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The 1910s

Decade Facts
Population: 92,407,000
Life Expectancy: Male 48.4 Female: 51.8
Average Salary $750 / year
The Ziegfeld girls earned $75/week
Unemployed 2,150,000
National Debt: $1.15 billion
Union Membership: 2.1 million; Strikes 1,204
Attendance: Movies 30 million per week
Lynchings: 76
Divorce: 1/1000
Vacation: 12 day cruise $60
Whiskey $3.50 / gallon, Milk $.32 / gallon
Speeds make automobile safety an issue
25,000 performers tour 4,000 U.S. theaters

Little BoysThe 1910s was a decade of unrest and reform in America. In spite of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, monopolies persisted. Factories had unsafe working conditions, and children were hired to work in factories and mines for long hours with little compensation. As the middle class became more unsatisfied with their situation, labor unions grew more powerful. Finally, by the middle of the decade, all states had passed a minimum age law. Twenty percent of children living in cities were undernourished and fewer than 10 percent graduated from high school. The status of Black Americans worsened, and skilled Black workers were barred from the AFL union. Women marched for equality from 1910 till 1919 when the 19th amendment was finally ratified.

World War I, the first "war to end all wars" was fought and America became the most highly industrialized nation in the world. The mass production of the automobile resulted in profound cultural change.

CarsIn 1914, the first moving assembly line began and the millionth Model T rolled off the assembly line with a price tag of $345.

The National Park Service was created, and Prohibition was initiated in 1919. Jim Thorpe, an American Indian won gold medals at the Olympics, the first parachute jump was made, and The Girl Scouts of America were formed.

The American presidents of the decade were William Howard Taft (1909 - 1913) and Woodrow Wilson (1913 - 1921).

Family GatheringWomen's fashion turned more toward comfort, though the ladies quickly fell for the hobble skirt. Fabrics were lighter, colors brighter, and styles looser. Necklines plunged and cold cream and lemon extract were big sellers in the cosmetics industry. The "Tea Gown" was worn in the home, the sack, sheath, oriental styles, harem trousers and the Hellenic tunic were introduced and became popular. Furs were all the rage.

Men RelaxingMen wore striped trousers, morning coats and starched white shirts. On formal occasions a frock coat and top hat were worn. At home, they wore informal lounging suits, tweed jackets and striped blazers.

Since the Model T was affordable, speed was "in." Chevrolet, Dodge, DeSoto and Nash were introduced. The wealthier preferred the Cadillac, Buick, Pierce, Haynes, Packard and Studebaker. Luxurious ocean cruises were all the rage (the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, costing the lives of over 1500 people). A conveniently sized Kodak camera made picture taking easier and became popular with the general public.

Dave in his First "car"Hot toys included the erector set, tinker toys, Lincoln logs, and the Ouija Board.

Ballroom dancing was popular, as were the Fox Trot and the Tango. Parents agonized over loosening morality — lipstick was worn and actresses were showing their legs!

Music written and performed by Black Americans made jazz, ragtime and blues popular. Memorable songs of the decade include "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Danny Boy," "You made Me Love You," "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life," "The Aba Daba Honeymoon," and "All I Do is Dream of You." Wartime songs included "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," "Over There," "Till We Meet Again," "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," and "Hinky Dinky Parlay Vous."

Movies were extremely popular. Favorites were "The Floorwalker" (Charlie Chaplin), "Daddy Long Legs," "Les Miserables," "A Tale of Two Cities," and "The Perils of Pauline."



Photos & Website © 2003 Julie Smith