced onions, prepared giblets, poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Corn Stuffing

Corn Stuffing, not to be confused with cornbread stuffing, is another option. One cupful of canned corn or dried and stewed corn (evidently including the liquid) and poultry seasoning is heated with two tablespoons of butter or butter substitute (think salt pork or bacon fat). Two cups of crumbled stale bread, minced parsley, and “scraped” onion is stirred into the warm corn mixture. It is then ready for stuffing the bird or to be baked as a side dish.

Potato Stuffing

The recipe that I chose to prepare was Ida’s Potato Stuffing. The reason for my choice was twofold. First, the recipe was made up of three cups of mashed potatoes and one cup of stale breadcrumbs with minced onion and seasonings. I love mashed potatoes, and so does my husband, so I knew he would be on board as a taste-tester. We also raised our family on meat and potatoes, so leftover mashed potatoes were always in the fridge. Following Ida’s zero-waste philosophy, mashed potatoes as stuffing would have been a natural fit for my family.

The recipe calls for three cupsful of hot mashed potatoes, and since mine were leftovers, I reheated them in the microwave. My leftovers had been seasoned with salt, pepper, melted butter, and sour cream. However, that is not what the original recipe was calling for, but it definitely elevated the final dish! For the breadcrumbs, I used one cup of panko because that is what I had in the pantry. I sauteed the minced onion in a half cup of butter instead of salt pork or bacon fat. I also sauteed a heaping cup of chopped celery for texture, even though the recipe didn’t call for it. An egg tossed in at the end to bind the ingredients together might have been a luxury a hundred years ago as hens lay fewer and fewer eggs as fall progresses. I baked the stuffing at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes in an uncovered casserole dish just until the edges started to crisp up. My kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving!

The results of our taste test revealed that it was delicious, however, we really missed the texture of bread stuffing. The chopped celery that I added helped texturally, but I should have chopped it more coarsly. In a tight economical situation, I can see using this recipe as a substitute for bread stuffing, and being proud to serve it.

Good luck in your Thanksgiving preparations and/or travels. Check back on Wednesday for a heartwarming story of a Community Friendsgiving from 1922.


Letters From Our Farm Women: Young Women Found a Library–1926

Hello Friends,

A letter published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine for Farm Women in November 1926 tells of a group of recent high school graduates who pooled their time, effort, and money to found a library association in their rural town. In order to purchase books they “got up” entertainments of every type within the community. Little by little, these young women generated enough money to purchase books and a bookcase which was housed in a corner of a store in town. Each girl took her turn as volunteer librarian. They kept regularly scheduled hours but happily made accommodations for folks who only came to town on Sunday. In time, they were able to purchase a brick building in which to house their growing library. They met with great success and the library quickly became a gathering place for young and old alike. Happy Reading!


Dear Friends: I am eligible for this letter-writing symposium (it seems like that rather than a “contest”) as I am a farmer’s daughter and for some years had charge of our farm, so am familiar with problems of country life.

How did I find books to read? The very first thing, after leaving school, fifteen of us girls started what we ambitiously called a Library Association. We each gave a dollar toward it. We “got up” entertainments. Our first was a concert by local talent, with tableaux and charades. We charged ten cents admission and made eight dollars. Next, we gave an “Antiquarian Supper.” At Christmas time, a cantata brought us enough so we could order a hundred books and have a bookcase made with doors that would lock. We kept this bookcase in a corner of the store and one of the girls acted as librarian, opening the bookcase two afternoons each week. Our pastor helped us select the books as we desired to read the best.

Then came more entertainments of one kind or another. As it was a small town with scattered farms, we did not make much money at any of them but we succeeded in raising about a hundred dollars a year for books. These were loaned to “outsiders” for five cents a month or fifty cents a year.

At length, a small brick building was offered for sale and we bought it, pledging ourselves to its payment, fifty dollars a year for six years. We bought no new books that year as we had to furnish the building. We had eight book stacks made. We had a table given us, also a chair and we found a second-hand stove. Not very elaborate but we felt so proud of our library.

We made candy that year, selling it to the few “summer people” who passed through and making enough to add three magazines to our list. We loaned these as books after they were a month old.

We now kept the library open two afternoons and two evenings of each week, from three to five, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, from seven to nine, Wednesday and Saturday evenings. For some who only came in to church Sundays, we would take four books from the library and by systematic exchanges supply a dozen families.

Of course, it took time to accumulate a library—for at no time were our earnings much over a hundred dollars a year but by careful buying, at the end of ten years, we had our building paid for and a thousand volumes on the shelves.

The library was a favorite gathering place for young and old, during the hours it was opened. Of course, all library service was freely given. How we did enjoy working for it as well as reading the books. W.P. California

Upside Down Cake Sampler–1930s

After baking the Upside Down Cake recipe featured in the October 1926 issue of The Farmer’s Wife (HERE), I became curious about the history of this type of cake.

In the mid-1920s, The Hawaiian Pineapple Company owned by James Dole held a recipe contest featuring pineapple. Information about the contest was publicized in popular women’s magazines and the response was almost overwhelming! Many of the submissions combined the newly available pineapple with a cake recipe to create a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Interestingly Upside Down Cakes were not new. They had been baked for hundreds of years using seasonal or dried fruits and nuts. The combination of cake and canned pineapple was a match made in culinary heaven and is still popular today.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake–1926

I followed the recipe from The Farmer’s Wife magazine (below) as written except for replacing the lemon extract with vanilla and adding maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings. It was delicious! The cake however was a sponge leavened with stiffly beaten egg whites. Once baked and turned out of the pan the weight of the fruit and caramel topping began at once to compress the cake. Fortunately, it didn’t completely collapse and we were able to enjoy every last crumb.

Upside Down Cake

  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs (beaten separately)
  • ½ tsp lemon extract
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp cold water

Beat yolks with sugar, add water and flavoring. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Beat well 5 minutes. Fold in well-beaten whites of eggs.

In an iron skillet melt four tablespoonsful butter and one cupful brown sugar. Cover bottom of skillet with slices of pineapple then pour the cake mixture over this and bake in a moderate oven for at least forty minutes. Start at 260 degrees let rise to 300 degrees.

*Other fruit can be used instead of pineapple.

So my question at this point was whether all Upside Down Cakes were sponge cakes, and I quickly found that they were not. Many were sturdier butter cakes. Below is a sampler of Upside Down Cakes from the 1930s:

The recipe for Pineapple Skillet Sponge (below) comes from the My Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book from 1930. It obviously is a sponge leavened with stiffly beaten egg whites and baking powder:

Pineapple Skillet Sponge, My Better Homes, and Gardens Cook Book 1930

The following recipe comes from a Crescent advertising booklet who were the makers of baking powder and the Mapleine flavoring called for in the recipe.

The All About Home Baking cookbook 1935 (below) demonstrates how other fruits such as prunes and apricots can be used in Upside Down Cakes:

Using the Miracle Cake recipe, a home baker could make three different cakes with the amount of batter that it makes!

Modern Meal Maker 1939 contains recipes for eight different kinds of Upside Down Cakes

A cookbook titled Modern Meal Maker from 1939 boasts menus including desserts for every day of the year. A list of the Upside Down Cake recipes it contains gives us a glimpse of just how versatile skillet cakes could be and how popular they were. Most of the combinations sound really good except for the one calling for fresh or canned grapes!

  • Ginger Apple Surprise—a seven-inch cake made with molasses, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves “topped” with apple slices and caramel
  • Pineapple Upside Down Gingerbread—baked in an eight-inch square pan, the gingerbread has molasses, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg with caramel and crushed pineapple
  • Grape Upside Down Ginger Cake—a butter cake with buttermilk, ginger, cinnamon and cloves with fresh or canned grapes and caramel for the “topping” to be garnished with fresh grapes and whipped cream
  • Orange Pineapple Upside Down Cake—a caramel made with brown sugar and orange juice with sliced pineapple, walnuts and stuffed dates covered over with a spice cake batter with cinnamon, cloves and buttermilk
  • Peach Butterscotch Upside Down Cake—a butterscotch sauce flavored with mace is poured over peach halves and raisins arranged in the shape of a flower in the bottom of a nine-inch pan with a sponge batter poured over
  • Pineapple Walnut Upside Down Cake—sliced pineapple, walnuts and maraschino cherry are covered with a caramel glaze and baked with a sponge cake
  • Rhubarb Upside Down Cakes—a thick rhubarb compote is spooned into the bottom of six large muffin tins then baked with a hot milk sponge cake
  • Spanish Upside Down Cakes—vanilla butter cake batter covers caramel and apricot filled muffin cups to make twelve individual Upside Down Cakes  

Upside down cakes enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the mid-twentieth century and are now, a hundred years later, all over the internet often baked in a bundt pan for a striking presentation. Some “recipes” simply call for a prepared yellow cake mix to be baked over the fruit and caramel. I think skillet cakes will live forever.


Homemade Halloween Fun — 1926

Welcome Friends!

Dressing up in costume and going trick-or-treating to nearby homes was fast becoming popular in the 1920s however, it was not very feasible in rural areas. Instead, farm families and communities would plan their own kind of Halloween fun. Parties would be held in someone’s home or a community center. Games of every kind were played including the classic Bobbing for Apples, trying to eat a donut hanging from a string, Jack o’ Lantern carving, and going on a hayride. Interestingly, the object for most of the activities for teens and young adults was to “divine” who they would marry.

Each October The Farmer’s Wife magazine published Halloween party ideas to assist their readers in planning and hosting spooktacular get-togethers — similar to the way we use Pinterest today. Party suggestions included ideas for homemade decorations, games, and activities, designs for invitations, dinner, and refreshment menus including recipes.

Another vintage tradition that lasted into the 1930s was mailing friends and family Halloween greeting cards (examples below).

Each year I host an old fashioned Halloween party by getting together with family for homemade chili and donuts followed by a hayride with the grandchildren. Can’t wait!

Wishing you a fun and safe All Hallows Eve.

Thanks for stopping by.


A Witching Party for Halloween

By Nettie Rand Miller


Send your guests a frightening invitation by copying the following poem onto orange paper and attaching it to a witch cutout:

“On Halloween when witches ride,  
Come and have your fortune tried;  
The canny witch will read your fate,  
Assembling on the stroke of eight;  
Read your fate and tell you true, 
Just what the future holds for you;  
So mount your broomstick in good time,  
But ere the day send us a line.”

Name of Hostess........................................................

Decorate the living room to represent a witch’s home. By the fireplace stands an old broom and, on the mantel, place the framed picture of a cat cut from black paper on an orange-colored background.

The witch’s black kettle in which she brews her mysterious portions hangs in the fireplace. Lacking a fireplace, it may be arranged in a corner of the room. Cobwebs of gray paper cut in strips flitter in every available place. Jack-o’-lanterns grin in the dim light and a dismal paper owl or two perched on dead branches will add to the weirdness.


Calling Up the Witch is a good game with which to open the evening’s fun as it introduces everybody and is a good icebreaker.

The door should be covered with a length of black cambric (a finely woven cotton fabric) with a yellow circle in the center. Each guest is provided in turn with three hand-sewn bean bags shaped like witches’ brooms. Each guest takes a turn in throwing the broom bags, trying to hit the orange “knocker” while pronouncing his own name. Supposing the thrower is George Black, the form of address is “George Black summons the witch to appear!” and since the name has been given three times, once each time the bag is thrown, the company learns the player’s name if there are strangers present.

The keeper of the door holds up a wand whenever the knocker has been struck then turns to say: “Witch! Come forth!”

The witch opens the door, shows herself, and immediately closes the door. The game continues until all have had an opportunity to call up the witch.

The witch then appears and guests are asked to form a magic circle by joining hands, the witch remaining on the outside. She runs around the circle touching a player, who leaves his place and begins to run (similar to Duck Duck Goose). Those in the circle count ten aloud and the witch gives chase. If she succeeds in catching the other before the count is up or on the last count, she casts a magic spell over him and changes him into some other object. Then the victim by his actions tries to make the other players guess what it is. The first to guess correctly becomes the next witch or magician and if the first one touched is not caught, the first witch must try again.

MAGIC POTIONS — To Whom Shall I Marry?

A novel method of learning one’s fate is by way of magic philters (potions) which the witch produces from her cauldron. The philters are simply small bottles filled with water and flavored in some harmless pleasant manner to suggest a magic draught. One might contain a little raspberry syrup; another, diluted currant jelly; a third could be darkened with a small piece of licorice; another similarly treated with a peppermint drop or two.

Witch labels are pasted on each philter with an appropriate interpretation. The white bottle might read:

“Whoever drinks a spoonful of the potion on All Hallows Eve shall immediately hereafter see drift before his or her mind’s vision the face of the person he or she is to marry.”

For the red liquid:

“Whoever takes a spoonful of this potion shall immediately think of the one he or she is to marry.”

For the dark liquid, there is the promise of seeing very soon the person the recipient is to marry.

In a similar manner, other potions may be arranged and the witch blindfolded takes them in turn from the cauldron.


Bewitched partners will seek their fate in still another way: The men are lined up in one row and the girls in another, while the witch stands between them and does her best or worst in choosing partners. Blindfolded, she walks down the men’s line and touches a man, immediately going across to the girls’ line and touching a girl while these two step out as partners. When all are paired, they line up in a column and pass before the witch who tells their fortunes in pairs.


Such dainties as the following may be served:

  • Rolled Bread and Butter with Olive and Cream Cheese Filling
  • Chicken Sandwiches
  • Witches’ Surprise
  • Mixed vegetable Salad
  • Witches’ Cakes decorated to represent cat faces, owls, etc.
  • Ice cream Goblins
  • Ginger Ale

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine for Farm Women October 1926, Page 491; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota *Article may be edited for length and clarity.

A Wagon Train Vacation

I love the adventuresome can-do spirit of the mother who submitted a letter to THE FARMER’S WIFE in October 1921 reporting her family’s wildly successful vacation in a covered wagon. With three children in tow, the family traversed three hundred miles to experience the adventures of their pioneering ancestors. The author even took along a “small” camera to document their journey. Those photos would have been a great treasure for her descendants.

Happy Reading!



DEAR FARMER’S WIFE: I have had the misfortune to lose my list of subjects and am not sure that vacations was one of the subjects but believe it was. If it was not, it should have been for vacations are rare and wonderful things on the farm. So, I am going to tell about the most wonderful vacation we ever had.

To begin with, I received as a present for Christmas last year, The Covered Wagon by Emerson Hough. The children were so interested in it that I told them how their own great-grandparents came from back east, hundreds of miles in covered wagons.

I remember so many tales of their pioneer days that one day I had a happy idea and suggested to the children that we take a trip in a covered wagon ourselves. They hailed the idea with delight. It was harder to get their father in the notion but finally, he agreed to try it. We decided to go to see my parents who live about three hundred miles west. We got a man to do the chores while we were away and then we prepared for our trip.

We covered the wagon with heavy duck that would keep out wind or rain. We took bed springs, mattress, and bedclothes. My husband slept on a small mattress and covers on the floor of the wagon. In the daytime, this was rolled up and put under the big bed out of the way. Under the bed, I also kept the suitcases and a covered box of provisions.

We took an oil stove to cook on when we could not make a campfire. We dressed the children in coveralls and barefoot sandals.

Many were the beautiful scenes we viewed and many the fine people we met.

I took a small camera and snapped some of the most beautiful and interesting places and jotted down in a notebook the names and some facts about each place. The children learned more about their state, its cities, occupations, and so on than they ever would have learned from studying the history of South Dakota. When we got to the western side of the state where there is free government land, thousands of range cattle, and no mail routes, we all were surprised.

Many were the pretended attacks made on our camp by “hostile Indians” and the valiant battles put up by the three small members of our party. When we came to the country where sure-enough Indians lived, they still had more to learn. Remembering the Indians of The Covered Wagon, they were rather surprised after arriving at their grandfather’s house when a real Mr. and Mrs. Flying Horse and their three children came driving in one day and stayed for dinner. We enjoyed their visit too. They were the Indian neighbors of my parents.

We greatly enjoyed living in the open. How soundly we slept and how we ate. Our youngest child had always been delicate but at the end of that trip she had gained in weight and has kept on growing ever since. That trip cost little but was worth much. I hope for another like it some time. – Gypsy, South Dakota.