PBS The Roosevelts

PBS is re-running it’s documentary on the Roosevelt family today. They’re mostly on the Teddy Roosevelt era. And it hit me – this is circa 1904.

The U.S. then was a VASTLY different place 110 years ago than it is now.

Think for a moment – the automobile or at least a major mass production of such didn’t exist yet. That would be another four years.

Electrification throughout the U.S. wasn’t even a glimmer at that point. And in fact our electric infrastructure of today still dates back to that time.

Telephony was still connected by an operator and not in all areas or as ubiquitous as it is today. In fact all the communication technology we have today owes its existence to the conquering of noise. Recall too that Lee De Forest‘s  “audion” didn’t happen until two years later. And the first transcontinental telephone call didn’t happen until 1915. Now of course we can call around the globe from the palm of our hand with no wires.

And commercial radio didn’t yet exist in 1904. It was the newspapers and telegraphs that ruled the day. That and oil lamps, coal heating, etc.

But let’s go further – no hot water heaters in the homes. Cold showers! Which btw aren’t too bad. But still warm water is comfortable. So is central heating.

Better for the more tropical areas of the U.S. home air conditioning didn’t yet exist.

Food must have been interesting, we’d have had no exposure to mangoes, kiwis, or the fare plethora of fruits we take for granted today.

And the average life span in the early part of the 20th century was 46.2 for men, 49.1 for women. In that parlance I should be dead by now. But I’m not – advances in medicine, dental care and improvements in food safety are to thank. Even Penicillin – the overused antibiotic didn’t exist in 1904!  And vaccinations were pretty uncommon then too. You’d die from diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever aka strep throat.

So the fact that life spans are now into the 70’s and 80’s is quite the achievement for public health.

That’s just a century worth of progress. And now we’re in the early part of the 21st century. Where will it go from here?

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