Although the term “life hacks” is a relative newcomer to our daily vernacular, the idea of household tips and tricks is far from a recent development. So when I discovered a series of century old household hints, I had to dig a little deeper.
Created by Gallaher Ltd. of Belfast and London, these delightfully illustrated cardboard inserts were included in cigarette packs as “stiffeners.” Many of the tips from this “how to” series are as useful today as they were for our great-great-grandparents!
5 century-old life hacks that are still totally useful
Tip #1: How to cool wine without ice
“If no ice is available for cooling wine, a good method is to wrap the bottle in flannel and place it in a crock beneath the cold running water tap. Allow the water to run over it, as shown in the picture, and in about ten minutes the wine will be thoroughly cool and ready for the table.”
Tip#2: How to revive cut flowers
“To revive choice blooms that have faded during transit, plunge the stems into hot water, and allow them to remain until the water has cooled. By that time the flowers will have revived. The ends of the stems should then be cut off and the blossoms placed in cold water in the usual way.”
Tip#3: How to pull out long nails
“It is often rather difficult to pull out a long nail from wood into which it has been driven, for when drawn out a short distance as in A, there is no purchase from which to pull it further. If, however, a small block of wood be placed under the pincers, as in B, the nail can be pulled right out without difficulty.”
Tip #4: How to prevent eye-glasses “steaming”
“The moisture which collects on eye-glasses cause a great deal of trouble, but if the glasses are daily rubbed with soap and well polished afterwards, a very thin invisible film of soap remains, which has the effect of preventing the condensation of moisture on the glasses.”
Tip#5: To separate glass tumblers
“When two glass tumblers stick together there is a danger of breakage in trying to separate them. The simplest and most effective method of releasing the glasses is to put cold water into the upper one and place the lower one in warm water. They will be found to separate at once.”
A few hacks that reveal just how drastically daily life has changed
Of course, not all of the century-old how-to tricks can be classified as entirely useful. “How to draw a duck without pencil leaving the paper,” for example:
Other tips are clearly dated, such as this “How to use up coal dust” card (although it does make you realize how difficult daily life was for people at the beginning of the 20th century).
There are multiple tips that involve potatoes, which were apparently in great supply.
Finally, please do NOT try this one at home.