16 Survival Tips From The 1900s That Are Still Brilliant Today

Survival tips and hacks have been around for centuries, and, in most cases, are mere fragments of information passed down through generations.

And whether we’re solving problems in the home, or problems concerning health, we all want to be prepared at all times, and to have a list of tried-and-true tricks ready in our heads.

The New York Public Library has an incredible digital collection of antique materials and prints, featuring artifacts like photographs, manuscripts, and maps.

But below, we share with you one of its most amazing archives  a list of ingenious life hacks that have survived from the 1900s, once supplied in cigarette packs!

These life tips were once printed on “cigarette cards,” which were once found inside cigarette packs. Customers could collect and trade these unique and interesting little cards — and now, they’ve been digitized for our enjoyment!

1. How To Remove A Tight Ring

Survival tips from the 1900s

“To remove a tight ring from the finger without pain or trouble, the finger should be first well-lathered with soap.

“It will then be found that, unless the joints are swollen, the ring can easily be taken off.

“If, however, the finger and joints are much swollen, a visit to the jeweller is advisable.”

2. How To Detect Escaping Gas

Survival tips from the 1900s

“There is always a danger in trying to locate an escape of gas with a light. The method shown in the picture, however, is free from risk 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.”

3. How To Measure With Coins

Survival tips from the 1900s

“It is sometimes useful to know that half-a-crown equals half an ounce in weight, and three pennies weigh one ounce.

“A half-penny measures one inch in diameter; half-crown an inch and a quarter, and a sixpence three-quarters of an inch in diameter.”

4. How To Pick Up Broken Glass

Survival tips from the 1900s

“To pick up broken glass quickly and cleanly, a soft damp cloth will be found to be most effective, for it takes up all the small splinters.

“The best plan is to use an old piece of rag that can be thrown away with the glass.”

5. How To Preserve Valuable Vases

Survival tips from the 1900s

“If the following precaution is taken, the danger of knocking over a valuable vase will not be so great.

“Partly fill the vase with sand, which, acting as a weight, keeps it upright and firm on its base.

“This idea is particularly useful in the case of vases which are inclined to be top-heavy, owing to their having small bases.”

6. How To Extract A Splinter

Survival tips from the 1900s

“A splinter embedded in the hand is often very painful to extract.

“A good way to accomplish this is to 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.”

7. How To Judge The Freshness Of A Lobster

Survival tips from the 1900s

“If, when buying a boiled lobster, you are in doubt as to its freshness, just pull back the tail, then suddenly release it; if the tail flies back with a snap, the lobster is quite fresh: but if it goes back slowly, you may be pretty sure the lobster has been boiled and kept for some days.”

8. How To Keep A Paint Brush Handle Clean

Survival tips from the 1900s

“To do away with the annoyance of a wet and sticky brush handle, which is so unpleasant to the amateur painter, get a piece of card or tin and make a hole in it through which the handle can be forced, as shown in the picture.

“This prevents the paint from running down.”

9. How To Detect Dampness In Beds

Survival tips from the 1900s

“In order to detect dampness in a strange bed and so be warned of the danger, a small hand mirror should be slipped between the sheets and left for a few minutes.

“Any mistiness or blurred appearance of the mirror’s surface when withdrawn is an indication of dampness, and the bed should not be slept in.”

10. How To Cool Wine Without Ice

Survival tips from the 1900s

“If no ice is available for cooling wine, a good method is to wrap the bottle in flannel and place it in a crock beneath the cold water tap.

“Allow the water to run over it, as shown in the picture, and in about 10 minutes the wine will be thoroughly cool and ready for the table.”

11. How To Cut New Bread Into Thin Slices

Survival tips from the 1900s

“The difficulty of cutting new bread into thin slices can readily be overcome by the following expedient.

“Plunge the bread knife into hot water and when thoroughly hot wipe quickly.

“It will be found that the heated knife will cut soft, yielding new bread into the thinnest slices.”

12. How To Make A Fire Extinguisher

Survival tips from the 1900s

“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.”

13. How To Clean New Boots

Survival tips from the 1900s

“New boots are sometimes very difficult to polish.

“A successful method is to rub the boots over with half a lemon, allow them to dry, after which they will easily polish, although occasionally it may be found necessary to repeat the application of the lemon juice.”

14. How To Pull Out Long Nails

Survival tips from the 1900s

“It is often rather difficult to pull out a long nail from wood into which it has been driven, for when drawn out a short distance as in A, there is no purchase from which to pull it further.

“If, however, a small clock of wood be placed under the pincers, as in B, the nail can be pulled right out without difficulty.”

15. How To Carry A Heavy Jug

Survival tips from the 1900s

“The picture gives a useful hint on carrying a heavy jug.

“The correct way to hold the jug is shown in the right-hand sketch. This prevents the weight from pulling the jug down and so spilling what it contains, as is likely to happen if carried the other way.”

16. How To Light A Match In The Wind

Survival tips from the 1900s

“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.”


How To : Remove Dents and Scratches From a Car

All of you who are following us on regular basis, know very well that we are constantly showing you new and innovative methods and solutions to get rid of certain small problems with your vehicle. Because I`m sure that you will agree that it is not the wisest solution to go to the body shop every time there is a small problem, and spend great amounts of money, especially when there is a way to solve those problems yourself. Today we are continuing on that track and will show you another great method that will teach you how to remove dents and scratches from your car.

Knowing how to remove dents is of great importance! No matter what kind of a car you have, whether it is some brand new muscle monster or some great import, or perhaps just an ordinary station wagon or a big diesel truck, we all know just how annoying is when you see that someone has made a dent or a scratch on your loving vehicle and ruined that perfect paint job that makes it glow and shine from a distance. Fortunately, TDL Repair has a solution for our problems with scratches and dents, without having to spend lots of time and money.

And the best thing about it is that you can do it with ordinary tools which you already have, or can buy at the nearest shop, and you can do it within the space of an hour, at your home. Just watch the video carefully and learn this cool new solution for repairing dents and scratches. Many have tried and it worked! Save time and money plus learn how to remove dents from your car!


How to : Fix a flat tyre on a scooter

Tires – Fixing a Flat


Fixing a flat on a scooter is an easy project. The design of both wheels on a Vespas and the rear wheel on a Lambretta makes it very easy to remove the tire and rim to change it. On a Vespa both wheels are single sided meaning the forks or engine is on one side and the other side is free. On a Lambretta the rear tire is single sided but the front has fork connections on either side – click for a link to the Lambretta front tire change page. Also both scooters halve split rims which allows you to get access to the tube without having to get the tire off the rim like a car.

Tools – You will need:

  • A 13mm socket & driver or a 13 mm wrench (Vespa)
  • Two spacer blocks (or a deep sockets)

The first step is to remove the wheel and rim from the hub. The pictures below show this being done on the front wheel of a pre P-range Vespa. To remove the front wheel find the five wheel nuts on the hub side of the wheel and remove them. The tire sometimes takes a little wiggling to get it clear of the body work.

Once the wheel is removed remove any extra air from the tube by pressing in the small needle at the center of the air valve stem.

Flip the tire over and remove the five 13mm nuts which hold the two steel rims together. Be aware that the two halves are different widths and the wheel must go back on the bike in the same direction. The final step in this guide shows the correct wheel/rim/hub installation.

Usually the tire will have a very strong grip on either side on the wheel rim halves. There is no need to remove the tire from the rim as the rims can be separated with spacer to allow removal of the old tube. I use deep sockets as shown in the image below but anything would do.

Remove the old tube by pulling it out. You can patch the existing tube but I usually use a new tube. To find a leak in an old tube, inflate it slightly and put it in the kitchen sink. Rotate the tube so that every part of it goes underwater. The leak will be evident by bubbles in the water and it can then be patched.

Before reinstalling the tube, carefully run your hand around the inside face of the tire to make sure that whatever gave you the leak in the first place is not still lodged in the tire. Sometimes glass or a nail can remain punched through the tire and do the same thing to the new tube.

The valve stem is the best place to start feeding in the new tube. It is helpful to put a bit of air in the tube prior to this because it is more easy to handle. The valve stem needs to be pushed through the wider side of the rim so that the valve head protrudes on the thin side of the two rim halves.

Carefully close the two rim halves and be sure not to pinch the inner tube. Tighten the five nuts to secure the two rim halves. Inflate the tire to 18 PSI for the front or 25 – 35 PSI for the back. If you regularly ride with two people use the higher number.

Below is a shot of the correct way a Vespa rim should be mounted to be sure the wheel will be centered properly. If it reversed the wheel will not fall on the centerline of the bike.

Replace the wheel and you are good to go….

How to : Reuse Car Rims to Make a Fire Pit BBQ

How to Reuse Car Rims to Make a Fire Pit BBQ

With spring just around the corner, it is almost BBQ season! If you have a state-of-the-art grill, you’re probably all set to fire it up. If you don’t, you can get ready right now by making your own fire pit BBQ out of old car rims.

Some may say this is a “redneck” way to grill, but that fact of the matter is that repurposing car rims is a brilliant concept. Not only will you be able to BBQ, it’s a great DIY project.

Just be sure to allow the car rims to burn for a while to get any road chemicals off, and always wear protective clothing and gloves when working with power tools and sharp surfaces.

You’ll need some awesome DIY sauce recipes to go along with your splendid new grill. Check out all the options at The Yummy Life here.

Here’s the video on how to reuse car rims to make a fire pit BBQ…Enjoy!

How to : Elevators

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Hit the top button on the elevator and prepare yourself for a long ride: in just a few days you’ll be waving back from space! Elevators that can zoom up beyond Earth have certainly captured people’s imagination in the decade or so since space scientists first proposed them—and it’s no wonder. But in their time ordinary office elevators probably seemed almost as radical. It wasn’t just brilliant building materials such as steel and concrete that allowed modern skyscrapers to soar to the clouds: it was the invention, in 1861, of the safe, reliable elevator by a man named Elisha Graves Otis of Yonkers, New York. Otis literally changed the face of the Earth by developing a machine he humbly called an “improvement in hoisting apparatus,” which allowed cities to expand vertically as well as horizontally. That’s why his invention can rightly be described as one of the most important machines of all time. Let’s take a closer look at elevators and find out how they work!

The annoying thing about elevators (if you’re trying to understand them) is that their working parts are usually covered up! From the viewpoint of someone traveling from the lobby to the 18th floor, an elevator is simply a metal box with doors that close on one floor and then open again on another. For those of us who are more curious, the key parts of an elevator are:

  • One or more cars (metal boxes) that rise up and down.
  • Counterweights that balance the cars.
  • An electric motor that hoists the cars up and down, including a braking system.
  • A system of strong metal cables and pulleys running between the cars and the motors.
  • Various safety systems to protect the passengers if a cable breaks.
  • In large buildings, an electronic control system that directs the cars to the correct floors using a so-called “elevator algorithm” (a sophisticated kind of mathematical logic) to ensure large numbers of people are moved up and down in the quickest, most efficient way (particularly important in huge, busy skyscrapers at rush hour). Intelligent systems are programmed to carry many more people upward than downward at the beginning of the day and the reverse at the end of the day.

How elevators use energy

Scientifically, elevators are all about energy. To get from the ground to the 18th floor walking up stairs you have to move the weight of your body against the downward-pulling force of gravity. The energy you expend in the process is (mostly) converted into potential energy, so climbing stairs gives an increase in your potential energy (going up) or a decrease in your potential energy (going down). This is an example of the law of conservation of energy in action. You really do have more potential energy at the top of a building than at the bottom, even if it doesn’t feel any different.

To a scientist, an elevator is simply a device that increases or decreases a person’s potential energy without them needing to supply that energy themselves: the elevator gives you potential energy when you’re going up and it takes potential energy from you when you’re coming down. In theory, that sounds easy enough: the elevator won’t need to use much energy at all because it will always be getting back as much (when it goes down) as it gives out (when it goes up). Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. If all the elevator had were a simple hoist with a cage passing over a pulley, it would use considerable amounts of energy lifting people up but it would have no way of getting that energy back: the energy would simply be lost to friction in the cables and brakes (disappearing into the air as waste heat) when the people came back down.

How much energy does an elevator use?


If an elevator has to lift an elephant (weighing let’s say 2500 kg) a distance of maybe 20m into the air, it has to supply the elephant with 500,000 joules of extra potential energy. If it does the lift in 10 seconds, it has to work at a rate of 50,000 joules per second or 50,000 watts, which is about 20 times as much power as a typical electric toaster uses.

Suppose the elevator is carrying elephants all day long (10 hours or 10 × 60 = 600 minutes or 10 × 60 × 60 = 36,000 seconds) and lifting for half that time (18,000 seconds). It would need a grand total of 18,000 × 50,000 = 900 million joules (900 megajoules) of energy, which is the same as 250 kilowatt hours in more familiar terms.

In fact, the elevator wouldn’t be 100 percent efficient: all the energy it took from theelectricity supply wouldn’t be completely converted into potential energy in rising elephants. Some would be lost to friction, sound, heat, air resistance (drag), and other losses in the mechanism. So the real energy consumption would be somewhat greater.

That sounds like a huge amount of energy—and it is! But much of it can be saved by using a counterweight.

Photo: Elevators don’t just hang from a single cable: there are several strong cables supporting the car in case one breaks. If the worst does happen, you’ll find there’s often an emergency intercom telephone you can use inside an elevator car to call for assistance.

The counterweight

counterweight assembly


In practice, elevators work in a slightly different way from simple hoists. The elevator car is balanced by a heavy counterweight that weighs roughly the same amount as the car when it’s loaded half-full (in other words, the weight of the car itself plus 40–50 percent of the total weight it can carry). When the elevator goes up, the counterweight goes down—and vice-versa, which helps us in four ways:

  1. The counterweight makes it easier for the motor to raise and lower the car—just as sitting on a see-saw makes it much easier to lift someone’s weight compared to lifting them in your arms. Thanks to the counterweight, the motor needs to use much less force to move the car either up or down. Assuming the car and its contents weigh more than the counterweight, all the motor has to lift is the difference in weight between the two and supply a bit of extra force to overcome friction in the pulleys and so on.
  2. Since less force is involved, there’s less strain on the cables—which makes the elevator a little bit safer.
  3. The counterweight reduces the amount of energy the motor needs to use. This is intuitively obvious to anyone who’s ever sat on a see-saw: assuming the see-saw is properly balanced, you can bob up and down any number of times without ever really getting tired—quite different from lifting someone in your arms, which tires you very quickly. This point also follows from the first one: if the motor is using less force to move the car the same distance, it’s doing less work against the force of gravity.
  4. The counterweight reduces the amount of braking the elevator needs to use. Imagine if there were no counterweight: a heavily loaded elevator car would be really hard to pull upwards but, on the return journey, would tend to race to the ground all by itself if there weren’t some sort of sturdy brake to stop it. The counterweight makes it much easier to control the elevator car.

In a different design, known as a duplex counterweightless elevator, two cars are connected to opposite ends of the same cable and effectively balance each other, doing away with the need for a counterweight.

Photo: The counterweight rides up and down on wheels that follow guide tracks on the side of the elevator shaft. The elevator car is at the top of this shaft (out of sight) so the counterweight is at the bottom. When the car moves down the shaft, the counterweight moves up—and vice versa. Each car has its own counterweight so the cars can operate independently of one another. On this picture, you can also see the doors on each floor that open and close only when the elevator car is aligned with them.

The safety brake

Everyone who’s ever travelled in an escalator has had the same thought: what if the cable holding this thing suddenly snaps? Rest assured, there’s nothing to worry about. If the cable snaps, a variety of safety systems prevent an elevator car from crashing to the floor. This was the great innovation that Elisha Graves Otis made back in the 1860s. His elevators weren’t simply supported by ropes: they also had a ratchet system as a backup. Each car ran between two vertical guide rails with sturdy metal teeth embedded all the way up them. At the top of each car, there was a spring-loaded mechanism with hooks attached. If the cable broke, the hooks sprung outward and jammed into the metal teeth in the guide rails, locking the car safely in position.

How the original Otis elevator worked

Artwork: The Otis elevator. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s really easy to look at original patent documents and find out exactly what inventors were thinking. Here, courtesy of the US Patent and Trademark Office, is one of the drawings Elisha Graves Otis submitted with his “Hoisting Apparatus” patent dated January 15, 1861. It’s been coloured it in a little bit so it’s easier to understand.

Original patent diagram showing how the safety brake of an elevator works drawn by Elisha Graves Otis in 1861

Greatly simplified, here’s how it works:

  1. The elevator compartment (1, green) is raised and lowered by a hoist and pulley system (2) and a moving counterweight (not visible in this picture). You can see how the elevator is moving smoothly between vertical guide bars: it doesn’t just dangle stupidly from the rope!
  2. The cable that does all the lifting (3, red) wraps around several pulleys and the main winding drum. Don’t forget this elevator was invented before anyone was really using electricity: it was raised and lowered by hand!
  3. At the top of the elevator car, there’s a simple mechanism made up of spring-loaded arms and pivots (4). If the main cable (3) breaks, the springs push out two sturdy bars called “pawls” (5) so they lock into vertical racks of upward-pointing teeth (6) on either side. This ratchet-like device clamps the elevator safely in place.



According to Otis, the key part of the invention was: “having the pawls and the teeth of the racks hook formed, essentially as shown, so that the weight of the platform will, in case of the breaking of the rope, cause the pawls and teeth to lock together and prevent the contingency of a separation of the same.”

If you’d like a more detailed explanation, take a look at the original Otis patent, US Patent #31,128: Improvement in Hoisting Apparatus. It explains more fully how the winch and pulleys work with the counterweight.

Photo: A modern elevator has much in common with the original Otis design. Here you can see the little wheels at the edges of an elevator car that help it move smoothly up and down its guide bars.

Did Otis invent the elevator?

No! He invented the safety elevator: he noted how ordinary elevators could fail and came up with a better design that made them safer. The Otis elevator dates from the middle of the 19th century, but ordinary elevators date back much further—as far as Greek and Roman times. We can trace them back to more general kinds of lifting equipment such as cranes, windlasses, and capstans; ancient water-raising devices such as the shaduf (sometimes spelled shadoof), based on a kind of swinging see-saw design, may well have inspired the use of counterweights in early elevators and hoists.

Speed governors

Most elevators have an entirely separate speed-regulating system called a governor, which is a heavy flywheel with massive mechanical arms built inside it. Normally the arms are held inside the flywheel by hefty springs, but if the lift moves too fast, they fly outward, pushing a lever mechanism that trips one or more braking systems. First, they might cut power to the lift motor. If that fails and the lift continues to accelerate, the arms will fly out even further and trip a second mechanism, applying the brakes. Some governors are entirely mechanical; others are electromagnetic; still others use a mixture of mechanical and electronic components.



Other safety systems

Modern elevators have multiple safety systems. Like the cables on a suspension bridge, the cable in an elevator is made from many metal strands of wire rope twisted together so a small failure of one part of the cable isn’t, initially at least, going to cause any problems. Most elevators also have multiple, separate cables supporting each car, so the complete failure of one cable leaves others functioning in its place. Even if all the cables break, this system will still hold the car in place.

Finally, if you’ve ever looked at a transparent glass elevator, you’ll have noticed a giant hydraulic or gas spring buffer at the bottom to cushion against an impact if the safety brake should somehow fail. Thanks to Elisha Graves Otis, and the many talented engineers who’ve followed in his footsteps, you’re much safer inside an elevator than you are in a car!

DID YOU KNOW : Photo: How far will the top button take you? All the way to space? NASA is already working on an elevator that could carry materials from the surface of Earth up to geostationary Earth orbit, 35,786km (22,241 miles) up.


How To : Make An Origami Darth Vader

Darth Vader never looked so cute! Or, come to think of it, so fragile. He certainly doesn’t look capable of leading the Empire’s eradication of the Jedi Order. If only Luke had this little guy to deal with instead of the real thing!

This decidedly less formidable version of the Galactic Republic’s most renowned villain was created by origami master Tadashi Mori. Want to make one of your own? Then just follow the instructions in the video below! You can also check out Tadashi’s YouTube page for more unique origami designs. May the force be with you on your paper-folding adventures!

How to : Test casino dice?

Casino games are ever more high stake than most non-players know. Staving off cheating is a major undertaking that even requires dice testers to maintain fairness. Pedro Antonio Salaverría Calahorra/Thinkstock
Casino games are ever more high stake than most non-players know. Staving off cheating is a major undertaking that even requires dice testers to maintain fairness.

When you roll a perfect six-sided die, you have a one in six — 16.667 percent — chance of rolling any given number. Change the die just slightly, however, and you can significantly increase your odds of having the die land the way you want it to, or make a certain number more likely to land facing up on any given roll. With so much money on the line at many of the world’s top casinos, it’s no surprise that people are willing to try all kinds of methods to turn the odds in their favour at the dice table.

For example, drilling out a small space behind the dots and filling it with metal results in loaded dice —dice that are heavier on one side — which means that the unaltered side is more likely to land face up. When you remove a bit of material from one or more sides of a die without adding any extra weight, you create what’s known as a floater, though the same principle applies — the lighter side is more likely to land face up. Altering the dimensions of the dice so that two sides are slightly larger than the other four gives you what cheaters refer to as flats, where the dice is more inclined to roll onto one of those two larger sides.

While all gaming boards set their own standards for dice inspection and testing, many share a number of similarities with standards published by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, which monitors and regulates gambling in Atlantic City. These standards require dice to be kept under lock and key until the tables open for business. At that time, the pit boss hands the dice off to the boxperson, who must perform a range of tests.

He begins with a visual inspection, checking to see that all opposing sides equal seven, and that each die is equipped with the casino’s name, logo and a serial number. If these basics are in place, he takes a closer look to make sure there are no visible defects, including nicks, burrs, extra dots or marks that could be used for cheating. A trained boxperson can even tell from the depth of the dots if anything is amiss.

If the dice pass the visual inspection, the boxperson has a selection of tools at hand to complete the testing process. He uses an electronic micrometer to measure each side of the die and determine if it is sized correctly — no flats. He inserts the die into a balancing caliper, which ensures all sides are weighted equally — no floaters or loaded dice. A steel set square allows him to check that all corners and edges are square, while a simple magnet will reveal any added metal.