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Cigarette cards: The life hacks of 100 years ago
WWI-era companies offer advice on how to light a match in the wind, how to stop a mad dog, how to make a fire extinguisher, and more
 
Wondering how to light a match in the wind? Look no further than your early 20th century cigarette pack.
Wondering how to light a match in the wind? Look no further than your early 20th century cigarette pack. New York Public Library

In the late 1880s, cigarette manufacturers began inserting stiffening cards into their paper packs of cigarettes to strengthen the containers. It wasn't long before they got the idea to put artwork, trivia, famous people, and pretty girls onto those cards, grouped into collectible series. The cards, which continued into the 1940s, are highly valuable now, with the most expensive (bearing the face of stringent anti-smoking baseball player Honus Wagner) selling for $2.8 million in 2007.

In the 1910s, Gallaher Ltd of Belfast & London and Ogden's Branch of the Imperial Tobacco Co printed "How-To" series, with clever hints for both everyday and emergency situations. From steaming out a splinter to stopping a mad dog, these cigarette cards told you the smart way to handle many of life's problems.

(Please note these cards were published a hundred years ago, when safety was not as popular a pursuit as it is now. For that reason, we can't recommend trying any of these, as brilliant as they may be.)

1. How to make a fire extinguisher

How to make a fire extinguishe... Digital ID: 1643054. New York Public Library

"Dissolve one pound of salt and half a pound of sal-ammoniac in two quarts of water and bottle the liquor in thin glass bottles holding about a quart each. Should a fire break out, dash one or more of the bottles into the flames, and any serious outbreak will probably be averted."

2. How to extract a splinter

How to extract a splinter. Digital ID: 1643068. New York Public Library

"Fill a wide mouthed bottle with hot water nearly to the brim, and press affected part of hand tightly against mouth of bottle. The suction will pull down the flesh, and steam will soon draw out the splinter."

3. How to preserve eggs

How to preserve eggs. Digital ID: 1643210. New York Public Library

"Eggs for preserving must be newly laid, and by simply putting these into a box or tin of dry salt-burying the eggs right in the salt and keeping it in a cool dry place — it is possible to preserve them for a very long period. No air whatever should be allowed to get to the shell."

4. How to fell a tree

How to Fell a Tree. Digital ID: 1135982. New York Public Library

"Have decided which side you wish the tree to fall, cut alternatively a downward and inward cut as shown. When about half through, proceed to cut the other side a few inches higher, and finally pull tree down by means of ropes."

5. How to stop a mad dog

How to stop a mad dog. Digital ID: 1135951. New York Public Library

"A scout's staff, a walking-stick, or even a handkerchief or hat may be held before you as shown. The dog invariably endeavours to paw down your defense before biting, thus giving you the opportunity of disabling him by a kick."

6. How to keep plants watered while away on holiday

Keeping plants watered while a... Digital ID: 1641614. New York Public Library

"Fill a large pail with water, and stand it a little above the level of the plants and group round or near as many plants as practical. Loosely plait two or three strands of wool together, immerse completely in water, and place one end in the pail, weighted, and touching the bottom. Rest the other end on the soil: a separate plait of wool is advisable for each pot."

7. How to light a match in the wind

How to light a match in the wi... Digital ID: 1643152. New York Public Library

"The familiar difficulty of lighting a match in a 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."

8. How to make a chair to cross a stream

To Make a Chair (To cross a st... Digital ID: 1136339. New York Public Library

"Fasten a strong rope to a tree and let a boy swim across the stream and fasten the other end to a tree on an opposite bank. Make the chair, fasten it to a running look or a block pulley, and by means of a light rope fastened to the middle of (the) chair and held by a scout at each end, those unable to swim are safely passed over."

9. How to rescue someone from electric shock

Electric Shock. Digital ID: 1136376. New York Public Library

"In rescuing a person touched by a "live wire" do not attempt to take hold of him if he is still grasping the wire, unless your hands are protected by rubber gloves, a water-proof coat, or several thicknesses of dry cloth. Stand on glass or dry wood, and try and have (the) current switched off, and send at once for a doctor."

10. How to make a water filter

An Emergency Water Filter. Digital ID: 1135849. New York Public Library

"A most handy and efficacious filter can be made out of an ordinary perfectly clean zinc water pail, through the bottom of which a hole has been drilled and a small pipe fitted. 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."

 
Therese Oneill has written for The Atlantic and The Salem Weekly and is a regular contributor to Mental Floss. She lives in Oregon and blogs at writerthereseoneill.com.

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