A lot changes in 100 years, but some things stay the same

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

They held a symbolic funeral procession for the horse to mark the end of the horse and buggy era and the beginning of the motor-driven carriage.

A circus strong man put on a show by allowing cars and trucks to be driven over him, including a 7,000-pound Cadillac.

That was a tough one. After that first Cadillac, he stuck to smaller cars and trucks.

This is how they ran an auto show in Norfolk, Va., 100 years ago. The strong man was a big hit, even though he survived.

So, this is a good time as any to reflect on how things used to be 100 or so years ago, which, when you think about it, is really not such a long time.

For starters, 1914 was a huge year for car manufacturers, to a large extent because it was the year that the push-button starter was introduced. Until then, if you wanted to start your car, you had to get out and crank it.

That was also the year that Henry Ford started his Model T assembly line, reducing the manufacturing time from 10 hours to 90 minutes.

The only problem was that workers at first hated the assembly line, and there was a high turn-over. So, Ford increased their wages to $5 per day. That fixed the morale problems. Money fixes these things, usually.

One hundred years have left their mark on cars. Now we’re loading them up with computer gear, sensors, and Google has built cars that drive themselves.

In 1914, people probably thought that they were living in modern times. We think that today, but we do live in modern times compared to 100 years ago. And in 1914, they lived in grand times compared to 1814.

Life expectancy in 1914 was 52 years for men and 57 years for women. That means, taken the average, I’d be dead by now, as would many of our readers.

In my few minutes of research, I found a great website (https://twitter.com/CenturyAgoToday) that will give you a good feel for how people lived 100 years ago, and what the major issues were back in those days.

From what I could tell by just a quick read, we were meddling into other countries’ business, just like today. 

“Pres. Wilson discusses with Senators about lifting the arms embargo on Mexico . He states the Mexican rebels should have a “fair chance.’”

We were looking into the skies and understanding it better.

“780 Armenia, a minor planet in the asteroid belt, is discovered.”

We were making progress in public education.

“School Board of Cincinnati equalizes men and women teachers, allowing them to marry and promises equal rights, pay, and privileges.”

“Former President Taft warns against teaching of sex hygiene in public schools.”

We were running into roadblocks even 100 years ago when it came to finding something with which to replace gasoline.

“A $10,000 prize offered in Britain to create a cheaper alternative to gasoline for automobiles fails to find any winners.”

We had an unemployment problem.

“Riot occurs outside the Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit after 10,000 unemployed workers attempt to get 4,000 job openings.” Those were actually better odds than today.

And, the weather is about the same.

“Western Europe is gripped by a cold front. Temperatures reach -4F (-20C) in eastern France.”

Invented 100 years ago: The parachute, windshield wipers, the bra, crossword puzzle, Brillo pads, and stainless steel, among other things.

I cannot mention all of them, so I picked out the ones that caught my eye.

But, the biggest event of 1914 hasn’t taken place yet. In August, the European countries started declaring war on each other, and World War I began.