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Mrs. Baker: 1918

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. From a batch of orphaned negatives whose captions are "No caption." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. From a batch of orphaned negatives whose captions are "No caption." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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For Erzsi

I think you might have confused boric acid with borax since I do know some people used boric acid sprinkled on the floor as an insecticide. They also used it for washing babies eyes and other uses which are now VERBOTEN as that stuff can be dangerous and poisonous. My mom used it to clean wounds (also NOT recommended). No wonder I turned out all warped and twisted.


There's a reason they still make 20-Mule-Team Borax: The stuff is amazing! I mostly use it to scrub counters and clean the bathtub, it removes stains like a dream without bleach. And the box has a ton of other uses for it. It's great if you are trying to have a greener kitchen. Ladies like Mrs. Baker probably knew that the only things you really need to clean properly are borax and white vinegar.

Borax and other neat stuff

20 Mule Team Borax is now produced by Dial Corp., along with other wonderful household stuff. Dial soap was started by the Armour meatpacking company then sold to Greyhound Bus Lines as a way to diversify business in the 1960's. Right after Dial sold off Greyhound they purchased the Boraxo and 20 Mule Team products. Funny how some things are related.


Ronald Reagan didn't take over Death Valley Days hosting until 1965 or so. To us Phase One baby boomers, Death Valley and 20-Mule Team Borax will always mean The Old Ranger, played by Stanley Andrews.


Yes they do still make Borax; I couldn't have survived potty training my toddler without it. The laundry portion of it, come on people...

Home Economics

This lady is a dead ringer for my former boss, who comes from a long line of home economics teachers. I'm going to have to forward this to her and see if it's her great-grandmother or something.

In the meantime, I'll just sit here and silently covet those enameled canisters.

What's cookin'?

This is a lovely, intriguing photo. I wish I knew what she was making and what the rest of her kitchen looked like. She looks like someone you'd like to have for a neighbor.

Wristwatch fad

The big ticker might have been an early attempt at keeping up with the Joneses, given that wristwatches took off in a major way with WWI, all those dashing fellows in airplanes and submarines found them much easier to use in tight quarters and they rapidly turned into a fashion-statement.

Egg Beaters and Borax

I have an egg beater much like the one laying on the pastry board, from my father if you can believe it. And I haven't seen 20 Mule Team Borax in I don't know how long. Do they still make the stuff?


She has a rather manly look, doesn't she?
Even her hands look masculine.

The door opens toward her

How on earth will she escape that corner?


I wonder why the borax was in the kitchen. It's sometimes used as an insecticide, but it's not something you would usually keep with the tea and spices.

[It's soap. - Dave]

20 Mule-Team

20 Mule-Team Borax on the shelf -- only 50 years until Ronald Reagan peddles it on "Death Valley Days."

what time is it ?


[Redrum! REDRUM! - Dave]

The timeless Mrs. Baker

If you cropped out the shelves on the right with their circa-1918 packages, it would be hard to pin this woman down to a specific decade. She has a sturdy, sensible countenance.

The ticker on her wrist

That's a regular pocket watch with a leather pouch fitted to it-it's ideal if she has trouble seeing a more dainty piece. Also, it'll probably be able to run longer between servicing, because the tolerances aren't going to be as close as a smaller movement.

As for the items hanging on the wall, there looks to be a funnel hanging there too, and it strikes me that maybe it was easier to keep those items in easy reach. Her kitchen may not have much drawer space (mine has three drawers, and none are easy to get to when you are working at the kitchen table.)

That's some watch

That's an unusual wristwatch for a lady. She must work in a test kitchen.

Big Time

That's not exactly a dainty wristwatch Mrs. Baker is wearing. I wonder if it is some sort of kitchen timer or has other special functions. And, should it fail, Mrs. B can fall back on her trusty keywind alarm clock.

Bottoms up

Interesting that in this woman's neat and tidy kitchen, a bottle opener and corkscrew are hanging on the wall. I'd have thought "Mrs. Baker" would have those gadgets nicely tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

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