History Lesson: 36,838 days ago

Published 9:45 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One hundred years ago I wasn’t alive; neither was my mother or father.

My grandmother was…she was born in 1899. I’ve got a five-dollar gold piece under lock and key in a local bank to prove that, one her father purchased the day she was born.

But back to this 100-year thing; with the exception of Alice Nickens or any other centurion reading this column, none of us were around in 1909.

Have you ever wondered what things were like 100 years ago? Read the following and see just how far we have progressed (or digressed in certain situations) since 1909:

The average life expectancy then was only 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads nationwide.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in 1909 was 22 cents per hour.

The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year; a dentist $2,500 per year; a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year; and a mechanical engineer earned the “big bucks” with an annual salary of about $5,000.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all doctors had no college education. Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and the government as substandard.

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering the country for any reason.

In 1909, the five leading causes of death were, in order, Pneumonia/influenza; Tuberculosis; Diarrhea (that one is interesting); Heart disease; and Stroke.

The American flag had 46 stars (New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were only territories in 1909).

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer and ice tea had yet to be invented.

There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, ‘Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.’

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the entire nation.

Now, try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years.

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.)