Studies in Crap: 1904’s top sexologists on our helpless, unclean, flower-like women


Each Thursday [or Friday, when the editor is having one of his “spells”], your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Sexual Physiology or Hidden Truths Revealed:
Purity, Heredity and Physical Manhood

Authors: Bishop Samuel Fallows and Dr. W. J. Truitt, both “heaven-appointed teachers of purity and truth.”

Date: 1904
Publisher: Hertel, Jenkins & Co.

The Frontispiece Promises: “Celebrated Prescriptions for all diseases” and “Profusely illustrated”

Representative Quotes:

  • “There is beauty in the helplessness of a woman. The clinging trust which searches for extraneous support is graceful and touching.” (page 95).
  • “In order that it may be beneficial, the bath should not be taken at a time when any of the important organs of the body are engaged in the performance of their functions.” (page 78).

As any teen who has ever scissored up fashion magazines to assemble a collage on body-issues can tell you, our current ideal of feminine beauty is something like the Microsoft Word paperclip with lips like a life-preserver. But your Crap Archivist has good news for all those ladies out there who have ever eaten a sandwich: it wasn’t always this way!

That’s according to the authors of Sexual Physiology, my favorite turn-of-the-last-century guide to the human body and the unfathomable evil of its tingliest parts.

According to Fallows and Pruitt, “Good health, proper diet, regular exercise, habits and dress all have more or less to do with beauty, but the main source is in the mind and heart.” That sounds sweet, but the theory works both ways: if you’re not beautiful something deeper must be wrong:

“Deformity of limb clearly shows a lack of vitality in that limb; a bad complexion indicates something wrong in the vital system; a malformation of the brain is a sure sign of want in the mental system.”

But remember, beauty isn’t all outside. Heed this “Caution to Young Women”:

“It is well known that, at certain periods, women from fifteen to forty-five are, in the language of Mosaic law, ‘unclean’; that is, at their monthly periods. Unless great care is taken, women may, and sometimes do, give off a very unpleasant odor.”

They make no exception for the pure of heart, whose lady-parts, according to Fallows and Pruitt’s theories of morality, should smell like Glade Plug-Ins.

But what to make of the contradiction between the gentle decency the authors insist defines real beauty and illustrations like this?

In addition to fitting inside a perforated hot-dog, the truly beautiful must fulfill these classical ideals:

  • “The face, from the highest point of the forehead, to the end of the chin, is one-tenth of the whole stature.”
  • “If the length of the face, from the root of the hair to the chin, be divided into three equal parts, the first division is point where the eyebrows meet and the second under the nostrils.”
  • “Were a man to lay on his back with his legs extended and arms stretched above his head, the circumference of a circle whose center is at the navel may be made to touch the ends of his hands and feet.”

Note that if you swap “the face” for “a cubit,” these could be instructions for building an ark.

So, ladies not only had to be perfect – they had to know Euclidean geometry.

Still, the past offered its ladies one chance a beauty denied to the women of today: a ravishing helplessness.

“The strong man is most secure who has the sympathy of a virtuous faithful wife, and a frail, timid woman needs the strong arm of manhood upon which to lean.”

Being timid, I expect, means never commenting upon the size of the strong man’s hypotenuse. Also, coyness is sexy, especially in courtship, when a woman first flowers with a man.

“The delicate mind shrinks from every unaccustomed contact, and the warm, gushing heart closes itself like the blossom of the sensitive plant.”

I think that quote’s also in Updike someplace.


Shocking Detail:

Incontrovertible proof that your life will end in wretchedness!

Trust me: it’s worth a click to read the captions.


Because its 510 pages boast Crap on an unprecedented scale, this week I’m only archiving the first five chapters. (Outside of the staggering Fuzzy Mules, Pink Slippers: Came A Clown, no Studies in Crap book boasts as much!)

Rest assured, your Crap Archivist will soon share Fallow and Pruitt’s thoughts on “Self Pollution,” “Chastity in Marriage,” “Painless Pregnancy and Childbirth,” “Treatment of Venereal Disease” and why “as a rule, fat people drink very large quantities of fluid.”

Until then, here’s more advice from the first 100 pages:

“All hats should be well ventilated and worn as little as possible. If he went bareheaded, there would be no baldness. You never heard of a bald Indian.”

Hair Drying:
“The practice followed by some ill-advised women of washing their hair at night and letting it hang over the pillow to dry is reprehensible.”

“One of the best preservatives of female health is a plentiful use of cool or tepid water, both on the surface of the body and by vaginal injections.”

Making Marriage Work:

Treatment of Ear-Ache: 
“If a husband hopes to be held in pleasurable esteem by a sensitive and refined wife, of, if the wife hopes to retain the affection of a refined husband, each should avoid offending the olfactory nerves of the other.”

“Put a live coal from the fire in a cup and pour a teaspoon of granulated sugar over it. Be careful not to let it blaze, and at once insert a small funnel over it, holding the tip of the funnel in the ear. The smoke gives instant relief.”

Offensive Feet:
“If the feet are offensive, as they are in many cases, they should be bathed several times a week. In addition to the bathings, the stockings should be changed each day.”

Why Your Betrothed Suddenly Writes Poems to Grubs:
“Man’s love for woman changes his whole nature to more lofty ideals. He becomes more tender to God’s creatures, the little child, the blooming plant, the crawling worm is noticed with more interest.”

[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]