When we’ll have no running water, no hyperactive emergency services, no electricity… we are going to turn back to what people did 100 years ago. Here you’ll find some “little” survival tricks popular in the early 1900’s and (some of them) useful even today.
100 years ago Gallaher Ltd printed a short “How-To” series, with clever hints for emergency situations. The cards were distributed with packs of cigarettes. All the pictures bellow are part of the George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. Please enjoy the article.
1. How to Extract a Splinter
Take a wide mouthed bottle and fill it with hot water nearly to the brim. Now press the affected hand or foot tightly against the mouth of the bottle.
This will then cause a suction and pull the flesh down. The suction plus the steam will help pull out the splinter.
2. How to Make an Emergency Water Filter
A handy and efficient water filter can be made out of an ordinary bucket.
First make a hole at the bottom of the bucket.
Instructions: “The water percolates through the layers of fine and coarse sand, and clean picked gravel and stones, with which the pail is filled, filtering through to the bottom in a clear state.”
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3. How to Engrave on a Knife
This method was widely used during the Middle Ages and all the engravings in swords or armors. Here are some armors engraved using this traditional way
Instructions: “The steel to be worked upon should be covered completely with a coating of beeswax. The lettering or design to be engraved can then be drawn with the point of a clean quill pen. This lays bare the metal. A strong solution of sulphate of iron should then be repeatedly poured over the exposed surface for about ten minutes. The more prolonged the action of the sulphate the deeper will the steel be engraved.”
4. How to Make a Fire Extinguisher
Although is good to know, probably none of us will make these old fashion extinguishers since is much easier to buy one. And because the new ones are more effective (I guess) and definitely safer.
Dissolve one pound of salt and half a pound of salt-ammoniac into two quarts of water. Then bottle the liquid in thin glass bottles holding about a quart each.
Should a fire break out, dash one or more bottles into the flames, and any serious outbreak will probably be averted.
5. How to Purify Water in a Cistern
Easy! Stir in a tablespoon of powdered alum.
After 30 minutes the alum cause the particles and the bacteria to bound together and cause them to drop to the bottom leaving a clear purified water.
A tablespoon or half an ounce of alum will purify from sixteen to twenty gallons of water.
6. How to Treat an Animal Bite
First tight a ligature round the limb above the wound. This will stop a little bit the bleeding and it will give you a better visibility to evaluate the wound.
The next advice given back then was: “Thoroughly cleanse the wound and if there is any suspicion of madness in the attacking animal the place should be well sucked and cauterized with luna caustic, or a white hot iron, after cutting away the surrounding flesh with a sharp clean knife.”
The advice was really good for that time, when there were no vaccines. And even today doctors recommend thoroughly washing the wound as soon as possible with soap and water for approximately five minutes (to reduce the number of rabies particles). Povidone iodine or alcohol is then recommended to reduce the virus further. When SHTF and we’ll no longer be able to access vaccines this is your only option available.
7. How to Detect Escaping Gas
Gas leaks can be caused by faulty appliances, or by those that have been incorrectly installed or poorly maintained.
Some of us don’t even use gas anymore (like me) or some may have gas detectors, but either way, after an earthquake, or a hurricane or a tornado there will always be gas leaks.
This 100 years old method is risk free and quite reliable.
“Paint strong soap solution on the suspected length of pipe and the gas will then cause bubbles at the escaping point, which can be dealt with at once.”
8. How to Light a Match in the Wind
Instructions: “The familiar difficulty of lighting a match in the wind can be to a great extent overcome if thin shavings are first cut on the match towards its striking end, as shown in the picture.
On lighting the match, the curled strips catch fire at once; the flame is stronger and has a better chance.”
9. How to Find a Lost Trail
If a trail is lost, there isn’t much to do but to search for it.
A very good way to do that is to mark the last foot-print or sign you notice as the center of the circle and go round it at a distance of anything from 30 to 100 yards.
The trail should be discovered somewhere crossing the circular track you are following.
10. How to Cure Chilblains
“A simple and homely remedy, which immediately relieves the irritation and pain caused by chilblains, is salt and fresh apple juice.
The affected parts are rubbed gently with a slice of apple dipped in common salt. A good juicy apple should be used.”
11. How to Secure Loose Hammers and Axe Heads
After wedging the handle of hammer as tight as possible, drill two holes at the end of wood and drive in two large screws.
An axe-head can be secured by boring a hole through the haft just bellow head and wiring through the hole and over top.
The wire should be twisted and staple driven into a hold position.
12. How to Tell the Points of the Compass with a Watch
Take the watch of your hand. Point the hour hand at the sun and then lay a piece of wire or a blade of grass crosswise between the hour hand and the figure twelve.
The end of the wire between the twelve and the hour hand points south.
13. A Simple Cure for Catarrh
Treatment for catarrh may not be necessary because it often disappears within a few days, after your body has fought off the infection. But in some cases it doesn’t go away and it can be a health problem, especially for the underfed. In food crisis when people are poorly fed, these low-risk diseases kill more people than starvation itself.
Instructions: “Take a pinch of ordinary table salt up the nostrils, just as you would a pinch of snuff.
Then gargle the mouth and throat with warm water, being careful not to swallow it.
Do this each morning before breakfast.”
14. Three Useful Knots
No. 1 is the Timber Hitch, which is especially useful in lifting all kinds of heavy work, such as huge beams.
No. 2, the Fisherman’s Knot, shows a good method of joining two ropes tightly together.
No. 3 is the famous Clove Hitch, which becomes tighter the harder it is pulled.
15. How to Bandage a Foot
A traditional method used to make the inflammation heal faster (especially for sprain ankles) was to place a leaf of cabbage between the bandage and the ankle.
In the picture: “Rest injured foot on operator’s knee on a clear towel.
Commence bandaging in manner shown by the lower diagram, the bandage being bound over and round the back of foot in spiral fashion, and eventually fixed by means of a safety pin, just beneath ankle, as shown in upper illustration.”
16. How to Make Roller Bandages
Instructions: “A roller bandage must be rolled evenly and tightly, so in the absence of a machine a chair will serve this purpose.
The picture illustrates procedure. Whilst one person carefully rolls another pulls tight opposite end of the bandage, and at the same time sees that no folds or creases are allowed to form.”
17. How to Fell a Tree
Having decided which side you wish the tree to fall, cut alternatively a downward and inward cut as you can see in the picture – in this order.
When about half through, proceed to cut the other side a few inches higher, and finally pull tree down with the help of a rope.
In a survival situation (and not only) you can use trees for their nutritious sap.
18. How to Build a Simple Shelter
Instructions: “A simple shelter can be made by driving two forked sticks into the ground and connecting these by a pole resting on them.
Branches are then laid resting on the pole. The right angle should be around 45 degrees, and the screen fitted up with smaller branches, ferns, etc.”
19. How to Make a Water Fountain for Chickens
Instructions: “A simple water fountain, ensuring a supply of fresh water for the chickens, can be made from a pint wine bottle, supported by wire loops to a wooden upright as shown.
The bottle is inverted over an earthenware pan, with the mouth of the bottle about half an inch above the bottom of pan.”
I see that now there are even some “rodent resistant chicken feeders” which can be used together with the water fountain if you leave for 2-3 days.
20. How to Remove Foreign Particles from the Eye
Few things are more irritating than having something in the eye.
“Drop sweet or castor oil into the corner of the eye. Picture shows a ready method of allowing drop of oil to fall into eye from the poim of a paint brush.”
If the particle is of mortar or lime, bathe eye with weak vinegar and water.
21. How to Make a Chair to Cross a Stream
If your group has one or more people who cannot (maybe there are wounded) or don’t know how to swim, you might want to find a simple solution to help him cross a river. If there are nearby trees – and usually near rivers there are – all you need is a rope.
Fasten a strong rope to a tree and let somebody (who can swim) go across the stream and fasten the other end to a tree on an opposite bank.
Use another rope to improvise a chair fastening it into a running loop. “By means of a light rope fastened to the middle of (the) chair and held by someone at each end, those unable to swim are safely passed over.”
22. Keeping Plants Watered While Away on Holiday
There are many simple and cheap DIY tricks to keep your green friends properly hydrated so that you don’t return home to a house full of wilting and yellowing plants.
A traditional method is to fill a large bucket with water, and place it a little above the level of the plants.
You can group round or near as many plants as you want. Place one end of a strand of wool in the bucket and the other one to the plant.
You can place as many yarns as you want.
23. Rescue from Fire
If it is necessary to enter a burning house in a search of unconscious persons, or to save a family member, first place a wet bandage over your nose and mouth and crawl in on all fours. You do this because the only Oxigen you may find is on close to the floor. (and the visibility is better)
Place a rope around his ankles. The other end of the rope around your chest or shoulders.
Then turn your back on him and drag him out. (you’re going on all fours with rope underneath)
24. How to Preserve Eggs
Preserve only eggs that are newly laid. Bury them in a box of salt.
This traditional way of keeping eggs has been almost forgotten. The eggs last about an year when they are totally buried in the salt. No air whatever must be allowed to get at the shells.
This way you’ll have eggs and salt for survival.
25. How to Treat Sprains
Elevate the injured joint and wrap in cloths wrung out in cold water. The picture shows how to keep the cloths constantly wet without having to change them.
Place a jug of water higher than the injured limb and a strip of linen with one end in the jug and the other end resting upon the wrapping of sprained joint.
The water will pass from the jug to compress keeping it constantly wet and cold.
Definitely, a hundred years ago people knew how to do a lot of things – that we now take for granted. Learning how to do stuff on your own is one of the most important things that one can do to prepare… And in time of crisis he might be able to support and sustain his family without much outside aid. This is one of the things that I’ve learned from a well-known army officer vet Steve Walker, for whom I have all the respect in the world.
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