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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Betty's Baby Book: Genealogical Info & Horrifying Medical Advice

Betty Jane Grann
A couple weeks ago I went into a bit of the history and social context of Baby Books.  Now I'll talk about my grandmother's baby book I recently scanned.

Betty Jane Grann was born Sunday, August 29, 1926 at 2:00 in Jamestown, NY to Axel Grann and Eunice Hunt.

Her Baby Book was The Book of Baby Mine printed in 1915.

Like a lot of the baby books you find, some sections are filled out and several are left blank.  This one is no exception.

From a genealogists perspective, you sometimes get names & dates, places where they lived and just a general story of their life with the young baby.  I have a list of people who gave gifts (some of the names I don't know so that gives me something to look into as a genealogist).

On the page for the Baby's First Outing:
"I went over to my grandma Hunts when I was four weeks old.  My uncle Walter took me over in his car.  Sept 25 was the date.  In the evening I went down to see my grandma Grann.  My daddy carried me and everyone we met had to stop and have a look at me."
Axel & Betty Grann
My grandmother's first words were "pretty, pretty" and "da-da".

Betty started smiling at 3 months, waved "bye-bye" at 9 months, started walking (apparently never really crawled) at 11 months, and started playing "peek-a-boo" at 12 months.

Betty was named for one of her mother's childhood friends who lived nearby, Betty Jane Harris.

The birth of her baby sister, Barbara Jean is documented in the baby book:
"I have a baby sister now, her name is Barbara Jean.  She is very, very tiny, but I love her just the same." "I stayed with my aunt Dagmar one whole week when mother went to the hospital to buy my baby sister."

I now have documentation on the addresses this family lived at from 1926 - 1928:
"I moved from my first home on 7 Beechview Ave when I was nine months old. I lived on the corner of 8th & Cherry until I was 2 years. Then I moved to great grandma’s old home 312 Allen Street."  
And then there is some touching family moments documented in the book:
"My great grandma died July 18, 1928 age 78.  The last thing I did was to kiss her when she lay on the bed in the hospital.  She had been asking for me before.  She smiled so nice when I kissed her.  The last time she ever smiled."
I believe this photo is of Eliza Hunt (referenced great-grandma)
and Betty Grann
 There are a couple other parts of the baby book that I want to mention because I found them very interesting from a social perspective. One was the advertising in the baby book and the other was the multitude of pages (the entire baby book is over 90 pages long) on the early 20th century advice on taking care of a newborn.

There are seven advertisers in the baby book:
Nothing like a guilt-trip from buying your groceries
from your normal 'unclean' store

  • Farmers & Mechanics Bank - ad to open a bank account for the baby
  • Jamestown Evening Journal - publication stressing availability of bedtime stories
  • Clark Hardware Company - household appliances (electric household helps)
  • The Mutual Life Insurance Co. of NY - A Message to Father - re: savings funds
  • The Camp Art Company - Photograph studio - portraits of family
  • Crescent Creamery - Milk for mother & child 
  • The Paquin-Snyder Co., Inc. - grocery store

The advertisements are very interesting on their use of the newborn baby to hawk their goods from opening a bank account to appliances to insurance to photography to groceries. 

Starting on Page 40 of the baby book is the section on "The A, B, C, of Baby’s Health".  I do have to admit that some of this medical advice is a bit horrifying to the modern reader.  And some of it just made me laugh out loud.
"Never let a day pass without a good movement" is going on a t-shirt.
Along with a lot of commentary on the baby's bowel movements (A LOT of commentary) and an excess of uses for Cod Liver Oil and Castor Oil, you get helpful tips like these:
  • As to Medicine. No mother should quiet her child with a blow on the head, nor should she stun her baby with the opium and morphine of soothing syrups.
  • Rest. All young infants are extremely nervous, so avoid exciting them, playing with them, or handling them too much….holding the baby habitually may cause spinal curvature….most of the time young infants should lie quietly in bed till strong enough to sit alone and play.
  • Baby’s Bath.  Never put baby in tub while tub is on a heater.
  • Borax solution recipe for sore mouth & to clean baby’s eyes; use to clean mother’s nipples
  • Airings. Sunshine purifies the air….Children deprived of sunshine grow up like pale, weak, cellar plants.  Baby should begin taking daytime naps outdoors in summer when three weeks old….In bad weather give baby the benefits of being outdoors by dressing as for an outing, then opening all windows of a room and letting it sleep, protected from wind and dampness.  Babies accustomed to cold air and cool baths are hardened against taking cold.
  • Diarrhoea: Summer Complaint. The average mother will be tempted to resort to some dose containing opium, but nothing more injurious could be done…
  • Only the most ignorant or indulgent parent would give young children tea, coffee, or beer.

And my favorite:
  • Teaching the Bowels Regularity.  Any baby over 3 months old may be trained to evacuate the bowels….Stimulate the bowels to action by tickling the anus, of if this fails, insert a suppository" [with instructions on how to create your own suppository].
In conclusion: don't hold or play with your baby too much, don't drug them with opium, don't cook them in a pot during bath-time, let them get plenty of air and if the air is too cold it's OK - it builds character, use borax on everything, when not using borax use either castor oil and/or cod liver oil, and regularly tickle your baby's butt so they poop on schedule.

FYI - I don't recommend any of this medical advice (except please don't hit, drug, or cook baby - that's probably good advice), please consult modern doctors and modern child care manuals.

From the look of it, I think this child was just given an enema.

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