Fifteen Rules for the Preservation of Health (October 1860)

This list appeared in the October 1860 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book. In that year, this magazine was one of the most read widely publications in America. When the publisher avoided “taking sides” during the Civil War, readership dropped to two-thirds of its prewar subscriber base.

Our collection provides the complete run of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and is the only one containing the color plates as they originally appeared.

Fifteen Rules for the Preservation of Health

  1. Pure atmospheric air is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, and a very small proportion of carbonic acid gas. Air once breathed has lost the chief part of its oxygen, and acquired a proportionate increase of carbonic acid gas; therefore, health requires that we breathe the same air only once.
  2. The solid parts of our bodies are continually wasting, and require to be repaired by fresh substances; therefore, food, which is to repair the loss, should be taken with due regard to the exercise and waste of the body.
  3. The fluid part of our bodies also wastes constantly; there is but one fluid in animals, which is water; therefore, water only is necessary, and no artifice can produce a better drink.
  4. The fluid of our bodies is to the solid in proportion as nine to one; therefore, a like proportion should prevail in the total amount of food taken.
  5. Light exercises an important influence upon the growth and vigor of animals and plants; therefore, our dwellings should freely admit the solar rays.
  6. Decomposing animal and vegetable substances yield various noxious gases, which enter the lungs and corrupt the blood; therefore, all impurities should be kept away from our abodes, and every precaution observed to secure a pure atmosphere.
  7. Warmth is essential to all the bodily functions; therefore, an equal bodily temperature should be maintained by exercise, by clothing, or by fire.
  8. Exercise warms, invigorates, and purifies the body; clothing preserves the warmth the body generates; fire imparts warmth externally; therefore, to obtain and preserve warmth, exercise and clothing are preferable to fire.
  9. Fire consumes the oxygen of the air, and produces noxious gases; therefore, the air is less pure in the presence of candles, gas, or coal-fire than otherwise; and the deterioration should be repaired by increased ventilation.
  10. The skin is a highly-organized membrane, full of minute pores, cells, bloodvessels, and nerves; it imbibes moisture, or throws it off, according to the state of the atmosphere and the temperature of the body. It also “breathes,” as do the lungs (though less actively). All the internal organs sympathize with the skin; therefore, it should be repeatedly cleansed.
  11. Late hours and anxious pursuits exhaust the nervous system, and produce disease and premature death; therefore, the hours of labor and study should be short.
  12. Mental and bodily exercise are equally essential to the general health and happiness; therefore, recreation and study should succeed each other.
  13. Man will live most healthily upon simple solids and fluids, of which a sufficient but temperate quantity should be taken; therefore, strong drinks, tobacco, snuff, and opium, and all mere indulgences, should be avoided.
  14. Sudden alternations of heat and cold are dangerous, especially to the young and the aged; therefore, clothing in quantity and quality should be adapted to the alternations of night and day, and of the seasons. Drinking cold water when the body is hot, and hot tea and soups when cold, are productive of many evils.
  15. Moderation in eating and drinking, short hours of labor and study, regularity in exercise, recreation and rest, cleanliness, equanimity of temper, and equality of temperature, are the great essentials to that which surpasses all wealth— health of mind and body.

About Godey’s Lady’s Book

Godey’s Lady’s Book, alternatively known as Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book, was an American women’s magazine that was published in Philadelphia in the 19th Century. It was the most widely circulated magazine in the period before the Civil War. Its circulation rose from 70,000 in the 1840s to 150,000 in 1860. In the 1860s Godey’s considered itself the “queen of monthlies”.

Sarah Josepha Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) was its editor from 1837 until 1877 and only published original, American manuscripts. Although the magazine was read and contained work by both men and women, Hale published three special issues that only included work done by women.

When Hale started at Godey’s, the magazine had a circulation of ten thousand subscribers. Two years later, it jumped to 40,000 and by 1860 had 150,000 subscribers.

In general, Godey disliked discussing political issues or controversial topics in his magazine. In the 1850s, he dismissed Sara Jane Lippincott (“Grace Greenwood”) as assistant editor for denouncing slavery in the National Era. Lippincott publicly denounced Godey in response and Godey later recanted. Nevertheless, he forbade his journal from taking a position during the American Civil War.

Godey sold the magazine in 1877 to John Hill Seyes Haulenbeek before his death in 1878. After further changes of ownership, and a name change to “Godey’s Magazine” to reflect a broader content, it ceased publication in the 1890s.


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