January 25, 2009


By Kathleen Y’Barbo

One of my favorite books is WHEN MY GRANDMOTHER WAS A CHILD by Leigh W. Rutledge. It’s simple and fascinating all at the same time. The premise: What was life like in 1900?

Some of the answers might come as a surprise:

  • Drive-by shootings where teenaged boys galloped through the streets and shot at horses, carriages, and whatever else they chose was a problem in Denver and other cities in the West
  • Geranium and poppy petals were commonly used by women to stain their lips. In big cities, wealthier women had their cheeks permanently tattooed to give the look of rosy cheeks.
  • Most women washed their hair only once a month and used borax or eggshells for shampoo.
  • The average life expectancy was 46
  • Twenty-year-old Josef Stalin had recently been expelled from the theological seminary where he was studying to be a priest.
  • The population of Las Vegas was 30
  • The average hourly wage was 22 cents
  • Nearly 80% of the eligible population voted in the presidential election
  • There were more than one million veterans of the Civil War still alive
  • Leo Tolstoy, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Wharton, and George Bernard Shaw were on the nation’s bestseller list.

And then there’s this fascinating fact:

  • Coca Cola contained cocaine instead of caffeine! No wonder their ad claimed it “puts vim and vigor into tired brains and bodies.”

What do you think our grandchildren will be remembering about us?


Jillya said...

That is Amazing! Especially the drive-by shootings. Somehow I can picture the teenage boys of old shooting their guns, wreaking havoc, and not thinking a thing about it.

Janice Thompson said...

Wow! I learned a lot from this article!

Leigh said...

Just goes to show that history is never dull!

Considering my kids are only 7 and 10, this world will change a lot by the time I have grandkids. They'll probably laugh at our cars and what will be archaeic technology by then. Wonder if they'll have gadgets to diagnose medical problems at home instead of taking kids to the dr to confirm ear infections like I'll be doing today?

Vickie McDonough said...

Very interesting, Kathleen!

I think how much the world has changed in my lifetime. Remember when you had to leave your chair to change the TV channel, and then you only had three to choose from?

Remember how long it took to travel anywhere when there weren't any highways and the cars only went about 50 mph?

Yikes, I'm showing my age here.