This Day In History: May 2

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On May 2, 1885, Good Housekeeping magazine debuts in Holyoke, Massachusetts with this bold stated mission: “To produce and perpetuate perfection—or as near unto perfection as may be attained in the household.” And an American institution begins, with a place in the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

From its beginning until 1900, Good Housekeeping published many articles about food safety and food adulteration, including a February 1888 article about candy being contaminated with pulverized asbestos and other toxic substances. Toward the turn of the 20th century, the magazine took on a more active role in calling the government to action for food safety. In 1902, the magazine published an article by Dr. Harvey Wiley about the problems of formaldehyde in infant formula, milk, and cream. In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, which Good Housekeeping endorsed and supported.

In 1900, the magazine’s leaders founded the Good Housekeeping Institute, initially called the Good Housekeeping Experiment Station; the name was changed in 1910. Electricity was a new thing for households, and few homeowners knew how to operate the new appliances available. That is where the station came in: Staff members tested numerous products and housekeeping methods, then shared their observations and discoveries in magazine articles. The station’s stated goal was to study “the problems facing the homemaker and to develop up-to-date firsthand information on solving them.” Dr. Wiley served as the longtime director of food, sanitation and health, and he served as a passionate consumer advocate.

To this day, readers look to the iconic Good Housekeeping Seal as a credible endorsement of a product’s quality. A staff of chemists, biologists, nutritionists and other professionals work in the lab of the Good Housekeeping Institute at the Hearst Tower in New York City to test products ranging from cosmetics to cleaning supplies to appliances and towels. With the seal, consumers get a two-year limited warranty on a product, with a refund of up to $2,000 if a product becomes defective, with certain exclusions.

Good Housekeeping is the go-to magazine for millions of American and British readers. It provides articles about relationships, health and home, along with product recommendations, recipes and more. Many prominent writers have contributed to the magazine over the years, including W. Somerset Maughan, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Betty Friedan. Friedan wrote a groundbreaking article in 1960 called “Women are People, Too,” which led to her hit book “The Feminine Mystique.”

Publishing giant Hearst purchased Good Housekeeping in 1911. According to the Good Housekeeping website, the magazine has nearly 17 million readers of the print and digital edition, more than 45 million website readers and almost 7 million social media followers.

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