Friday, November 4, 2011

1123 pieces of practical advice

No, not all of them at once! But I would like to share with you over the course of a few months some excerpts from a book I picked up for a Euro at a local antique store.

That outfit on the right would be perfect for a crisp Autumn day

The title, "Die rechte Hand der Hausfrau: 1123 praktische Winke und Ratschläge", translates to "The Housewife's Right Hand: 1123 Practical Tips and Pieces of Advice."

At the time this book was published, Germany was still recovering from World War II, and thrift was not only a virtue but a necessity. Especially during the current economic downturn, remembering the hardships of previous generations can put our own needs into perspective. The lucky lady who first owned this booklet paid 60 "German pennies" ("deutsche Pfennige", abbreviated Dpf.) for it.

It is published by the "Deutsche Heimat Verlag" based in Gütersloh, which according to this website had already changed its name three years prior to the date this book appeared. The editor, Fritz Uhlemeyer, opens the preface with an explanation of how he decided to reprint the book due to popular demand.


Vielfältige Anfrage aus allen Kreusen haben mich veranlaßt, dieses wertvolle Büchlein neu herauszugeben.

Heute werden Sie noch mehr denn je bestrebt sein, all' die wertvollen und meistens überteuerten Nahrungsmittel, Bekleidung, Wäsche, Möbel, Hausrat usw. vor Verderb zu schützen.

Die besten Waffen in diesem Kampf sind das Wissen und Können des einzelnen. Alles kann nun aber auch die erfahrenste Hausfrau nicht von nur 60 Dpf. in keinem Verhältnis zu dem tatsächlichen Wert des Buches steht, Helfer und Ratgeber sein.

Gütersloh, im März 1950.
Der Herausgeber


Numerous requests from various sources have prompted me to publish a new version of this useful booklet.

Today more than ever you are striving to protect all the precious an usually overpriced foodstuffs, clothing, linens, furniture, household goods, etc. from deterioration.

The best weapons in this battle are the knowledge and skill of the individual. But not even the most experienced housewife can know everything, and this booklet, at the low initial cost of only 60 German pennies which is in no way proportional to the actual worth of the book, should serve as an aide and practical guide for her.

Sie sparen sehr viel Zeit, Ärger und Geld, wenn Sie diesen Ratgeber immer zur Hand haben.

Generationen haben teures Lehrgeld bezahlt.

Sie haben den Nutzen davon!

Was Ihnen in der Wohnung, im Hause, oder im Garten Kopfschmerzen macht, in diesem Büchlein finden Sie auf alles eine Antwort.

You will save much time, hassle and money when you always have this handbook at hand.

Generations have learned the hard way.

You reap the benefit!

Whatever gives you a headache, be it in your apartment, house, or garden, you will find the answer to everything in this booklet.

I will not lie to you. Some of the information in this book has little or no relevance for the modern reader, either 1) because it is simply not true (I will post some examples of these at some point), 2) the average person has no access to some of the products or materials described or 3) the problem alluded to has been eradicated or largely solved. Even still this little booklet does (as Herr Uhlemeyer insists) contain a good deal of practical help.

The index headings alone suggest what was important for the German housewife in 1950.


Aufbewahrung und Frischhaltung von Lebensmitteln
Nützliches und Wissenwertes für den Haushalt.
Stoff- und Wäsche-Behandlung
Schuhe und ihre Behandlung
Blumen und ihre Pflege
Wichtige Gartenwinke
Haustiere und ihre Pflege
Körper-, Gesundheits- und Schönheitspflege
Erste Hilfe bei Unglücksfällen

Table of Contents

Storage of Foodstuffs and Preserving their Freshness
Cooking Tips
Useful Things Worth Knowing for the Household
Stain Removal
Caring for Fabric and Clothing
Shoes and their Care
Flowers and their Care
Important Garden Tips
Pets and their Care
Obliteration of Vermin
Caring for Body, Health, and Beauty
First aid for Accidents and Poisoning

Now I ask you: how much has changed since then? Wouldn't you agree that most of these are headings you could find in a practical household guide published today? And the ones that appear obsolete, do they not also tell us something about modern products and values? For example, knowing how to keep shoes in good condition would have been invaluable back then because footwear was made to last many years, being constructed in such a way that parts showing wear could be replaced if necessary. This simply is not the case with many, if not most shoes on the market today.

And without further ado, a few bits of practical (or at least entertaining) advice from Herr Uhlemeyer:

240. Schubladen lassen sich leichter öffnen, wenn man alle Ränder mit trockener Seife bestreicht.

Drawers open more easily when you coat all the edges with dry soap.

664. Kakteen werden im Winterhalbjahr ganz besonders wenig gegossen. In wärmeren Zimmern gießt man etwa alle 14 Tage wenig. Zuviel gegossene Kakteen bringen keine Blüten.

Cactuses are watered particularly little in the Winter months. One should water them approximately every 14 days in warmer rooms. Cactuses that have been watered too much will not bloom.

171. Zwiebelgeruch entfernt man von Messern, wenn man in diesen Mohrrüben schneidet.

An onion odor can be eliminated from knives when you use them to cut carrots.

629. Nasse Schuhe stellt man zum Trocknen auf Leisten oder, wenn solche nicht vorhanden sind, auf alte Lappen oder Zeitungspapier.

Place wet shoes on rails/slats to dry, and if none are available, on old rags or newspaper.

14. Gutes oder schlechtes Mehl unterscheidet man, wenn man eine Handvoll zusammendrückt. Gutes Mehl klebt zusammen, schlechtes nicht.

Good flour can be distinguished from bad (spoiled) flour by pressing together a handful. Good flour sticks together, bad does not.

I cannot attest to the correctness of any of this advice, but I imagine many of these tips could be tried out without too much trouble or risk.

Finally, a brief word about subsequent editions of this book. This post from a gardening forum would suggest that it continued to be published in a similar form (with the number of tips at 1123) up to at least 1966, although (according to a quick internet search) the cover format was changed by 1962. This post from a German blog shows that by 1973 the subtitle had been altered to "over 1000 tips". My edition, if you will note, is still printed in Fraktur font, a charming feature which was changed for the editions from the 60s and 70s.

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