What a Difference a Century Makes: 1912
By: M. Callahan, The ENDEAVOR News Magazine
For the first time in US history, rural v. urban populations reverse with 54% of Americans living in urban surroundings. The average life expectancy was 48.4 years for men and 51.8 years for women. (Today it is 76.02 for men and 81.01 for women)
US Population: 92,407,000
Ave. Income: $1,033/yr (Ford auto workers made $2.00 per day.)
DOW Ave: 88
New Home: $2,750
New Car: $941
Milk: $.08 qt.
Bread: $.05 loaf
Eggs: $.30 dozen Steak: $.20 pound
Steak: $.20 pound
- New job opportunities became available in the numerous factories drawing the “servant class” away from domestic service.
- Unemployment stood at 2,150,000 people.
- Upper and middle class homes with electricity enjoyed a range of new electric appliances such as washing machines, electric irons and toasters, electric lights and dishwashers. Complete bathroom sets consisting of sink, claw foot bathtub, and toilet or water closet sold through the Sears catalogue for $49.95. However, more than half of all US homes had no indoor plumbing or electricity.
- Famous department stores such as Macy’s Gimbel’s, Wanamaker’s, Marshall Field, Siegle-Cooper, and Sacks were all the rage in the larger cities.
- Grocery stores, bakeries, and dry good (department stores) all provided home deliveries usually with horse drawn wagons.
- Street cars or trolleys become the solution to inner city overcrowding enabling city workers to live in suburban neighborhoods.
- The Equitable Life Insurance Building in NYC burns to the ground leaving the building site for construction of the very first skyscraper.
The weekly schedule of the average homemaker:
Lifestyle and Events:
Thursday—grocery shopping & errands
Saturday—special baking for Sunday
Sunday—church followed by large family dinner and either visiting or receiving guests/family.
- The Edwardian style of elaborate dress with hobbled skirt, exotic trims and upswept hair was coming to a close. Soon, softer less structured dress would evolve showing a natural waist and fuller skirts.
- The English explorer Robert Scott reached the South Pole on January 18th only to die from exposure on March 29th.
- Bram Stoker writes Dracula.
- Massachusetts passes the first minimum wage law while Maryland passes the first worker's compensation law.
- England and Germany race to build the largest naval fleets in the world. Neither seem to notice or take seriously that Japan was also building the first of her Dreadnaughts.
- New Mexico and Arizona become the 47th and 48th state.
- The Girl Scouts of America are formed by Juliette G. Low in Savannah, Georgia.
- The first cherry tree is planted in Washington DC by First Lady Taft.
- Fenway Park in Boston and Tiger Stadium in Detroit both open.
- Popular stars: Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Lon Chaney, Francis X. Bushman, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish.
- Oreo Cookies, Cracker Jacks with a “prize in every box,” Life Saver Candy and Hellman’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise all came on the market in 1912.
- Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West would close by the end of the year. Bill Cody, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872, had become a world wide symbol of the American West. The show also promoted the culture of the American Indian.
- By far the most significant event of 1912 was the sinking of the luxury liner, Titanic, on April 15th at 2:27 AM off the Newfoundland coast. Only 710 on board survived out of 2,224. The largest percentage of survivors were women and children in first class and male crew members.
The best of Washington's retail was centered in the District itself. Many companies endured for 60-100 years with one generation taking control from the next.
this story was first published in The ENDEAVOR News Magazine. Reproduction of this article in whole or in part requires the permission of the author. Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of the photographic archive at the Library of Virginia and the Congressional Library or Private Collections.