The Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 10

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today’s post concludes The Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own series. This letter-writing campaign was sponsored by The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women in 1923. Women were asked to write in and tell about the pictures that grace the walls of their homes. A few pictures were stately portraits, some were bucolic landscapes and many were dynamic religious-themed events. The quality of the pictures that the women owned ranged from pages cut from magazines to postcards to high-quality images carried from London rolled in a steamer rug across the ocean. All brought beauty and joy to the women who submitted letters.

The Farmer’s Wife only published ten of the hundreds of letters received in their office, however, they did include a list of a few of the works of art that were mentioned in the unpublished letters. I have posted several of them below. My hope is that everyone has been able not only to enjoy the artwork in this series but has been able to appreciate the sentiments expressed as well.

My Honor Pictures

The Sistine Madonna by Italian High Renaissance Painter Raphael 1513

When we were children at home, my mother who, though of very limited schooling, was an extremely well-educated and rarely cultured woman, used to play with us a game called “Artists,” something like the game of “Authors.” Four miniature reproductions of paintings by one artist constituted a “book.” Through this simple medium, we acquired a familiarity with and an instinctive love for some of the best pictures. Thus, it was, with no hesitation, I chose as the first picture for my own home, a good copy of the Sistine Madonna. At that time, I could not buy even the simplest of scrim curtains for the windows of the room in which it hung but there was no question in my mind as to the comparative value of pictures or curtains—I simply could not imagine a living room without the Sistine Madonna. It is gospel on canvas and I feel that it is truly inspired by the love of God as John’s Gospel. Every hour we spend in our living room, the serene influence of the benign faces of the Holy Mother and Child is over us. No child who grows up loving them quite can fail to love what is good and pure and holy.

Mona Lisa by Renaissance Artist Leonardo da Vinci circa 1503

The second, I should select which I have, is the one which to me best portrays the splendor of Leonardo da Vinci’s soul. It is one which in my younger days and immature understanding, I rather disliked and feared but now the “inscrutable smile” of Mona Lisa is to me Leonardo’s philosophy of life. That smile seems to say, “These petty trappings, the pomp, the vanities of life are but the play of puppets. This little span of mortality is given thee to strive to make a soul fit to be the understanding, comprehending, sympathetic companion of God in the loveliness of His Heaven. Creation! That is all that matters.”

My home, from nursery to kitchen, is full of pictures, masterpieces all, but these two, the Sistine Madonna and the Mona Lisa, hold supremely the place of honor. –Mrs. I.L.M., Kentucky

Below are examples of artwork including the image of a statue mentioned in some of the unpublished letters to The Farmer’s Wife:

Can’t You Talk by English Artist George Augustus Holmes (1826–1911)
The Horse Fair by French Artist Rosa Bonheur circa 1852
Age of Innocence by English Artist Sir Joshua Reynolds circa 1788
Nativity (aka The Holy Night, aka Adoration of the Shepherds) by Italian Painter Antonio da Correggio circa 1529
Abraham Lincoln: The Man (aka Standing Lincoln) by American Sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens circa 1885
The Transfiguration (the final work) of Italian Renaissance Artist Raphael circa 1516

Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own–Part 9

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today a farm woman from Wisconsin shares the two pictures she would love to own, both of which have implied lessons for the beholder. The first picture represents the three greatest things in life–love, work, and religion. The second painting depicts a high ideal in manhood and womanhood. Both are lovely.


Pictures That Educate

If I could afford to buy but two pictures for my home, they should be the best copies that I could afford of The Angelus by Millet and Sir Galahad by Watts. A really good picture must not merely record some incident or picture of some person or place; it must convey some truth whether it be of human nature or Mother Nature. And I know of no other pictures which so thoroughly meet that test as do the two I have chosen.

The Angelus by French Painter Jean-Francois Millet circa 1857

The Angelus. It is a beautiful picture with a beautiful lesson. A man I know, a poor farmer with little of what the world calls culture, spent several weeks in a city hospital, and on the wall at the foot of his bed was a copy of The Angelus. He said in speaking of it, “Did you ever stop to think that that picture has the three greatest things in life—love, work, and religion?” He had read the message. The Angelus dignifies the soil and the labor of the hands, it holds up the “old fashioned” ideal of love and helpfulness, and above all, it teaches the reverence due to work and their Creator.

Sir Galahad by British Artist George Fredrick Watts 1862

Sir Galahad is essentially a picture for youth. Sir Galahad of the Round Table, the perfect knight, is not so far removed from our own youth of today. They need a coat of mail, a snowy charger, they need a high ideal to lead them to clean manhood or womanhood as the knight “without flaw” who sought and achieved the Holy Grail.

There are lesser reasons for choosing these pictures. Both are out-of-door pictures that will be at home in any country home. Both are miracles of color and line. Both have educational stories connected with them. The Angelus may lead up to numerous history lessons on peasant life and so forth. There are thousands of pictures that suggest history and geography but few which educate, in the highest sense of the word, as do The Angelus and Sir Galahad. –J.V.N., Wisconsin


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

How I Teach My Children To Enjoy Work

Hello, again History Lovers,

In March of 1923, The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women published a letter from Mrs. Haring who enthusiastically shares her tips on how to teach children to work and to enjoy doing it. She starts when the children are young and always adds an “element of fun” to the tasks assigned. Her home sounds like a happy one in contrast with the home of her friend.


Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

Combining Work With Play

“Dishwashing is usually one of the first tasks delegated to the young daughter of the family and this common duty often is done by her with reluctance and under protest. In our family we have helped to solve this difficulty, however, for Jane, my little eight-year-old daughter and I, combine our work with play.

Eleanor Smith’s Music Primer furnishes us with a variety of simple childlike songs. We select songs that Jane will probably sing at school and then proceed to learn them together. With the book propped up on a shelf over the kitchen sink, Jane and I can easily refer to it while the silver is finding its way into the rinsing pan or while the glassware is being polished. The rhythm of the music unconsciously produces an activity that Jane enjoys as well as I and which helps to convert an otherwise tedious task into a joyful half hour.

When we have memorized the words and music, we have a game. Jane and I are both to sing the song. If one of us makes a mistake, a forfeit must be paid to the other. What joy Jane experiences when Mother fails to strike the right note or forgets a word and has to pay her a penny.

Bed making, too, has its charms. Sometimes we imagine the coverings to be Indian blankets of wonderous colorings; at other times we are building a nest for a tree swallow and lining his home of grass with downy feathers. This performance leads to all sorts of questions and enables me to arouse Jane’s interest in the work which she will have at school at the same time as we are accomplishing a necessary task.

Jane has had her own room for over a year. The whole responsibility of the care of it is left to her and each morning finds her conscientiously putting it in order before she leaves for school. We worked out together the furnishings for her room and their arrangement. Her interest is kept keen in it by the constant addition of new and simple things and her ideas are always respected in regard to any changes which she may wish to make. She is unconsciously learning color schemes and household arrangements at this early age and her sense of responsibility, order, and neatness is being cultivated through her sense of ownership.

Dusting was an arduous task and many times had to be done over because Jane so disliked doing it. Choice victrola records are now being kept for this particular piece of work and are played at no other time. Since they are ones which Jane loves, she forgets the fact that she is having to work and hums the tune to the music of the record, while the dust disappears from tables, chair rounds, and window ledges.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

Cake making, table setting, and the preparation of meals have been accomplished by her through the thought of pride in doing work that “grownups” can do.

My little son, an active youngster of five, is also learning how to work joyously. When Mother needs wood, she calls on the wood fairy who alone knows the secret places in the woodshed where the best pieces are kept. He has already learned the names of the trees from which the wood comes and knows that the kinds which will make the hottest fires will furnish heat to bake a tiny pie, animal cookies, or a gingerbread man. These may be made with little trouble when larger pies, cakes, and cookies are being baked and reward the fairy in a way that interests him to bring more wood.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

He brings vegetables and fruits from the cellar and garden with an interest and enthusiasm that indicated to me that he is already realizing his responsibility in the development of our family life.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

A playroom equipped with a table, cupboard, blackboard, desk, and small chairs always suggests work. Through this channel is an opportunity for teaching many lessons in arrangement and order and also in providing entertainment for them for an hour or so at a time. The finding of some old toy gives a new interest bringing with it happiness which seems only to come through activity.

The country store is but a few rods from our house and occasionally there is a need for some article to be procured quickly. The children are, of course, the natural ones to do the errand. As with all children a fat ice cream cone, a lollipop or a stick of gum is their first thought and a request is made to use some of their money for the purchase of one of these articles. Of course, they may if they like but they must consider that once in a while we have a shopping trip or go to see some interesting moving picture and if no money is saved, these wonderful trips cannot be. They finally decide to spend one penny each and as they have been taught not to linger along the way and to bring their purchases home to enjoy them, the errand is soon joyfully finished.

My children are enthusiastic egg hunters. Not many are missed because one egg from each dozen belongs to them—not one-twelfth of the egg income—oh no! Those particular eggs are put in a separate basket and counted about six times each night. Jane puts her fourth-grade arithmetic into practice and knows the exact amount of egg money coming to them each week.

A few days ago, a friend remarked at the happy way in which the children were doing a piece of work. She said, “I don’t see how you do it! I can’t get Martha to do a single thing without grumbling. She is actually lazy.”

Well, if I thought my children were lazy, I should not admit it. I should simply get to work to correct the fault and be sure it was my fault too. I do not believe that a happy, normal child is ever lazy. Perhaps the work has been made so unattractive, that interest has been lost. Anyway, I am sure that loving tact and a sympathetic understanding of the child is sufficient to win out, whatever the problem along this line may be.

Sometimes when there is a murmur over a task which they are asked to do, I simply look at them in wonder and they shamefacedly go quickly about it. Sometimes Son asks, “Mother, are you mad to me?” and I say, “No, Son, I am only surprised.” I am not a superior elder with a threatening attitude but a pal who is ever interested in their work and their play.

Each child has his daily work to do and enjoys it as a privilege because there is always something of interest connected with it. There are many ways of solving this problem; I have outlined the way that has seemed best in my experience. Perhaps because children are naturally observing, the best example we can set them is through our own right living. If we complain over difficult pieces of work, we must expect the same expression from our children over the things which seem difficult to them. It might, then, be the reasonable thing for us to learn to enjoy all sorts of work which we need to do before we can intelligently teach the same to our children.

Through the realization of what service is, these little folks are learning to combine their work with play and are happy while they are learning lessons which are fundamental principles on which the larger lessons of life are built.

I realize, too that I am doing more for my children than it appears when I instill the principle of enjoyment in work. All success in life depends upon whether the light of joy—zest—enthusiasm—permeates the mind of the worker. The old saying about “all work and no play” covers a deep truth. The more one’s work is play, the happier one will be.”–Laura T. Haring


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 379′; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Neighborhood Activities

This Club has been the social life of our community.

~Mrs. Frances Sparrow, Piatt County, Illinois

Hello, again History Lovers!

Club membership provided rural farm women social and enrichment opportunities. Today’s post consists of letters written to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women in February 1922 regarding various club activities and volunteer work.


Letters From Club Members

Dear FARMER’S WIFE: We organized our Women’s Club over a year ago and call it the South Prairie Women’s Club. It is composed of wives of the men of the threshing ring and their daughters over fifteen years old. We meet every month, discuss all problems which bother us, school work, current events, have music of some kind, have a wiener roast in October for the young folks, a picnic in June for the kiddies, and a regular banquet in February for our husbands and, last but not least, we have a big feast with ice cream some evening when we finish threshing. This year we had our farm advisor as a guest at this supper who gave us a talk on grain marketing. This club has been the social life of our community. –Mrs. Frances Sparrow, Piatt County, Illinois

Dear FARMER’S WIFE: The people of Stony Point school district, Dickinson County, Kansas, last year realized the need of having something to bring the people together at the schoolhouse and so organized a community club. The motto is For the Good of Home and School and we met every two weeks last winter and had programs, having an outside speaker occasionally but mostly the members taking part. Two events were given for the purpose of making money: a pie social, with a spelling and ciphering match for entertainment and a play. With the money we bought gasoline lamps for the schoolhouse, cups, spoons, and plates, to be used for hot lunches by the school children and on club nights. Some books and folding chairs have been purchased. For our study work this year we are going to take topics on the United States. We find teachers and superintendents of nearby towns always willing to help with our programs –Florence Knight Killian, Dickinson County, Kansas.

Dear FARMER’S WIFE: Our Mother’s Club was first organized at the small schoolhouse Dist. 8 of Otoe County, Nebraska in the fall of 1916 with 22 members. Later the club was taken into the Federation in the spring of 1919. We meet alternately at the schoolhouse and at a home twice a month. Hot lunches were started in school for the winter months. Cupboard and dishes were bought to help with these.

Two home-talent plays have been given to make money. We also have had numerous parties including farewell surprise parties for those who leave the district and we give them some token of remembrance.

This summer we had a wiener roast picnic at Antelope Park, Lincoln. Besides these, we have our regular club banquet or open meeting to which each member’s family is invited. The object of our club is to cooperate with teachers and pupils for the betterment of school and community. –Jessie Lanning

Dear FARMER’S WIFE: A few years ago our people of the community met at a vacant house and organized a Farmers’ Union Local which took in all the members voted upon from sixteen years up. They have continued to meet from house to house every two weeks, with attendance from twenty-five to one hundred and twenty-five. While the men are holding a business meeting, the women are busy with fancy work or clearing up the tables after an appetizing lunch. A program is sometimes given. Usually, our largest gatherings are in vacation time when the young folk can enjoy a good ball game.

At one meeting a barrel of vinegar was distributed at thirty cents a gallon, so a little was saved that way. Other supplies are ordered in season. A general good time is enjoyed and everyone goes home satisfied. Nothing but urgent duty will keep one away from “the next meeting”. –Ellen B. Fleming


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 716; 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.

How We Keep Christmas: Grandmother’s House 1922

Hello Friends!

Today begins a new series–How We Keep Christmas. Each Sunday between now and Christmas, I will post a story submitted to The Farmer’s Wife by farm women from the 1920s telling how they and their family “kept” Christmas. Some stories are nostalgic, some are filled with the spirit of giving and others tell of humble, even destitute times, but all are heartwarming and brimming with the true meaning of Christmas.

Today’s story tells of a four-generation celebration at Grandmother’s house where not only family members receive a gift, but the young adults of the family get to take the car to distribute gifts to some of the less fortunate. I’m sure fun was had by all. Happy Reading!


CHRISTMAS! Ever since I was a tiny girl with dreams of a full stocking showing a doll’s head at the top, that word has meant to me the happiest time of all the year. And now with my own little girl just old enough to begin to learn the Christmas story, it is going to mean more and more to me.

I had the good fortune to marry a member of a large family. Each Christmas we all arrange to be together and what better place could there be than at Grandmother’s house? On Christmas eve, each married son and daughter bring in their family. The younger boys and girls are home from college. The twins—the youngest daughters—have a Christmas tree all ready to receive the gifts though no one is allowed even a peep until “Santa Claus comes.” Then we are invited into the parlor and what “Oh’s!” and “Ah’s!” of delight burst from the seven little granddaughters. Everyone gets something from the tree, from Bobby, the youngest baby, to her great-grandparents

As we are all farm people and some live several miles away, no one goes home that night. The next morning before breakfast the entire family gathers about the piano and through such songs as Holy Night and Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, we call to mind again the Christ Child who came to bring peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Then grandfather, still vigorous and young at heart though eighty-two years old reads us the Christmas story. As we kneel and hear him pray, we realize what a wonderful Christmas gift we all received so many centuries ago.

After breakfast, the younger sons and daughters take the car and distribute gifts which Mother has thoughtfully prepared for those less fortunate than ourselves: baskets filled with dressed chickens, canned and fresh fruits with here and there a personal gift.

Then comes the big dinner. Usually, another family or two of relatives are invited in for there’s turkey and cranberry sauce for all.

All too early evening comes, each little tot is bundled up and we are off to our own homes, each one of us feeling very much like one of the little girls did last Christmas when she said, “Mother, isn’t Christmas just a beautiful time?” –Mrs. Joe Shirky, Missouri

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

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

Letters From Our Farm Women–Celebrate the Holidays

Celebrate the Holidays

Today’s post is a letter written by a resourceful farm woman with several young children. She shares her ideas on how to keep away the winter doldrums by allowing her children to plan a bit of fun for special days. Even today children can while away the long hours of a winter afternoon doing simple (low-tech) creative projects. Enjoy! –Elaine

DEAR Folks:

 Most all mothers of small children dread winter. I have found that by celebrating the holidays as they come, we always have something to break the monotony and keep the children interested.

We start with Halloween. Even the tiniest tot wants to be a witch. If no pumpkin can be found small enough for him, we use a squash. The children do the planning and decorating with as little help as possible.

Directly following this holiday comes Thanksgiving, then Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Washington’s birth, and Easter with All Fool’s Day to end the winter.

Each day has its own set of preparations. Each child is kept busy for days at a time with simple decorations for the Christmas tree or valentines. My task is to see that they, first of all, understand the significance of the day we celebrate and learn all they possibly can about it, to see that the jokes and games are not too rough for the smallest and appropriate to the occasion.

The children make the preparations. It will not always be just right but they are learning. Most of the pleasure anyway will be looking forward to or backward upon the holiday. The holiday itself is only a day (with the exception of Christmas).

Besides these holidays there are birthdays and special days for celebrating, such as if one of the family has been ill for several days and is sitting up again, or away from home and returned, or if John or Mary receive some merit in school—much is made of it at the evening meal when the sick one can come to the table or the absent one returns or the little one receives extra praise for good work. It may be nothing more than a favorite dish served or a pair of bright candles lighted and placed on the nicely-set table or a seat of honor designated by a bunch of flowers at the lucky one’s plate.

We never let these opportunities pass. I find my children to be happy and contented and good company and they often surprise me with their original ideas. Let them try plans you know will not work out all right. Next time the plan will be different. –Mrs. J. C.C., Iowa.

The article above was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife—A Magazine For Farm Women, November 1926; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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.

How To Be a Good House Guest — 1926

Visiting family or friends for the holidays in the 1920s required advanced planning and preparation for the would-be travelers as well as the hostess. Overnight stays were often necessary due to long slow travel times. Being a good house guest (in any decade) includes politeness, courtesy, good manners, and a general thoughtfulness for the hostess – are they having a nice visit as well? Below is a submission published in the Letters From Our Farm Women section of THE FARMER’S WIFE MAGAZINE addressing this issue. The readers of the magazine voted it “letter-of-the-month” and its author, Mrs. K, received a ten-dollar ($150 today) cash prize demonstrating that the information was very pertinent. Although Americans are much more casual when visiting and entertaining now than we once were, it behooves us to give some thought to this “mighty good counsel.” Happy Reading!


 Mighty Good Counsel

DEAR Farm Mothers:

I want to tell you about some of the courtesies I feel I must teach my children.

When visiting my friends and relatives, I am nearly always treated with politeness and courtesy, but when they visit me, they often fail in this respect.

I have often wondered why this is so and at last, have come to the conclusion that we parents are neglecting to teach our children these things. They learn to be polite hosts or hostess by precept and example at home but, as the faults I have in mind are not very noticeable in childhood and are committed most frequently away from home, the parents are not there to see and correct.

When our children go visiting, we say, “Now be good; don’t eat too much; don’t take large mouthfuls; be sure to say ‘thank you’ and ‘If you please.’ Thus, we teach them to look after themselves and show their good breeding rather than to be thoughtful of the people they visit.

Here are some rules I am teaching my children:

  1. Stay no longer than invited unless urged very much—as if the urge was meant.
  2. Answer all invitations promptly. It may save people work and help in their plans.
  3. State, at start, how long you can stay. Many visits are spoiled by worry as to whether the visit will be a week or month.
  4. Leave before welcome is worn out.
  5. Write if there is a change in plans.
  6. Avoid surprises, except in short calls. Many a woman has worked all through a visit, who otherwise could have been ready and enjoyed it.
  7. Retire at a reasonable hour.
  8. Ask about time of rising and never appear until family has been up a while. Where there is no furnace or bathroom, it is sometimes impossible for a family to get baths because the company is up first, last to bed and around all day.
  9. Do not sit or stand in people’s way.
  10. Do not snoop around, listen at doors, nor enter private rooms uninvited.
  11. Help at work but do not say you “hate” to do the kind you are doing. Learn to use tact. Do not say, “This floor is so dirty; let me sweep it,” or “The flies are so thick; shall I kill them?”
  12. Do not offer to do every little thing you see undone. If the hostess sees you are unhappy unless everything is in order, she will continue to work instead of visit.
  13. Do not visit with others while hostess works, then read when she is ready to visit.
  14. Do not order the family to get any article needed about the home, nor buy meat or such after two or three meals unless you are very close relative. Then that may be your duty and privilege—not otherwise.
  15. Do not talk strange religious doctrines before children.
  16. Give others a chance to talk and don’t be forever giving advice about their affairs.
  17. Don’t stand around dining room or kitchen, as if in a hurry for a meal.
  18. If one of the family needs to eat before the rest, do not sit down with them to eat unless the hostess suggests it.
  19. Do not count cakes or other food to see if there are enough for all, and do not take the worst piece. Your hostess wants you to have the best.
  20. Do not rise before the hostess and begin to clear the table. She may wish to rest and visit.
  21. Try to eat a reasonable amount of what is set before you. If you do not, your hostess will be made considerable trouble trying to get something you do like.

Now, my readers, don’t say, “There haint no sech animal; no one does such things these days.” They do, for all these “don’ts” are built from my own trying experiences. The city and town people break these rules as much and perhaps more than the country people, and the well-educated as much as those who have less education. –Mrs. K., Michigan FWM

The above article was originally published in THE FARMER’S WIFE – A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN, October 1926, Page 481; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota