Period Rooms

This series of rooms represent a home of the early 1900s: a parlor, wash room, bedroom, kitchen and little boy's room.


Traditionally parlor rooms were used only by adults for the entertainment of guests. At times the children were invited to join the guests and entertain by singing or playing a musical instrument. If the children were allowed to stay, they would have entertained themselves by playing a quiet game or reading. One activity that children and adults alike enjoyed was looking through a stereoscope.

"Just for Kids": Try out the stereoscope. Books in the early 1900s did not have many pictures or illustrations. A stereoscope was a fun way for children to view unknown and exotic places around the world. Place a photo card in the metal slots and look through the eye piece. The two pictures should come together and look like one.

The piano was purchased for $200.00 and brought to Floyd County by an oxen pulled wagon in 1857. The delivery charge was $5.00.

The marble Ansonia mantle clock in the bookcase.

The violin was a popular instrument and often played for dances and get togethers. This particular violin and case were handcrafted by Sanford Ripley, an early Floyd County pioneer.

The green glass fish bowl in the corner of the room is made of Vaseline glass and is an example of Victorian decoration.

Wash Room

Laundry done in the early 1900s before electricity was time consuming and exhausting. The lady of the house had to complete many steps before the laundry was clean and ready to use.

1. Water was heated on the wood stove in a copper boiler.
2. Stains were treated and heavily soiled areas were scrubbed on a washboard, sometimes using a brush.
3. Laundry soap was made by cutting pieces from a bar of soap such as Castile and dissolving it in hot water. (In the early years soap was made in the home using animal fat and lye made from wood ashes.)
4. A series of wash tubs were prepared to use as soap and rinse tubs.
5. The laundry was passed from tub to tub using a hand turned wringer roller in between to squeeze out the excess liquid.
6. If a whitener was needed the laundry was soaked in a tub with “bluing” added. Then wrung out again.
7. Sometimes starch was applied at this point to stiffen up areas such as collars and cuffs.
8. The laundry was hung outside on a clothesline to dry. (In the winter it was fun to see the overalls and jeans stand up when brought in from the cold.)
9. The dry clothes were then sprinkled with water and rolled up to dampen before ironing.
10. Clothes were ironed with heavy metal irons that were heated on the wood stove. The more efficient irons had detachable handles so one iron base could be heated on the stove while the other was in use. Victorian ladies ironed almost everything. In addition to the outer wear, sheets, pillowcases, towels, table linens, cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, and even undergarments and night clothes were ironed.

The washing machine in this room was built in Nora Springs, Floyd County.

Bedroom Room

The bedroom furniture seen here is from the A.B.F. Hildreth home in Charles City. A.B.F. Hildreth was a prominent businessman: owner of the large and impressive Hildreth Hotel, editor of the first Charles City newspaper (The St. Charles Republican Intelligencer), and instrumental in helping women enroll in state colleges.

It is interesting to note that the furniture you see here is of the same era (mid 19th century) as the furniture in the log cabin.

Some interesting items in this room are:

The curling iron was hung on the oil lamp and heated to just the right temperature, however it was not uncommon to smell burnt hair during the curling process. Curling could take an hour or more with the curls lasting for only one evening.

Before homes had running water it was common to see a washstand with basin and pitcher in the bedroom. The pitcher held water that was used to wash the face and hands. When finished the dirty water was poured into the "slop" jar on the floor nearby. The linen towel hangs above on the towel rack.

Notice the fancy chamber pot near the bed. Again it is different than the metal one seen in the log cabin. Without a toilet in the home, the chamber pot came in handy for night use, especially on those cold winter evenings.


In the back of the room is a piece that looks like a wooden cabinet with doors. This is an icebox, the forerunner of our modern refrigerator. Before electricity, ice boxes were used to keep perishable food items cold. A large block of ice was delivered to the home and placed in the top compartment of the ice box. A special "poundage" card was placed in the window to alert the iceman as to the amount needed. The ice compartment had an air space around it where sawdust, cork or straw could be placed for insulation. As the ice melted cold air passed around the food placed on shelves in the lower section. An interior pipe drained water from the melting ice to a drip pan underneath the box. It was important to remember to empty the drip pan daily. The average cost of ice in the 1900s was 30 cents per pound.

The fireless cooker was the precursor of our modern crock pot. Note the story describing how it was used.

The radio was a popular household item used for entertainment and information. The family would gather around to hear news from afar or their favorite program.

Before running water, a cistern was a handy inside water source. Water flowing off the roof and into a downspout emptied into an underground water storage area known as a cistern. The cistern was located under or near the house and was pumped into the kitchen by a hand pump supplying a convenient source of soft rain water. This water was not pure so was used for purposes other than drinking.

Before electricity a cook stove was found in every kitchen. It was fueled with wood and often corncobs, which were very plentiful in Iowa. A cook stove served several purposes; it was used to prepare food, heat water for household use, and also to provide warmth. A special water reservoir on the side of the stove enabled the family to have warm water for use at all times. The large range area could occupy many pots and pans at once and the warming shelves above came in very handy for raising bread dough and keeping food warm. First the wood was gathered and brought in the house, usually by the children. The lady of the house learned quickly how to build the fire which was started long before the recipe was prepared. Regulating just the right temperature took practice and experience. Knobs on the stove were turned to hold in or let out heat. Notice the waffle iron and toaster that were used on the range top.

Little Boy's Room

This room contains many examples of toys and items representing several decades that would have been used by a little boy. Notice the home crafted sled that has both a steering wheel and a brake. Typical of most boys, this boy does not always pick up his toys.

"Just for Kids": Which toy do you think would be the most fun to play with? Can you find that toy in the store today?