Hygiene for the Worker: 1912 guide to being a sweet-smelling prole


14 Responses to “Hygiene for the Worker: 1912 guide to being a sweet-smelling prole”

  1. Stefan Jones says:

    NB: #2 was a gag. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a common attitude back then.

    #3, #4: I agree about the daybed idea.

    I have my own personal retiring room . . . my Civic. Where I nap during my lunch break.

  2. Antinous says:

    Apparently Grunge is older than previously thought.

  3. noen says:

    Mankind has always been grungy and filthy. And remember, the English had only recently discovered bathing. Many considered the very idea of immersing yourself in hot water and scrubbing with soap bizarre if not our right insane.

  4. Takuan says:

    1912? so only the well to do bathed every week? Working people owned one suit of clothes, hot water came by the kettle off the wood stove, soap was lye, towels coarse as emery, houses largely unheated, privies in the backyard, cheap perfume substituted for absence of skin bacteria, leisure time belonged to the church, no employment standards existed, antibiotics were a dream and no internet? Ah, the good old days.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I find the illustration a little creepy — the woman is in the foreground, it seems, but if the man were standing, he would be twice as tall as she looks.

  6. syncrotic says:

    Being somewhat bored tonight, I actually read about 100 pages of this thing. The advice in it actually doesn’t age too badly: dress modestly, be clean and presentable, eat well, don’t drink and smoke, etc. All of this will help you maintain self confidence and dignity, which don’t have to be beneath you just because you work in a turn-of-the-century factory.

    Of course some of the advice is typical early century medical pseudo-science: the importance of cold fresh air, the idea that milk is essential to your health, that the wrong foods will have dramatic effects on your disposition, nasal douching, etc.

    Some of the things it has to point out are kind of shocking by modern standards: that shared workplace drinking cups are unsanitary, for example? Seriously? There was a time when that *wasn’t* considered the case?

    That said, some of it is downright progressive: it mentions labour laws and implies that workers have a right to expect safe working conditions. Much emphasis is placed on the importance of guarding moving parts on machinery, it actually suggests that you bring up safety concerns with management, and that you find other work if you feel things are unsafe.

    The whole thing has an interesting undercurrent of puritan morality to it, suggesting leisure activities that will grow you as a person while warning against the evils of crude motion pictures and dance halls at which drink is served. It’s not unsound advice, but it is a little condascending (probably even by the standards of the day) and represents a fairly narrow view of the world… the kind of naive optimism that the proles should seek to better themselves by attending performances of the classic plays and operas. Maybe when they’re done they can attend a Chautauqua event for their vacation.

    Cool find, and a good way to waste an hour or so.

  7. pseudonym says:

    I guess this means no Casual Saturday ?

  8. pollyannacowgirl says:

    Well, I think the rules still apply today.

  9. Sputnik says:

    “There is nothing more distasteful to the average business man than unclean finery.”

    Tell THAT to the Nation of Japan.

  10. Ernunnos says:

    “There was a time when that *wasn’t* considered the case?

    Prior to the water fountain it was common to drink water from a common dipper hung from a chain next to a bucket. It was a common vector for TB. The inventor of the drinking fountain was partly inspired by the death of his father to typhoid fever and by the illness he saw while working as a supervisor in a factory.

    Lot of things we think of as common sense had to be learned the hard way.

  11. Stefan Jones says:

    p.172 “The hygiene manager of a modern factory or works will take into account only modern, scientific understandings of Female Biology. As a result, retiring rooms should be made available, where employees afflicted by The Curse during working hours can immure themselves. Such rooms should be equipt with a bell or horn, so inmates can signal the hygiene manager or his deputy, so they may signal a cab or ambulance to remove her from the workplace.”

  12. Jerril says:

    Honestly, I think every company should have a small office with daybed so anyone who feels quite unwell can rest there until a taxi or a friend (or an ambulance) comes to pick them up.

    Whether it’s “the Curse” (dum dum DUUUUM), acute migraine, influenza, or whatever, someplace quiet to lie down, lights optionally dimmed, would be appreciated. Also handy for lunchtime power naps.

    Spare office space being what it is of course, it would be promptly turned into a multipurpose “meditation, prayer, yoga, break, and meeting room, with daybed” and you’d have to book three days in advance to get 15 minutes kip in.

  13. Jerril says:

    (Not to say that the original idea of “OMG she’s spotting quick toss her out” wasn’t ridiculous, but there’s the kernel of a good idea lurking around it)

  14. Lord Xenu says:

    That doesn’t look too different from my employee manual, actually.

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