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Attic cleaning leads to magazine discovery

My brother Dale, who lives in North Bloomfield, was doing some needed house cleaning recently. One of the things he was going through was some old papers and books that had been stored in his attic for many years.

Among the interesting things he found was an old 1864 Atlas of Portage County. It was not in very good condition, with the binding gone and the cover separated from the main contents.

Dale and his family found in the Atlas some artist sketches of the old family farm in Freedom Township as it looked in 1864. The sketches were “dressed up” so the farm appeared to be neat, mowed with a fence around it — perhaps nicer than it really was.

When they were through with it, Dale passed the Atlas on to me to decide what we should do with it. I consider it too valuable to destroy so have been exploring places where I might get it restored. A librarian friend has found a place that I will contact.

When I turned the old cover over to the first page, I found a copy of the May 1939 Capper’s Farmer, a well-respected farm publication popular in the Midwest years ago. It is still published today by a different company and is a totally different magazine, written mostly for hobby or part-time farmers.

Why that 1939 copy was saved in the old Atlas is a mystery to me. There must have been some good reason, but we’ll never know what it was. It did give me a snapshot of what life was like about 80 years ago.

The publication had more than one section. There was one about new farm equipment. Several advertisements were found for automobiles. Then there was a fairly large section for the homemaker.

One of the interesting articles was on the “new electric refrigerator,” including information about how it would fit into the kitchen of that time, the painted finish and the ability to keep and store food for several days.

On the next page was an ad for Servel Electrolux refrigerators that ran on kerosene. They were advertised as low cost to run, quiet, and no moving parts. It said “every day you can enjoy the same marvelous convenience, the same joys of ice cubes, ice cream, and frozen desserts that millions of city folks have.”

Today you can still find these kinds of kerosene powered refrigerators in some homes in the Amish community. Many Amish homes still use ice that they have cut and stored in ice houses for their refrigeration.

One of the first ads in the publication was for Sal Hepatica, advertised as a “mild, gentle laxative, also for excess gastric acidity.” This drug was first introduced in 1887 and became more popular in 1903 until about 1956 when it was replaced by other drugs. According to the computer, you can still buy Sal Hepatica from several sources, but apparently is not the drug of choice for most people.

The soap Rinso had a big ad saying it produced “bigger, long lasting suds even in the hardest of waters.” We don’t hear much about this soap today but apparently it is still made as both a detergent and soap.

One author wrote an article on hats. She said “if you are thinking about making sassafras tea or some other spring tonic to give you pep and energy, take a tip from me and make a new hat instead. There isn’t anything like it to make you feel gay and happy.”

Life was different those 80 or so years ago. We were faced with challenges, but nothing like what we have to deal with today.

John Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle.

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