The Virtues of Coffee, Chocolate, and Tea

This wonderful little piece comes from Slate in the Vault blog.  It’s a great broadside advertisement from a 1690 coffeehouse entrepreneur claiming the benefits of our now most commonly used drug on Earth, caffeine.  Coffee was known in Europe but new as a common drink and still a bit suspect since it came from Arabia via the Arabs.


The digital “original” is available through the Harvard University Library for download, or just click the image above to have a closer look.

Here’s a good summary of the health benefits claimed in the advertisement from the Slate article by Rebecca Onion:

Price’s advertisement’s litany of claims for coffee’s health benefits mix advantages we’d recognize today with others that seem far-fetched. The authors observed that coffee-drinking populations didn’t get common diseases: “the Stone” (kidney stones); “Scurvey, Gout, Dropsie” (edema, or retained fluid). Speaking to an audience that still believed in the theory of the four humors, they argued that coffee, being “drying,” would help fix “moist and waterish Humors.”  People who couldn’t hear well, or suffered from lethargy, want of appetite, or swooning, would also find the drink helpful. “It’s experimentally good to prevent Miscarriage,” they added, apparently not wanting to claim too much.

I hope I can, at least, avoid the “moist and waterish humors” for some time to come.

I think it’s time for a Sunday afternoon cup of coffee, just in case…


autopedWhere have you been all my life.  Lady Florence Norman on her Autoped; another interesting Internet find.  This is what I found about it:

“Lady Florence Norman, a suffragette, on her motor-scooter in 1916, travelling to work at offices in London where she was a supervisor. The scooter was a birthday present from her husband, the journalist and Liberal politician Sir Henry Norman.”


1917 est une année cruciale pour la France en guerre : révolution russe et entrée de l’Amérique dans le conflit. En attendant cette aide décisive, il faut bien soutenir le moral des troupes… de l’arrière. L’hebdomadaire coquin La Vie Parisienne du 12 mai s’y emploit de son mieux et, à l’affût des dernières nouveautés, découvre un véhicule venu des États-Unis : l’Autopède. De quoi railler gentiment une nouvelle mode sur une double-page intitulée : “Le dernier cri ! La patinette automobile” … un engin que la France connaîtra quelques décennies plus tard. Vous vous souvenez ?

(Les légendes de ces dessins de G. Léonnec sont celles de La Vie Parisienne)


I’m glad to know that, in the near future, no one will walk at all. Oh, it must be the future!

This one’s not quite the same, being gasoline powered but is an interesting little piece nonetheless.

Marketing to the Caravan Craze: Composting Toilet


Earth ClosetHumanure is not as new of an idea as we are often led to believe.  With the genuine Moules, there are no, bad smells, typhoid OR diphtheria!  That’s quite a bonus.  Well, if it’s good enough for Windsor Castle and Sandringham then it’s good enough for me!

What I find truly fascinating is that we can’t discuss this subject openly.  Certainly wouldn’t have been when and where I grew up.  A close reading of the above handbill does not actually reveal what it is we are talking about here.  Everyone does it, so everyone can figure it out.  Imagine reading something like this as a non-native English speaker.  The beat-around-the-bush lingo would be baffling.  No picture, no real description, just talking about that which cannot be named in polite company; ewww.

If somehow you’re still not sure what we’re talking about here, this should help:

Henry_Moule's_earth_closet,_improved_version_c1875Again… eww.

But seriously, this sanitation unit was probably a huge lifesaver.  Moule began developing the dry-earth system of sanitation after the summer of the “GREAT STINK” in London in 1858.  Oddly enough, a culprit of this mass contamination was the introduction of the flush toilet shortly before.  Overwhelming the ancient sewer systems of London and the surrounding areas.

Adding more water was not the solution to the problem so by 1860 Moule patented what became a widely accepted way to fight disease and water contamination.  Due to it’s efficiency and ease of use the new “Earth Closets” were adopted by hospitals, the British military,  affluent households (including the British monarchy) and throughout British India (a.k.a. the Raj).