Christine (Terhune) Mrs. 1859- Herrick.

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In City Tents

How to Find, Furnish, and Keep a
Small Home on Slender Means

Christine Terhune Herrick

Author of " First Aid to the Young Housekeeper," " The
Chafing-Dish Supper," etc.

G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York and London

3be "Knickerbocker press




Published September, 1902


ttbe ftntcfecrbocher press, Hew tforfc




Choosing a home Proportion of income to go
for rent Fuel Living expenses Servants'
wages Gas, repairs, replacements Other gen-
eral expenses.



Choice of location Advantages of a home down
town, up town, in Brooklyn Precautions in
choosing neighborhood Inside arrangements
of apartments "All light rooms," plumbing,
steam heat, closets, conveniences.


Consideration for janitor Tipping Courtesy
Avoidance of familiarity.



Choice of papers : Suggestions as to kinds and
colors in living rooms, hall, chambers, bath-
room Kitchen and maid's room,







iv Contents



Harmony in furnishing Bare floors Rugs, car-
pets, matting, linoleum Draperies at bargains
Window curtains Portieres.



Selection of furniture for drawing-room Up-
holstery Picture-hanging Furniture of din-
ing-room, of chambers Beds and mattresses
Kitchen furniture.


Linen chest Making ready ahead of need
Supply of bed and table linen Their cost
Kitchen utensils "Must haves" and "may
wants" General household conveniences The
china closet.


Where and how to engage a maid Making
work and privileges clear in advance Direction
of general routine of work Lucid orders
Planning tasks How servants differ Daily
outline of duties Management of maid Con-

Contents v



Work simplified in apartments Suitable dress
for housework Arrangement of daily duties
Housekeeper's solitary luncheon Afternoon
rest Shirking scientifically.



Concerning allowances Proportion to be spent
for food Wages Groceries, vegetables, and
meat Habits of living Emergency sum.



Pleasures of economy Marketing lessons
One young housekeeper's mistake Study and
practice in marketing Suggestions for purchas-
ing meat Why the housekeeper should do her
own marketing Cash accounts vs. weekly bills.



Economy of strength, of time, of gas Buying
provisions Teaching maids to economize
Care with fuel Best coal for range Labor-
saving machines.


Business Acquaintances Letters of introduc-
tionClub and church friends Danger of in-
timacies with flat neighbors Caution in choice
of friends.

vi Contents



Family traditions of hospitality Question of
servants Afternoon tea Sunday-night supper
Evening "spread" little dinners Break-
fast parties Lunches.



The man's clothes The woman's clothes
Making an estimate Buying out of season
Advantages of a small wardrobe Care in choos-
ing garments Small economies.



Pleasure of dining out Cheap dinners in New
York Table d'hdte dinners and districts In
the Tenderloin Below Fourteenth Street On
the East Side Cookery of all nations The
gastronomic explorer Inexpensive restaurants.


Advantages of cheap amusements Art in New
York Private galleries Small collections
Exhibitions Open-air concerts Organ recitals
Orchestras Cheap opera People's lecture
courses Other free lectures Museums The
Zoo The parks.

Contents vii



Pleasures of the parks Hunter's Island Pel-
ham Bay Fort Lee The Bronx Woodman-
see Inn Pocantico Hills Nyack Bend View
Hackensack Northern New Jersey The
Jersey coast Staten Island Long Island
Water excursions The Hudson Cost of out-



I/ine of renunciation What not to give up
Smoking and frills Selection instead of rejec-
tion Sensible self-denials Compensations
Choice of extravagances.


Giving the man his own way His den Where
he may smoke and rest A mistake of young
wives Care of personal appearance Nagging
"Keeping a husband up" The price of




ONCE upon a time a long-ago time there
was a theory that the householder should
pay ten per cent, of his income in rent. Van-
ished with the snows of yester-year is that esti-
mate. The man who to-day rents a home in a
large city feels himself the financier of the cen-
tury when he expends but one sixth of his in-
come on his rent, swells with justifiable pride if
he brings it within one fifth, and considers that
he need not reproach himself for extravagance if
one fourth of what he earns in the year goes to
provide him with a lodging.

To this first cost the man who takes a whole
house for his family must add several other

2 In City Tents

important items. He must think of the question
of heating, of the problem of service. Therein the
flat-dweller has the advantage over the man who
occupies an entire building. To the former the
rent means much besides a mere shelter. It in-
cludes steam heat for the apartment, the care of
hall, stairs, cellar, front steps, and sidewalk, the
charge of ashes and garbage, the services of the
janitor for small repairs such as the tenant of
the whole house does himself or pays for himself.
Doubtless he could demand them from his land-
lord, but it is so much easier and quicker to call
in a workman of the neighborhood when there is
an unruly lock to be wrestled with, a leak to be
looked after, or a loose window-catch to be mended
than to write to the landlord for permission to
have the work done, that the tenant usually pre-
fers the simpler course.

All these trifles devolve upon the janitor of the
flat-house, and if he is a good sort he saves the
flat-dweller many a stray dollar in the course of
the year. The occasional tips to which he feels
himself entitled weigh little against the expense
he spares and need hardly be considered in mak-
ing one's estimate of general economies.

The rent is, of course, the crux in all planning

Concerning General Economies 3

of expenditures. On other things one may econ-
omize, cut down, scrimp. The rent is as incom-
pressible as the Pyramids. Not inadvisedly or
lightly should it be assumed, but with a rever-
ence, discretion, and sobriety second only to that
bestowed upon the solemnization of matrimony.
To be sure, one lease holds longer than the other,
but it is almost as easy to secure a divorce as to
escape paying one's rent.

Still, as in marriage, it is not worth while to
get an article merely because it is inexpensive.
The cheap house or apartment always has disad-
vantages that make it a dear investment. By
cheap I do not mean necessarily of a low rent,
but one that is low in proportion to one's sur-
roundings. The man and woman who must
bring their rent within a fixed sum and that a
moderate one should turn their backs upon ex-
pensive neighborhoods and resolve to set up their
household gods in the very uptown parts of New
York or even to cross the Bast River in their
search for a home.

Here is where there is a possibility of an econ-
omy that can be felt. The choice of the neighbor-
hood in which one will live is an important matter,
but it must be decided as much by one's means

4 In City Tents

as by one's preference. Naturally, the majority
of persons would prefer to reside within easy
walking distance of everything although there
are those who desire to be farther from the noise
of the business districts. The latter class may
be more readily satisfied than the former. For
while there are always certain localities where
rents are not out of reach, the flats there are
usually of the old-fashioned, inconvenient variety,
or else are in an unsavory vicinity.

Another economy may be practised if one is
willing to climb stairs. With the advent of an
elevator prices go up with a bound. The married
couple who have good legs and backs may con-
sider them as money in their pockets. The
higher the floor the better the air and the light,
and, as a rule, the lower the rent. It is in these
matters that one must make the decision that
means extravagance or veritable economy.

By a comparison of one's positive and probable
earnings with the positive and probable expendi-
tures of the year it is possible to arrive at a pretty
clear idea of the proportion that may go for rent.
This differs in different circumstances. In one
family service will cost more, in another, what is
known as living expenses, which cover groceries,

Concerning General Economies 5

meat, milk, ice, and in some cases heating and
lighting as well, are disproportionately large.
More goes for clothing in some families than in
others. In one home, a good deal of hospitality
is taken as a matter of course, in another there is
hardly a guest from the beginning of the month
to the end. This couple depends upon a certain
number of entertainments that cost something,
that married pair seeks recreation only in the
many amusements that cost little or nothing. If
there are children in the family, the problem is
even more complicated.

All these matters must be weighed in deciding
upon the amount to be paid for rent, and indi-
vidual circumstances must determine the case.
Still, the consensus of opinion tends to devoting
not more than one fifth or at the outside one
fourth of the income to rent, unless the cost of the
flat covers enough in heat, light, and service to
justify a larger proportion.

This first and chiefest point settled, the other
items of living must receive attention. Among
these the matter of heat leads the rest. Happy
is the man who has simplified the question by
taking a steam-heated apartment. Not for him
is anxiety concerning the fluctuations of the coal

6 In City Tents

market and strikes in the coal regions. The
furnace is no weight on his mind, nor the open
fires and stoves for there are still flats even in
New York that are thus warmed a burden upon
his wife's hands.

Should he have these cares, however, he will
do well to bestow a little advance thought upon
his coal supply. If he is so fortunate as to have
a good place to store it he can save money by lay-
ing in his stock in warm weather. Even coal for
the range it is worth while to buy in this way.
The average kitchen stove will consume a ton of
coal in from five to seven weeks the time de-
pending upon the size of the range and the care
of the cook. At this computation one can see
that it is a saving of money to buy coal when it
is even fifty or seventy -five cents less a ton than
it is during the most expensive season.

Nearly as important as the heat is what I
have called the living expense. lyike Prince
Ahmed's magic garment, this may cover very
little or a great deal. Which it shall be is de-
cided largely by the skill of the manager of the
home. All general economies are grounded upon
particular economies. The woman who under-
stands the purchase and care of provisions, who

Concerning General Economies 7

has studied the science of economy and knows
that it is not a synonyme for scrimping or starva-
tion, but spells instead a highly developed sense
of proportion, can live well on the money that
would furnish but the most meagre provision for
the careless or untrained housekeeper.

On this account generalization is more difficult
in the matter of living expenses than of house-
rent. Granting, however, that from one fourth
to one third of the income is spent upon rent, and
that this includes heat and the amount of service
received by the dweller in any tolerably well ap-
pointed flat-house, it is safe to say that one must
allow not much less than the same proportion of
his income to go for food. Or, to bring the matter
to a concrete illustration, the tenant who pays
forty dollars a month for rent can hardly hope to
cover his bills for meat, groceries, milk, and ice
for less than the same amount. He does well
or his wife does if the total is brought within
this limit. And this estimate will hardly hold
good for a larger family than the husband and
wife and one maid. The food of each additional
adult can seldom be counted at less than three
dollars and a half a week. This fluctuates, of
course, in accordance with the kind of living

8 In City Tents

provided, but this allowance is for ordinary com-
fortable subsistence without many * * frills ' ' of any

Thus a full half of the income is disposed of.
The rest gives little trouble in the spending.
When service is included it makes a positive
break in the returns, almost if not quite so in-
evitable as that accomplished by the rent. The
amount of the sum, however, like the food ex-
penses, rests to a certain extent within the power
of the mistress. Should she be willing and able
to train a " green" girl, to do the daintier parts
of the housekeeping herself, to rely upon her own
head and hands to make up deficiencies, she can
at once lower the proportion expended in service.
The woman who does all the work of her little
home except the washing, ironing, and heavy
cleaning reduces the cost of help to a minimum.
Trained service she cannot hope to get at less
than from sixteen to twenty dollars a month, and
the rate of wages for the general housework maid
rises steadily as the demand for such service ex-
ceeds the supply.

Of the positive household expenses remain now
gas, repairs, and replacements.

The last item seems but a trifle in the newly

Concerning General Economies 9

equipped home and yet it is surprising to find how
many wants present themselves even in a freshly
furnished family. The art of doing without must
be diligently studied and practised before the list
of must-haves can be reduced to an inconsiderable
fraction. And many things cannot be done with-
out except by an outlay of trouble and patience
that amount to more than the cost of conveniences.
Labor-saving appliances may coax the money
from the pocket, but they as often smooth the
wrinkles from the housekeeper's face and spare
her a pain in the head or the back or the temper.

Alas that kitchen and dining-room and general
household fittings should ever break or wear out !
It is these things that cut into the margin that
has been allowed for contingencies. The stove-
lifter will fall and fracture, the dish towels will
wear into holes, the pudding dishes will crack,
the tumblers and teacups go into pieces. When
luxuries are destroyed the housekeeper may set
her teeth and suffer, but never yet has there been
found so practical a manager that she could keep
house adequately without a stove-lifter or dish

The gas bill is rarely a matter of indifference.
But there are some households where its arrival

io In City Tents

is awaited as a calamity only to be paralleled by
the half-yearly visit to the dentist. These are
the homes where cookery is done by gas. For
saving though this is when it comes to work, it
is not a financial economy. The saving is to be
found in the relief from the burden of building
fires, of clearing out stoves, of disposing of ashes,
in the dust that is spared, in the ease that is given
by one's ability to have a hot fire by the scratch
of a match and the turn of a key. The woman
who cooks by gas should get all the happiness she
can from these benefits. She will pay for them
all when the gas bill comes in.

Yet who would go back to coal who has once
known the cleanliness and comfort of a gas range ?
For economy means something besides money
saving, and the price of the fuel burned in the
ordinary stove is the least part of the cost of a
coal range. When one estimates the backaches
produced by lifting heavy scuttles, by stooping
to clean out ashes and clinkers, the smarting
eyes and soiled clothing acquired by the same
process and by the work of sweeping and dust-
ing the coal involves, the gas bill shrinks in

With the gas stove another sort of economy is

Concerning General Economies 1 1

possible. The woman who does her own work
can save many a stray nickel by turning off the
gas the moment the need for it is at an end. If
she can train her maid to do the same so much
the better. Until the mistress knows something
of the employee's propensities it is well for her to
keep the habit of dropping into the kitchen often
when the stove is in use and when it is not.

The gas hot- water-back is at once a boon and
a bane. A boon, in that it heats the water
quickly and makes a bath possible within fifteen
minutes from the time the burner beneath it is
lighted. A bane, in that it fairly eats up gas.
In the modern and best- appointed flat-houses the
hot water is connected with the steam-heating
apparatus and supplied to the tenants from the
cellar, but there are flats a plenty where the only
means of heating water in the boiler is by aid of
a coal fire or a gas water-back.

There are still expenses that cannot be allowed
for, general economies that must be considered.
The problem of clothes is too extensive to be
undertaken here. But travelling expenses, doc-
tors' bills, dentists' accounts, summer outings,
hospitality, Christmas presents, birthday remem-
brances, such apparent trifles as car-fare, candy

12 In City Tents

and cigars, stamps and stationery all the things
that * * passed in making up the main account ' '
have their place in the daily or weekly outgo.

The best general rule I ever heard given for
making an estimate of such expenses was the
suggestion that one should enumerate every item
one could possibly recall, make a liberal figure
on each, add all together, and multiply the sum-
total by three. Then, with care, one might hope
not to go much in excess of one's allowance.

Discouraging, perhaps, but safe. For the
danger is never of overestimating, always of
leaving too small a margin. When a sufficiently
liberal grant has been made for general economies
there is always hope that particular economies
may aid to retrieve apparent extravagance.

It is hard for the student of ways and means to
avoid diving at once into those particular econo-
mies. The subject is fascinating to one who has
ever dabbled in it, absorbing to one who has
given it long thought. To such an one it is
almost as difficult to dissociate the particular
from the general as to make a mosaic picture
without the innumerable small blocks that com-
pose the work.

Yet one must design the picture before attempt-

Concerning General Economies 13

ing the adjustment of the parts. The general
outlines of the economies of the home must be
planned before going into detail. Much depends
upon the individual man who begins the home,
more upon the individual woman. Housekeeping
is probably as easy in New York as anywhere in
the world, so far as conveniences are concerned.
The best markets are here, nearly the best ar-
rangements for heating and lighting. But for all
these one must pay money, and to economize in
this one must pay time, thought, labor.



TTOUSE-HUNTING in New York should be
1 1 classed with the quest of other big game.
By virtue of the perils and daring demanded it
has a right to such a place. Viewed in this light
it should have its charm for landless resolutes.
But for the timid it is a nerve-racking and temper-
trying experience.

At first the uninitiated do not gauge the perils
that lie ahead of them. They think that there is
nothing easier than to find an abiding-place in
New York. This touching faith they cherish
until they have put in one day in house-hunting.
If they are exceptional optimists they may even
cling to their convictions for forty-eigbt hours.
The end of that time finds them faint, although
still of necessity pursuing. When they finally,
after a period of search that varies from three to
thirty days, decide upon a dwelling which differs

Pitching the Tent 15

absolutely from their mental concept of their
home, they are in a state to vow that they will
move again upon no man's persuasion.

For there are many things to debate in finding
a home. The question of price must often be the
chief consideration and determine the location.
The man's place of business and his convenience
in reaching it also have weight at first, although
it does not take long for the house-hunters to at-
tain the point where a habitable home is the only
sine qua non and the means of getting there a
matter of comparative insignificance.

Yet this is one of the most important consider-
ations in deciding where one is to live. The
mood of absolute weariness to which a few dozen
flights of stairs and a nice selection of janitors will
reduce the average man and woman should not
so blind them to the future as to render them
careless as to the vicinity of ' ' I/ " stations or to
the stopping-places of future subway trains. In
any case enough is taken out of a man by the
necessity of travelling back and forth to and from
business every day without making it worse for
him than is necessary.

There can be no doubt that the long journeys
up and down town made inevitable by the

1 6 In City Tents

conformation of Manhattan Island have an effect
upon the nerves of New York citizens. The rush
for trains, the mad scurry up and down the steps,
the clinging to a strap as trains or trolleys swing
around curves or jolt to a stop, do their share in
sending a man to business jaded before his regular
work is begun, or put the final touch to the weari-
ness with which he returns home after his day's
toil. Since the trip back and forth cannot be
escaped, its tiials should at least be minimized as
far as possible. Yet, as every business man can-
not live within a minute and a half of a rapid
transit station, those who are more remote may
console themselves by the thought that a brisk
walk morning and evening is good for the health.
They may also take comfort in the reflection that
even comparative remoteness from such a station
has its effect in lowering rents.

So many considerations besides expense have
weight in the choice of a home that it is a matter
upon which one hesitates to generalize. The
old New Yorker who has a prejudice in favor of
surroundings with associations clings fondly to re-
gions below Twenty-third Street, and even below
Fourteenth. He seeks for a local habitation in old
Greenwich village, with its queer little streets

Pitching the Tent 17

running in an eccentric fashion that recalls cow-
path days. He adores Washington Square, its
arch and its cross-crowned tower, and would
rather have limited quarters there than a spacious
suite miles uptown. Or his affections are bound
to Second Avenue, with its Knickerbocker mem-
ories, and he craves a home near St. Mark's, or
in Irving Place or Stuyvesant Square. Verily,
he has his reward. If he is a good pedestrian he
can probably walk to or from his office, he is
within easy distance of nearly everything, ex-
cept the Park, and feels himself encompassed
with an atmosphere of old-time respectability.

Which is also strongly flavored with incon-
venience. For in these parts of town the new
and up-to-date flat is chiefly conspicuous by its
absence, and the apartments are usually to be
found in old dwellings that have been made over.
Elevators are not, the ceilings are of the pitch of
former days, which means difficulty in heating
the rooms adequately in cold weather, and long
climbing to reach the flats on the upper floors.
The few new apartment houses are stately build-
ings with prices whose mere mention gives a
nervous shock to the house-hunter of moderate

1 8 In City Tents

For the uptown districts there is much, very
much, to be said. The downtown devotee will

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Online LibraryChristine (Terhune) Mrs. 1859- HerrickIn city tents; how to find, furnish, and keep a small home on slender means → online text (page 1 of 12)