11 Female Health Products from the 1908 Sears Catalog

The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

A woman’s health, hygiene, and beauty routines have never been simple. Below, courtesy of Sears, Roebuck’s 1908 catalog, we offer an extremely rare glimpse into how ladies of the early 20th century dealt with some of their most private physical issues.

1. English Breast Pump

The catalog never misses a chance to boast the foreign origin of a product, as if having been imported added respectability and quality to an object. Even when it comes to breast pumps. A woman would most likely purchase a breast pump in 1908 if her child could not suckle naturally, or if she had inverted nipples and intended to pop them out with the vacuum force of the suction bulb. Still, they were a huge improvement over the earliest patented breast pumps, which were nearly indistinguishable from tiny cow milkers.

2. Nursing Corset

If you were fortunate enough to have a healthy baby and properly pointed nipples for suckling, you could nurse your own child. Not as women of today may, of course, nodding off for a precious six minute nap on the couch with a large milk stained t-shirt shoved haphazardly above their baby’s head. No, nursing did not excuse you from propriety. This nursing corset bears all the same attributes and boning of regular corsets, except that the fabric covering the breast could be unbuttoned.

3. Toilette Liquid Depilatory for Removing Superfluous Hair

Take comfort that any reference to “a woman’s toilet” in literature this old means “beauty routine.” There are no ladies’ razors in the 1908 catalog, only this liquid depilatory offered for feminine hair removal. Specifically for the “neck, face, and arms,” as these are the only parts of a woman that anyone would ever see. (Judging by the negligee section, this would have included her husband). This depilatory doesn’t list its ingredients, but most depilatories of the day were either made from rhumsa, an arsenic derivative, or from various sulphides. Both chemicals could be counted on to dissolve the keratin protein in hair, allowing it to be wiped off. Keratin is also a large part of what your skin is made up of. Which is why this product “specifically specifies” that the time limit of the application is observed, lest “irritation” occur. The price of beauty could be caustic.

4. Hair Growing Fountain Comb

Of course, the places on your body that you want to have hair will often present you with all sorts of unruly problems. This device, a squeeze bulb feeding a hollow comb, was meant to help with that. With the bobbed hair of the 1920s still 12 years and a World War away, women’s hair was long, seldom washed, and brushed with thick and soft bristles that didn’t penetrate to the scalp. The Fountain Comb did go directly to the scalp, where you could then apply tonics and perfumes and miraculous hair thickening potions without having to soak your whole head. It also allowed bottle blondes and ladies with graying hair to keep their secrets buried deep at the roots.

5. Ruby Salve and Eyebrow Pencil

What you see above is just about the extent of the Sears line of cosmetics in 1908. In addition to the rouge (used for both lips and cheeks) and the eyebrow pencil, they offered a smattering of stage make-up, and a very nice selection of face powders. Of all these products, only face powder—which was usually just perfumed talc—would be acceptable to lay next to a hairbrush or mirror at a lady’s vanity table. Make-up would be hidden down with the menstrual belt and douches. If a woman chose to artificially enhance her God-given features, people would think her vain and cheap. It isn’t accidental that both products assure buyers that they are of such high quality that their presence “can never be detected.”

6. Bust Supporters and Enhancers

Speaking of enhancement—a perfectly shaped bosom was highly desirable, despite the efforts the fashions of the era took to obscure it. Enter the bust form. They were made of wire; no padding was needed because they’d be smushed under the corset, where only metal or natural mammary were strong enough to protrude. They were there to fill in the gaps, and provide a metal structure to imitate what nature was not kind enough to provide on her own. Above is a bust supporter, one of many fore-runners to the modern bra. It was worn in addition to a corset, and promised to make up for any “deficiency of development.” It shifted the weight of the breasts to the shoulders and away from the shirtwaist (blouse). This provided the wearer “coolness and comfort in warm weather.”

7. Form Reducer Corset

But what if deficiencies of development aren’t your problem? What if you are too bountiful? Then you are in luck, because Sears provided Form Reducing Corsets. The immediate irony is that the job of all corsets, if over-tightened, was to reduce a woman’s form. But the Sahlin Form Reducer goes one better. Actually 12 better, as that is the number of individual adjustments the corset offered around the waist, hip and rump area. One interesting thing to note about this corset for the larger lady is the measurements it is available in. The largest size offered is made to fit a woman with a bust measurement (today’s bra measurement) of 40, meaning even the stoutest ladies of 1908 hovered around the lower end of modern plus sizing.

8. Hip Pad and Bustle

The turn of the century was the age of Camille Clifford and The Gibson Girl, who bookended her impossibly small waist with wide blousy hair and a fully rounded bottom. But seldom does nature provide those excruciating proportions all at once. A small waisted woman would often need to use a bustle to pad out her figure. These were modest bustles compared to earlier incarnations, thanks to a trend toward straighter, closer fitting skirts.

9. Ladies Drawers

Drawers got their name because they were underpants you could “draw” up or down. This was an advancement over pantalets that tied at the waist and covered each leg separately without connecting in the crotch. In fact most female underwear in the 19th century was crotchless, for practical (chamber pot) related reasons. Here in 1908, you see the developing option of purchasing your drawers “open” or “closed.”

10. Hygienic Sanitary Protector and Antiseptic Sanitary Towels

But if your underwear had no crotch, what would you do when you came upon your monthly unwellness? Be grateful that the modern era provided you with sanitary belts, which is much better than what your grandmothers had to work with (homemade menstrual belts, if they were lucky). No crotch required—these belts tied around your waist and suspended their own rubber pocketed crotches, in which you would place your “sanitary towel.” Or, if need be, “cotton or cheesecloth.”

An interesting issue of class played out through how a woman used her menstrual rags. Women who could afford it disposed of their soiled towels in the outhouse. Women who literally could not afford to throw that much money down the toilet had to wash, dry, and reuse the cloths. A difficult task in an era where menstruation was concealed at all costs from all people, even your own household and family. If you caught a peek at unmistakably stained cloth being hung to dry inside a home (never in public view), you could make an easy estimate of the family’s fortunes.

11. Birth Control (Sponges and Syringes)

In 1908, it was illegal to distribute information about birth control through the mail. It was certainly illegal to sell any sort of prophylactics. And you can be sure the Sears catalog does neither. They simply offer an array of hygiene products to women. Vaginal douches, which were referred to as “syringes,” consisted of a water bottle, hose, and curved vaginal nozzle. They were vaguely recommended in the catalog for good health. Some companies, such as Lysol, advertised that their product, when used as a douche, would guarantee the death of germs (or any other foreign invaders in your body, perhaps even ones that rhyme with “germ”). Sponges are sold even more obliquely, never specifying exactly why a woman might need a “Ladies Superfine Cup Shaped Sponge” (internal sponges were seldom used for menstrual control; being too small and porous to block any more than a trickle of liquid). Sears simply provided the products. How you used them was your business.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

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11 Facts About Mount Rushmore

It took three years just to carve Washington's likeness.
It took three years just to carve Washington's likeness.
TheDigitalArist, Pixabay // Public Domain

Today, the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt gaze over South Dakota’s Black Hills, their images sculpted on the granite slopes of Mount Rushmore. An engineering marvel, this unlikely landmark now draws millions of visitors every year.

But the place casts a dark shadow. Built by a Klu Klux Klan sympathizer on land seized from the Sioux during a gold rush, Mount Rushmore is steeped in controversy. Here are 10 little-known facts about its creation and history.

1. The Lakota of the Great Sioux Nation call this mountain Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe, or “Six Grandfathers.”

The Six Grandfathers before construction began on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
1905 photo of the Six Grandfathers, before construction began on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
National Park Service, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When New York attorney Charles E. Rushmore first laid eyes on the landform in 1884, the presidential sculpting effort was decades away. Reportedly, the visiting lawyer asked his guides if the mountain had a name. Unaware of its importance to the Sioux, they said no—and then one of them added, “We will name it now, and name it Rushmore Peak.” Over time, this evolved into “Mount Rushmore.”

2. Mount Rushmore’s head sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, previously worked on a huge Confederate monument.

Georgia’s Stone Mountain bears a 158-by-76-foot carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and their horses. Borglum came up with the basic concept after the Daughters of the Confederacy asked him to sculpt Lee’s head into the rockface. But on February 25, 1925, 10 years into the project, Borglum was fired after disputes with the organization. Stone Mountain was finished without his involvement; then-Vice President Spiro Agnew attended its dedication ceremony in 1970.

3. The idea for Mount Rushmore began with South Dakota's Historian. 

Borglum's model of Mt. Rushmore
Borglum's model of Mount Rushmore.

Intrigued by Stone Mountain, Jonah LeRoy “Doane” Robinson, South Dakota’s official State Historian, contacted Borglum in 1924. The Black Hills were already a tourist destination, but Robinson wanted an audacious new draw. Turning some local geologic features into a lineup of statues depicting western legends like Buffalo Bill Cody, Sacagawea, Red Cloud, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark sounded like a good business move to Robinson. But Borglum had other ideas. In addition to changing the monument's proposed location—he opted for Mount Rushmore instead of the nearby granite spires Robinson had chosen—he also changed the people depicted. Feeling the place should be a “national monument commemorating America’s founders and builders,” the sculptor went with a presidential theme.

4. Gutzon Borglun liked Mount Rushmore because of its physical attributes.

South Dakota is full of mountains, so why was the monument built on this one? For starters, Borglum realized it was sturdy enough to withstand the rigorous sculpting process. He also liked the fact that Mount Rushmore’s southeastern flank (where the faces now stand) gets good sun exposure. The mountain's fine-grained Harvey Peak granite also influenced Borglun's choice: Though the material was more difficult to carve, it would erode slower than the granite found on other nearby peaks.

5. Construction on Mount Rushmore began in 1927.

It officially ended on October 31, 1941. Borglum unexpectedly died that March, leaving his son, Lincoln, to oversee the last few months of production.

6. Eleanor Roosevelt wanted Susan B. Anthony on Mount Rushmore.

Washington’s head was the first part of the monument to be dedicated, followed by Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s, and finally Roosevelt’s. Meanwhile, a different Roosevelt wanted Susan B. Anthony to join their ranks. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Borglum in 1936, asking him to include the prominent suffragist’s likeness. A bill reiterating this plea was introduced to Congress the following year, but it didn’t get far due to funding restrictions.

7. The construction crew used a technique called “honeycombing” to carve Mount Rushmore.

Construction on Mount Rushmore.
In addition to sculpting these four heads, the workers also carved out a secret room behind the monument.
National Park Service, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dynamite cleared away 90 percent of the unwanted rock, but some tasks were ill-suited for explosives. Once they came within 3 to 6 inches of the desired depth, Borglum’s workers would drill shallow holes in tightly packed rows. Known as “honeycombing,” this trick allowed them to pull off chunks of granite with their bare hands.

8. Mount Rushmore once had its own baseball team.

While at Rushmore, Borglum and his son organized a baseball team made up entirely of their day-laborers. In 1939, the “Rushmore Drillers” had a great summer, qualifying for the semifinals in South Dakota’s Amateur Baseball Tournament.

9. Mount Rushmore is just two counties away from the U.S.’s geographic center.

Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, shifting the geographic center of the U.S. from Smith County, Kansas, to Butte County, South Dakota. The exact spot is located on private land, but roughly 20 miles to the south—in the nearby city of Belle Fourche, South Dakota—there’s a compass-shaped monument honoring America’s midpoint. By car, that attraction’s only 79.4 miles from Mount Rushmore, the most iconic spot in Pennington County.

10. The last surviving Mount Rushmore carver died in 2019.

A prominent member of those Rushmore Drillers, Donald “Nick” Clifford was a right-fielder and the youngest carver ever to work on the monument. He was hired in 1938 at the tender age of 17. Clifford outlived all of his Mount Rushmore co-workers and died in 2019 at 98 years old.

11. Native Americans activists occupied Mount Rushmore in 1970.

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie set aside South Dakota’s Black Hills, Mount Rushmore included, for the exclusive use of indigenous people. Yet the United States hastily redrew the agreed-upon boundaries when General George A. Custer found gold in the region six years later.

In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled the U.S. government had acted illegally. As per the ruling, a compensation trust now worth over $1 billion was set aside for the Sioux. That money has never been collected.

Ten years before that Supreme Court decision, a group of 23 Native American activists climbed Mount Rushmore on August 29, 1970. Demanding that the land be restored to the Sioux, the group defied federal regulations and set up camp atop the mountain. Protestors remained at the site until that November, when bad weather finally drove them out. According to Lehman Brightman, the former President of the United Native Americans organization and one of the event’s architects, it was “the first Sioux Indian uprising” since Custer’s lifetime.