100 Years Ago–Bursting the Bubble

I regularly see posts on Facebook that bemoan that we are no longer living in the Good Old Days of a century ago. I honestly think if some people I know could have access to a time machine, they’d gladly set the Clock to 1913 AD and think that they’d step out into a pleasant Utopia. For wouldn’t it be back before all the nutrients had been refined out of our food, before mere children were impudent to their parents…before so many things lots of folks don’t like about life in 2013?

Welcome to the real world of 1913. Here are just a few tiny glimpses of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of that year you might want to consider before stepping into that time machine.

How about those demure little kiddies, who were allegedly mostly “seen but not heard”?

bossy child ad

I don’t know what it was like in the average home, but the advertising industry in 1913 quite frequently portrayed children bullying their parents! And implied that the “wisdom of the child” …like this little tot honing his debate skills…was frequently superior to that of his old-fashioned parents.

“I must keep my teeth clean and white, mustn’t I? I must keep my stomach strong, mustn’t I? I must be hungry at meal time, mustn’t I? I must have something to keep me quiet, mustn’t I? Buy it by the Box! Then you’ll have it when I want it!”

By the way, that may look like a little girl in the ad, but the pre-school boy is dressed in the typical style of that era for little boys. Such as this little Victorian lad.


And the unrefined, nuritious foods you’d expect to find on the grocer’s shelf of the time? Consider this quote from the March, 1913, issue of Good Housekeeping:

  “The snowy flour which pours from the steel rollers of the great mills of today—wherein does it differ from the creamy wheat flour of our grandparents? That, we know, was crushed between millstones. Just what are we getting now—and perhaps losing?…. bleaching ….injures the quality of flour as a part of our diet….The removal of the outer layers and the germ of the wheat cuts the heart out of the grain, in so far as children are concerned. In these portions are found much of the protein, nearly all of the fat, and the phosphates, that feed the muscles and bones of our boy and girls. -“Our Wheaten Flour and Breakfast Foods” by Harvey W. Wiley, M.D.

Nope, refined foods were already solidly entrenched in the American diet already by 1913.

Here’s a reality from that time period that makes me glad I gave birth to my daughter in the 1970s!

Yep, your figure will always look “trim and shapely” and you’ll have a Better Baby if you strap yourself into one of these every day! You can’t quite get the full effect with the drawing. Here’s an authentic model from that time period.

real corset

No thank you! I never expected to look “trim and shapely” at 8 months pregnant!  And I most certainly wouldn’t want to wear one of these miserable contraptions every waking hour when I wasn’t pregnant…as almost all women did at the time.

Men didn’t have to deal with this sort of uncomfortable undergarment…they got to experience the pinch-free freedom of…The Wilson Bros wonderful Klosed-Krotch Union Suit!

klosed krotch

Yep. Light. Airy. Roomy. Nothing to “irritate the skin.” And they are patented!

I guess it was not necessary for men to look “trim and shapely” all the time.

But if mi’lady wasn’t quite trim and shapely enough, she could take advantage of the promises of famous opera star Madame Lillian Nordica. See, she used to be overweight, but look at her now, in this 1913 ad!

weight loss bath powder

Yes, just taking a daily bath in her famous Weight Reduction Bath Powder (well, I assume it was a powder you dissolved in the water to give it magic reducing properties while you soaked … not just one you poofed on yourself after a bath) solved the weight problem she had when she looked like this in 1912. And now she is recommending it “for the general good of all humanity.”

lillian nordica 1912As you can see, “celebrity endorsements”—and celebrity weight-reduction schemes—are nothing new on the American scene.

In conclusion, there’s this…ahem…disquieting ad below from 1913.

gunNo matter what you may think about the value of keeping guns in the home these days, I just can’t fathom advertising one by having a toddler—obviously all by herself—pensively finger one in her little bed next to Dolly, meditating on what Papa told her about it. “Papa says it won’t hurt us,” she reassures Dolly. But evidently Papa doesn’t know his little angel has the gun in her room after she’s been tucked in for the night…so it won’t be much help if he needs it in the middle of the night to deal with a burglar.

I also have to wonder what happens if Little Angel is at her grandfather’s house, and discovers in rummaging around the house while Mama and Papa and Grandpapa are chatting at the dining table, that he has a gun in his desk in his den that looks just like this one to her. But it’s NOT an Iver Johnson “Safety Hammerless Automatic.”

There are many aspects of modern society I may not like…
but for me personally, these are the Good Old Days now.
I wouldn’t choose to trade them for life 100 years ago.
I’ll just work on being part of positive changes for the future.

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