Ashtabula materials

Self-help from 1911

AUTHOR: KIrsti Salmi-Niklander

Self-help booklets

Self-help guidebooks on various fields of life were popular in immigrant communities. The newspaper Amerikan Sanomat published, e.g.,  guide books for agriculture, for raising chicken and horses, a Finnish American cookbook, a general guidebook for Finnish immigrants and a guidebook for those who dreamed of the gold fields in Alaska. Three small booklets on intimate relations and sexuality were published in 1911. Two booklets gave advise how young women could attract men and “become a happy bride in four weeks.” One was a guidebook for “the art of kissing” (Suutelojen kirja. Tieteellisiä ja käytännöllisiä tutkimuksia “sen suullisesta menettelemisestä”.) The 8-page booklet is named as ”a translation”. A somewhat longer booklet with the same title had been published in Kotka in 1892.

“The Book of Kisses” discusses different forms of kisses and kissing in a “pseudo-scientific” tone and illustrated with some individual stories. “Erwin”, who cannot utter a word to his sweetheart, but solves the situation with a kiss; Liina, who steals a kiss from her sweetheart, but gets a reprimand from her mother, who has been chaperoning the young couple. Different kinds of kisses are discussed: kisses between women, between parents and children, kisses that express respect, hand kisses and flying kisses. Judas Iskariot’s kiss is one of the historical examples, as also the mock-historical story of the origin of the kiss, with references to the history of Greece and Rome during the Antiquity. Young men and women in immigrant communities might have needed more detailed guidelines, but “The Book of Kisses” gives a short introduction to the norms and practices of kissing in different cultures.

Text and drawing of two people kissing
Suutelojen kirja (The Book of Kisses), Amerikan Sanomat publishing, 1911 (National Library of Finland).