If you were born within the past few decades, you probably don’t know how ambitious cigarette advertising used to be. From ads on television to vending machines in neighborhood restaurants, smoking was a much more visible part of everyday life in America.

Back in the late 1800s, cigarette companies would put a single card in their packets to keep the containers from bending. Gallaher’s Cigarettes realized these cards could be turned into fun collectible items, and in 1910, they started putting some useful tips on the backs. The New York Public Library recently put the best ones up online, and not only are they cool to look at, a lot of them are more useful than you might think…

1. Prevent your glasses from getting foggy: “The moisture which collects on eyeglasses causes a great deal of trouble, but if the glasses are daily rubbed with soap and well polished afterwards, a very thin, invisible film of soap remains, which has the effect of preventing the condensation of moisture on the glass.” 

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2. Keep flies away from your trash can: “As the result of experiments it has been found that a small amount of ordinary Borax sprinkled daily in the dustbin, which is one of their favorite haunts, will put a stop to the breeding of [flies].”

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3. Make too-big shoes fit like a dream: “A pair of loose shoes can be made to fit comfortably by fixing (with seccotine) a piece of velvet or velveteen inside the heel as shown in the picture. Care must be taken to see that no wrinkles are left in the velvet.”

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4. Yes, there is a “right way” to carry a 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.”

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5. There’s also a “right way” to bandage a foot: “Rest injured foot on operator’s knee on a clean towel. Commence bandaging in manner shown by the lower diagram, the bandage being bound over and round the back of the foot in a spiral fashion, and eventually affixed by a safety pin, just beneath the ankle as shown in the upper illustration.”

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6. Sprained ankle? Let these cigarettes help you: “Elevate the injured joint and wrap in cloths wrung out in cold water. The picture shows how to keep the cloths constantly wet without having to change them. A jug of water [is] placed higher than [the] injured limb, and a strip of linen with one end in the jug and the other end resting upon the wrapping of the sprained joint, is all that is necessary. The water will pass from jug to compress by way of the linen strip.”

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7. Clean an oil painting with a raw potato: “The picture should first be well dusted and then rubbed gently with the flat surface of a cut raw potato, the lather being wiped away with a soft rag. The dirty part of the potato must be constantly pared off in order to keep clean the surface applied to the picture. Finish off with a rub of pure linseed oil.”

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8. Cut the perfect slice of bread every single time: “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.”

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9. Weigh down your vases to prevent them from toppling: “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.”

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10. This makes cleaning up glass so easy: “To pick up broken glass quickly and cleanly, a soft damp cloth will be found to be most effective, for it takes up the small splinters. The best plan is to use an old rag that can be thrown away with the glass.”

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11. Help if you’ve got a ring stuck on your finger: “To remove a tight ring from the finger, the finger should first be 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 jeweler is advisable.”

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12. Increase your lung capacity: “Stand erect on the balls of the feet with the head held well back. Then inhale deeply until the lungs are fully inflated, gradually exhale, allowing the chest to sink first, followed by the lungs. Repeat exercise several times both morning and evening.”

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13. Figure out if a lobster is really fresh: “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.”

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14. Don’t throw away that cracked egg: “To boil cracked eggs as satisfactorily as though they were undamaged, a little vinegar should be added to the water. If this is done, it will be found that none of the contents will boil out.”

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15. Get stuck glasses apart in a jiffy: “When two glass tumblers stick together, there is a danger of breakage in trying to separate them. The simplest and most effective method of releasing the glasses is to put cold water in the upper one and place the lower one in warm water. They will be found to separate at once.”

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16. Determine your hotel bed’s dampness: “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 moistness or blurred appearance of the mirror’s surface when withdrawn is an indication of dampness and the bed should not be slept in.”

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17. Do you need to draw a perfect ellipse? Follow these instructions: “Size of the ellipse having been determined, focuses are found by measuring off the short diameter (or width of the ellipse) from the ends of the long diameter (or length). Two pins should be fixed, and string or thread looped round as shown in the picture. Length of loop should be from A to B.”

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18. The safe way to remove a long nail: “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 block of wood be placed under the pincers, as in B, the nail can be pulled right out without difficulty.”

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19. Make your own gate latch: “The picture gives the shape of a latch which [does not allow the gate to swing open]. When screwed to the gate post, the latch will be found to swing in position to secure the gate, and the greatest weight of the latch is beneath the screw pivot.”

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20. How to use your watch as a compass: “To determine the points of the compass by means of your watch, point the hour hand at the sun and then lay a piece of wire or blade of grass crosswise between the hour hand and the figure 12. The end of the wire between the hour hand and the 12 points south.”

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21. Get rid of salt water stains that mar leather shoes: “Such stains can be removed by washing the shoes over with a preparation composed of a piece of washing soda about the size of a chestnut dissolved in two tablespoons of hot milk. When dry, the shoes should be polished in the ordinary way, and the stains will be found to have disappeared.”

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22. Extend the lives of your cut flowers: “To revive choice blooms that have faded during transit, plunge the stems into hot water, and allow them to remain until the water has cooled. By that time the flowers will have revived. The ends of the stems should then be cut off and the blossoms placed in cold water in the usual way.”

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23. Make a candle fit any holder: “If a candle is too thick to fit the candlestick, don’t pare the end, but get a bowl of hot water and hold the end of the candle in it until the wax softens. If the candle is now pressed into the candlestick, it will sit firmly.”

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24. Suspect a gas leak? Here’s an easy way to tell if you’re right: “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.”

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25. Keep your pot lid raised: “Drive a tack into the top part of the [clothespin] and then fix the [pin] over the edge of the pan as if it were on the clothesline. The lid rests on the tack and is thus kept open.”

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26. Make your own weather forecast: “The traveler, setting off in the early morning, will find a fairly sure guide as to the weather he is likely to encounter by watching a very small distant cloud. If the cloud grows gradually larger, then unsettled, rainy weather will probably come. But if the cloud decreases in size, the day should be a fine one.”

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27. Fix a squeaky boot: “When new boots make a squeaking noise, a good remedy is to drive several brads in the center of the sole. “Another method is to place the sole in a dish or plate containing oil, the heel being propped up in order to immerse the whole of the sole, and the boot left until the oil has thoroughly soaked into the leather.”

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28. Start your own fire: “A good substitute is to use pieces of paper screwed into twists as the picture shows. Two or three pieces of newspaper are quite sufficient to start a judiciously built coal fire.”

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29. How to keep your new shoes clean: “A successful method is to rub the boots all 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.”

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30. Remove a splinter using suction: “A splinter embedded in the hand can be 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 tightly against the bottle. The suction will pull down the flesh and the steam will soon draw out the splinter.”

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31. Scaring off an angry dog: “A scout’s staff, a walking-stick, or even a handkerchief or hat may be held before you as shown. The dog invariably endeavors to paw down your defense before biting, thus giving you the opportunity of disabling him by a kick.”


32. Save your eggs for later: “Eggs for preserving must be newly laid, and by simply putting these into a box or tin of dry salt-burying the eggs right in the salt and keeping it in a cool dry place — it is possible to preserve them for a very long period. No air whatever should be allowed to get to the shell.”


33. Filter water in a pinch: “A most handy and efficacious filter can be made out of an ordinary perfectly clean zinc water pail, through the bottom of which a hole has been drilled and a small pipe fitted. The water percolates through the layers of fine and coarse sand, and clean picked gravel and stones, with which the pail is filled, filtering through to the bottom in a clear state.”


34. Make yourself a fire extinguisher: “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.”


35. Get someone across the river in a chair: “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.”


36. Light a match in the wind: “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.”


37. Keep plants watered while you’re away: “Fill a large pail with water, and stand it a little above the level of the plants and group round or near as many plants as practical. Loosely plait two or three strands of wool together, immerse completely in water, and place one end in the pail, weighted, and touching the bottom. Rest the other end on the soil: a separate plait of wool is advisable for each pot.”

38. Cut down a tree: “Fill a large pail with water, and stand it a little above the level of the plants and group round or near as many plants as practical. Loosely plait two or three strands of wool together, immerse completely in water, and place one end in the pail, weighted, and touching the bottom. Rest the other end on the soil: a separate plait of wool is advisable for each pot.”


Isn’t it crazy how so many of these are still totally applicable to daily life today? I know I’ll be keeping that splinter trick on standby!