Lost Skills and Talents of Our Ancestors

skill-phoneJust like many household and general items, such as the freestanding public telephone booths, are disappearing because there is now something newer and better (personal cell phones and smart phones), so too are some skills our ancestors possessed that are no longer needed or practiced.

The housewives of yesteryear used some form of an hot iron to press everything. Centuries ago the iron was heated in the fire and later electric irons were in use. They pressed clothing, bed sheets, tablecloth linens, pillowcases, handkerchiefs, and even undergarments. 4x5 originalIt was an all-day events for ladies to get their ironing completed. Even when electric was being introduced into different regions across the country in the late 1880s and early 1900s, when the electricity was available for just short periods of time, the electric companies made sure a special longer time, usually Tuesdays, supplied electric for ironing day.

Penmanship – yes writing in long hand, cursive writing. With the use of the computer, fewer people right out anything in cursive writing. It was quite a skill for our ancestors, one studied and practiced in school and at home. skill-writingAdd to that the composition of long hand written letters using a fountain pen. To find letters written by your ancestors today is such a treasure. Our descendants won’t have that, no one saved the emails.

Preparing a meal from scratch is a lost skill. There are still some people, those very skilled in cooking who can make a complete dinner or special dessert from scratch, nothing prepared, but it is rare. With foods and dishes from the grocery store that only need to be warmed up at home, cooking all the meals at home from scratch is becoming a lost skill.

Our ancestors many times, even in towns and cities, had a garden. With what was grown and to serve later they canned the fruits or vegetables. So at the end of a growing season, our ancestors had rows of jars filled with pickles, beans, apples, tomatoes, etc. Canning is definitely a lost skill nowadays.

Sewing the family clothes is no longer done. Even the art of patching, mending or darning clothing items that have torn is rarely done. Everyone had at least one sewing machine in the household and most ladies were skilled starting at a young age to sew using the machine and by hand. skill-sewingWith that skill is the practice of knitting and crocheting, both of which only a few people do today. Aren’t you glad you have the fine pieces that your grandmother made decades ago?

Can you think of some other skills that are disappearing?


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