How-To Guides

I was first alerted to the existence of these books by this list on the Mental Floss here.

In 1882, JNO. P. Headley, Jr. wrote a book called How to Make a Shoe, which you can read in its entirety here. It is a walk-through guide for shoemakers from start to finish, and talks about how to properly measure a customer, and cut, form and sew the shoe, complete with illustrations. What's remarkable about this rather (to me) dull guide is that it's 119 pages long . . . and written entirely in poem format. Each instruction or step in the creation of the shoe is in in a rhyming quatrain. For example:

Begin to sew at extreme end;
Put left-hand bristle first in;
Across the vamp our sewing extend,
Two rows that may be seen . . .

The heel-shave is a tool so good,

To smooth the heel up nice;
For when around it you have gone,
Its work will here suffice.


Another guide from this list that deeply amused me was How to Hunt and Trap by Joseph H. Batty (you can read it here). While I haven't had time to read the entire book, according to the Mental Floss site, "This book is part instruction manual and part awkward novel about men exploring their manliness."

What I did notice, however, was Mr. Batty's strange stance on endangered animals. In his chapter "Buffalo", he says that the species "has been hunted for two centuries, and for the past twenty years mercilessly and wantonly. The cows have been slaughtered until they are far outnumbered by the bulls, and the time is not far distant when the buffalo will exist in tradition only" (62).

He then immediately goes on to give us instructions for the best way to hunt buffalo. *face-palm*

He does the exact same thing for elk and moose, which were both apparently hunted near extinction in his time.

This guy also doesn't really have a very gentle way of putting things. Not that I expect a professional game hunter to be overly delicate when discussing his rather gory work, but he on occasion delights in some purple prose. For example, he writes, "It is never advisable to shoot a skunk in the head, for, if blown to atoms, the body retains its odor" (185).

He also talks about the strange practice of killing wolves by poisoning buffalo with strychnine. Buddy, there has got to be a better way to kill wolves, if you must kill them:

"The [buffalo] carcasses often freeze before the wolves find them, and they first eat the frozen blood from the thorax, and die from twenty minutes to an hour afterwards. In warm weather the action of the poison is much quicker. It takes two bottles of strychnine to a buffalo, costing the hunter a dollar and a half. Occasionally the poison is unsuccessfully used, but the hunter is almost sure of a few pelts, and is often richly rewarded. Seventy-eight wolves have been taken in Montana in a single night from one buffalo. When poisoned, the animals often freeze, and are piled up like cord-wood" (216).


Finally, in 1862, Jerry Thomas wrote How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant's Companion. It contains over 600 drink recipes, and can be consulted here. A great number of these recipes are hilariously named, including:

-Oddly specific army specialties like: National Guard 7th Regiment Punch, Sixty-Ninth Regiment Punch, and Thirty-Second Regiment Punch,
-Bimbo Punch
-Philadelphia Fish-House Punch
-Gothic Punch
-Balaklava Nectar
-White Tiger's Milk
-Drink for the Dog Days (which he says you must drink from a goblet)
-Celery Cordial
-Creme de Nymphe, or Lady's Cream (ewwwwwwwwwww)
-Creme Virginal, or Virgin's Cream (ewwwwwer)
-Culotte du Pape, or Pope's Breeches
-Instantaneous Beer
-Lait de Vieillesse, or Milk of Old Age
-Tickle My Fancy
-Tears of the Widow of Malabar

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2 Responses to How-To Guides

  1. coeli says:

    According to my 1920s slang resources, “bimbo” meant, roughly, “tough guy.” (One heck of a shift in meaning between then and the present!) So unless there was a similarly large mutation of the definition in the previous sixty years, I’m guessing Bimbo Punch is strong stuff.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Oddly enough I found the recipe below in the Drinks book. Maybe instructions in verse form was a thing? Wine, sugar, water, eggs and nutmeg heated up. I’m sort of disappointed that it doesn’t appeal to me…

    From page 54-55, 123. Mulled Wine. (In verse.)
    “First , my dear madam, you must take
    Nine eggs, which carefully you’ll break–
    Into a bowl you’ll drop the white,
    The yolks into another by it.
    Let Betsy beat the whites with switch,
    Till they appear quite frothed and rich–
    Another hand the yolks must bear
    With sugar, which will make them sweet;
    Three or four spoonfuls may be’ll do,
    Though some, perhaps, would take but two.
    Into a skillet next you’ll pour
    A bottle of good wine, or more–
    Put half a pint of water, too,
    Or it may prove too strong for you;
    And while the eggs (by two) are beating,
    The wine and water may be heating;
    But, when it comes to boiling heat,
    The yolks and whites together beat
    With half a pint of water more–
    Mixing them well, then gently pour
    Into the skillet with the wine,
    And stire it briskly all the time.
    Then pour it off into a pitcher;
    Grate nutmeg in to make it richer.
    Then drink it hot, for he’s a fool,
    Who lets such precious liquor cool.”


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