Facts About American Life 100 Years Ago

The origin and sources of the original list are unknown, but the idea is provocative:

The results paint a fascinating portrait:

  • In 1915, cocaine had only been illegal for a year; marijuana was still perfectly legal, available for purchase in pharmacies; and doctors still regularly prescribed heroin to patients.
  • In 1915, the word “teenager” was not yet in use.
  • In 1915, the constitutional amendment granting American women the right to vote had not yet passed.
  • In 1910, there were just over 14,000 people incarcerated in the US for first- or second-degree murder.
  • The population of Las Vegas was 22 in 1900, 800 in 1910, and 2,304 in 1920.
  • In 1900, the average life expectancy for an American man was 48.3. The average life expectancy for a woman was 51.1.
  • In 1913, the first dedicated gas station in the US opened in Pittsburgh. Before that, selling gas was a side business for various stores.
  • In 1940 (just 75 years ago), when the Census collected information on the plumbing in American homes, almost half lacked the trifecta of hot/cold water, a tub or shower, and a flush toilet.
  • In 1901, Connecticut passed a law that included the country’s first speed limit: 15 mph on general roads and 12 mph within city limits.
  • In 1915, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world — a status it had held since its completion in 1889 and that it maintained until 1930.
  • In 1938, the US set its first minimum wage: 25 cents an hour.
  • In 1910, the average annual per capita income in the US was estimated at $332, or about $7,800 in current-day dollars. But that was decades before truly representative income samples were available.
  • In 1910, less than half of the US population lived in urban areas. (Today, it’s 80%.)

saratoga springs new york 1915 vintageSanna Dulloway / Flickr Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York, ca 1915.

  • In 1915, many practicing doctors in the US had been educated haphazardly since, according to the National Library of Medicine, “medical schools had become mostly diploma mills.” That slowly began to change when the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, considered the first modern medical school, opened in 1893.
  • In 1915, a dozen eggs cost 34 cents; a gallon of milk cost 18 cents; and a pound of coffee cost 30 cents.
  • In 1910, agriculture was the most common industry Americans worked in. (By 1920, it had been surpassed by manufacturing; today, it’s service jobs.)
  • In 1915, the three leading causes of death in the US were heart disease, pneumonia/influenza, and tuberculosis.
  • In 1915, canned beer, modern supermarkets, and Barbie dolls had not yet been invented.
  • In 1915, the US did not have an official national anthem.
  • In 1910, 7.7% of Americans said that they couldn’t read or write, a sharp decline from 1870, when 20% said they were illiterate. (True rates of illiteracy may have been higher, since these were self-reported.)
  • In 1900, only about half of American children between five and 19-years-old were enrolled in school. Ending formal education after eighth grade was typical.

Source: techinsider.io

Author: Lauren F Friedman

Photo credits: Sanna Dulloway / Flickr

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