7 household hacks from vintage cards that still work

Some things really don't go out of style – like good advice!

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

Cigarette cards started off as a way for tobacco companies to reinforce their boxes and cartons of cigarettes. A stiff, blank business card-like piece of paper helped to provide stability to their packs. It didn't take long for many companies to realize that these little slips of blank paper were, in fact, opportunities. For what, exactly?

The surface of a cigarette card has carried a multitude of images, from famous celebrities to athletes. While these may have been fun collector's items, the cleverest use of these cards came in the form of household tips. On one side, the card would describe a then-common household tip for handling small, pesky problems around the home. On the other side, a hand-drawn illustration would demonstrate the instructions, elevating these cards from kitschy collectible to helpful insights. 

Every tobacco company had a version of this card once their popularity exploded; in this list, we focus on Gallaher Group. Founded in 1857 by Tom Gallaher in Derry, Ireland, Gallaher Group had multiple lines of products which included tobacco, cigar, cigarettes and snuff. By 1896, Gallaher Group was able to open the largest tobacco factory in the world in Belfast. With growth like this, it's no wonder that they seized every chance they could to delight and keep their customers. 

Below are seven of our favorite household hacks that could be found on these cigarette cards.


1. No. 73: How to revive 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."

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

2. No. 32: How to cut new bread into thin slices

"The difficulty of cutting new bread into thin slices can readily be overcome by the following expedient. 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."

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

3. No. 94: How to judge freshness of a lobster.

"If, when buying a boiled lobster, you are in doubt as to its freshness, just pull back the tail, then 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."

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

4. No. 1: How to pull out long nails.

"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 our without difficulty."

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

5. No. 86: How to make a useful dibber.

"A very useful dibber, with an arrangement to enable one to regulate the depth of a hole, can be made with a pointed stake containing grooves at different distances from the point and a piece of wood to fit the grooves, as shown. The dimensions and method of using the dibber are illustrated in the picture."

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

6. No. 18: How to cool wine without ice.

"If no ice is available for cooling wine, a good method is to wrap the bottle in flannel and place it in a crock beneath the cold water tap. Allow the water to run over it as shown in the picture, and in about ten mintues the wine will be thoroughly cool and ready for the table." 

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

7. No. 12: A hint when boiling potatoes.

"To make potatoes dry and floury when cooked, add to water when boiling them a pinch of sugar as well as salt. When potatoes are done, water should be poured away and saucepan replaced over the fire for a short time, shaking the saucepan occaisionally to ensure equal dryness of potatoes."

Image: New York Public Library Digital Collection

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