Looking Back


Keeping the Home Clean and Healthy in the Good Old Days

Just as we sometime seem to be obsessed with cleanliness today, back in the previous century, store shelves displayed many products to keep families healthy and homes clean. Some of these products are still "available" at Onoway Museum.


The fly catcher with its long strip of sticky paper helped get rid of those pesky insects, especially when canning or butchering. Each tube was 2 inches tall and inches across and contained a sweetly sticky strip several feet long. The instructions are simple: Warm up a little. Pull out coil slowly. Hang from ceiling away from sunshine and draft.


Soon it was covered with black blobs and had to be pulled down, to be replaced with a new fly catcher.


To keep the walls looking clean and bright, rather than using paint, many people chose Kalsomine, a cheaper alternative. The note on the box says "Kalsomine gives a beautiful soft finish to interior walls and ceilings. It may be applied on plaster, wallboard, in fact on any clean interior surface. It is very economical to use for it is low in cost and easy to mix and apply."

Kalsomine is made of slaked lime and might rub off on clothing if you leaned against it.

Seidlitz Powders

Fly catchers

Kalsomine was used to paint walls and ceilings.

Seidlitz Powders

Chemicals of different sorts could be readily purchased to fix what ailed you. Need a laxative? Try Seidlitz Powders. Stuffy nose or chapped skin? You need Mentholatum. Or if it's just an antiseptic to put on a cut or burn, go for Boracic Acid. Child having a rough time teething? Give him some Gripe Water.

But if you needed to do some serious mending (a torn seam on a shoe, or a hole in the coarse heavy woolen trousers) then the right kind of needle was available. These needles are several inches long and could pierce a hole through some fierce material!


Life was not easy but people did what they needed to do to stay healthy and clean. The local general merchant was a reliable source of cheap and effective supplies.

Gripe Water
Medical Helpers
Farmer Needles

Gripe Water helps a child
when teething.

Boracic Acid, Saltpetre (used to salt meats) and Mentholatum

Long strong needles worked through
rough fabric or leather.

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Last updated: March 8, 2019