1901 -- a Revisionist View

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Taken from REAM, 2001, the newsletter of the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota

This was the year 1901:

Steven Dhuey wrote:

This is one of those "historical" background stories that float around the Internet from time to time without anyone checking them. It was originally called "Life in 1900", and has been recently retitled "Life in 1902".

The average life expectancy in the United States was forty-seven.

Steven Dhuey wrote:

Actually, 49.2 years at the beginning of the century. High incidence of infant mortality affected that. If you lived to adulthood, you would live on average more than a decade longer than 49.2 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes in the United States had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.

Steven Dhuey wrote:

A telephone call over that distance was not possible in 1902. Before the invention of the vacuum tube amplifier in 1906, the maximum long distance call was about 1,500 miles. AT&T's long distance network did not reach Denver until 1911.

Sources: http://www.privateline.com/TelephoneHistory2/History2.html


There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten-mph.

Steven Dhuey wrote:

An absurdly low number of miles, even in 1902. One square mile of a downtown urban area alone would contain, on average, a grid of 24 miles of paved roads (do the math: there would be 12 miles of north-south streets, and 12 miles of east-west streets, if each street were separated by one block, and there were 12 blocks in a mile).

Cities of 30,000+ population in 1902 contained, on average, 113.3 miles of paved road.

Source: Troesken & Beeson (2001), p. 25, Table 3. http://www.nber.org/books/healthandlabor/troesken7-16-01.pdf

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the twenty-first most populous state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in the U.S. was twenty-two cents an hour. The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2500 per year, a veterinarian between $1500 and $4000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the United States took place at home.

Ninety percent of all U.S. physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee cost 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 prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason, either as travelers or immigrants.

The five leading causes of death in the U.S. were:

The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

Drive-by-shootings -- in which teenage boys galloped down the street on horses and started randomly shooting at houses, carriages, or anything else that caught their fancy -- were an ongoing problem in Denver and other cities in the West.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was thirty. The remote desert community was inhabited by only a handful of ranchers and their families.

Plutonium, insulin, and antibiotics hadn't been discovered yet. Scotch tape, crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.

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

One in ten U.S. 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 corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

Coca-Cola contained cocaine instead of caffeine.

Jed Rothwell wrote:

Coca-Cola ... still [as of 2-20-02] uses denatured coca leaves. It was grandfathered into the law in 1901. They buy the extract from the only company in the U.S. allowed to import the leaves, under strict government supervision, which also produces medicinal cocaine.





(The last item is the Dept. of Justice waiver allowing importation.)

Punch card data processing had recently been developed, and early predecessors of the modern computer were used for the first time by the government to help compile the 1900 census.

Steven Dhuey wrote:

The punch card computer had been developed to help tabulate the 1890 U.S. census, not the 1900.

Source: Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/spring_1996_1890_census_1.html

Eighteen percent of households in the United States had at least one full-time servant or domestic, [and Avon farmers had adult male "hired hands."]

There were about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.

Steven Dhuey wrote:

The homicide rate in the U.S. in 1902 was 1.2 homicides per 100,000 population, or about 953 homicides in the U.S. -- more than four times 230.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Statistics http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/hmrt.htm

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