Changes of the Century
Changes of the Century: Back To The Past
by Richard Russell
“…In WW II we used to drop 100 and 500-pound bombs and incendiary bombs, and they did one hell of a lot of damage. But now I understand the Air Force is going to make a 30,000-pound monster bomb that will even kill people who are hidden deep in concrete bunkers. I mean, is this progress or what…!”
I’m often asked what I think is the greatest change in my lifetime or since 1924. My immediate thought goes to medicine, including psychiatry. At the age of 8, I had a bad earache, which later developed into the dreaded mastoid infection. Mastoid infections were common in those days, and many people died from them (my mom’s sister died of a mastoid infection). Today many doctors have never seen a mastoid operation, but in my childhood years they didn’t have antibiotics.
First the surgeon punctured my eardrum, and let it drain and that didn’t do it. Next the surgeon performed a mastoidectomy, which means that he literally cut the infected section out from behind my ear. The first doctor that my parents took me to refused to accept the case. He thought I was so close to death that he didn’t want another dead kid on his record. A second great surgeon operated and saved my life. After it was all over (I was in the hospital for three weeks) my parents treated this surgeon as though he was a god.
I remember the terror that mothers felt as infantile paralysis (polio) swept through neighborhoods. Many kids were kept indoors during polio season, since there was no known cure for the dreaded disease. In my childhood days, every infection was potentially dangerous, and iodine was kept in every medicine cabinet.
Of course, electronics have also changed our world. I remember making little crystal radios. I remember the first TV set that I bought in 1945, a tiny 5 inch window peering out of a huge box. I learned how to drive when I was in the Army Air Force. I bought a model A Ford and ran it around the airfield about 100 times. I ran the poor car on aviation gas, which may have ruined it.
And, of course, war has changed drastically. For instance, in WW II we used to drop 100 and 500-pound bombs and incendiary bombs, and they did one hell of a lot of damage. But now I understand the Air Force is going to make a 30,000-pound monster bomb that will even kill people who are hidden deep in concrete bunkers. I mean, is this progress or what!
A subscriber just sent me the fascinating list below. Things have changed more in the last 100 year than in all of the previous years of human history.
Changes of the Century: HOW THINGS WERE DIFFERENT IN 1904
The average life expectancy in America was 47.
Only 14% of the homes in the U.S. had a bathtub.
18% of American households had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
Only 8% of the homes had a telephone.
A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.
Sugar cost $0.04/pound. Eggs were $0.14/dozen. Coffee cost $0.15/pound.
There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populated state in the Union.
The average wage in the U.S. was $0.22/hour.
The average American worker made between $200-$400/year.
A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000/year, a dentist $2,500/year, a veterinarian between $1,500-$4,000/year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000/year.
More than 95% of all births in the U.S. took place at home.
90% 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.”
The five leading causes of death in the US were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
4. Heart disease
The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn’t been admitted to the Union yet.
The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
One in ten American adults couldn’t read or write.
Only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high school.
There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.
Changes of the Century: And here some more facts from 1904:
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
There were no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented.
Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
Coca Cola contained cocaine.
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.”
Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.
Related articles on Changes of the Century:
Russell began publishing Dow Theory Letters in 1958, and he has been writing the Letters ever since (never once having skipped a Letter). Dow Theory Letters is the oldest service continuously written by one person in the business.
A native New Yorker (born in 1924) Russell has lived through depressions and booms, through good times and bad, through war and peace. He was educated at Rutgers and received his BA at NYU. Russell flew as a combat bombardier on B-25 Mitchell Bombers with the 12th Air Force during World War II.
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