Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2002 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

Songs, fads and events that marked the decades

The other day our library bookkeeper, Anna Jones, mentioned that her
granddaughter called from Tennessee to ask her what to wear to a "'40s"

I suggested a crinoline petticoat and poodle skirt. Other volunteers
with better memories than I reminded me I was "in the wrong decade."

That piqued my curiosity, and I did some searching in assorted books to
find items typical of certain decades of the last century. I shall not
attempt to attribute which statement came from which book.

Contrary to what some of my former students might believe, I was not
around during the first decade of the 1900s! But a bit of research
turned up the following facts about the period from 1900 to 1909:
Male life expectancy was 47.3 years. Female life expectancy was 46.3.

Leading causes of death were heart disease, influenza, tuberculosis,
cancer, diphtheria, typhoid, malaria, measles and whooping cough.

The average American worker put in 59 hours a week on the job and made a
weekly wage of $12.98, or 22 cents an hour.

Coffee was 15 cents a pound, butter 18 cents a pound, eggs 12 cents a
dozen, and bacon 12 cents a pound.

Every American over the age of 35 had been living during the Civil War.
Ping-pong, Teddy bears and wish books became fads. One could buy a
mail-order house from Sears. (There are still a few of these houses
around. I saw one in New Harmony recently. Are there any Sears houses in
White County?)

The horseless carriage was catching on. The Turkey Trot was the latest
dance rage. "Sweet Adeline" and "A Bird in a Gilded Cage" were popular
songs. Jack London was a best-selling author.

Remember the decade from 1910 to 1919?

Theda Bara, the vamp, was the Madonna of that decade. Tinker Toys,
Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets all made fine Christmas presents. Grownups
relieved their anxieties by asking questions of the Ouija Board.

Luxury liners were the pastime of the rich set. Remember the Titanic
and the Lusitania?

Wartime jargon introduced words: chow, civvies, dog tags, doughboys, KP
and shell shock.

Henry Ford introduced the Model T, which cost $600 in 1912. By 1924, the
price had dropped to $290.

The Panama Canal, a 51-mile-long waterway connecting the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans, opened in 1914.

The Fox Trot was the dance craze, and the Tango swept the country-in
spite of being banned in Boston.

Irene Castle bobbed her hair.

Popular songs included "Keep the Home Fires Burning," "It's a Long Way
to Tipperary," "Over There," "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and "I'm
Always Chasing Rainbows."

Perhaps you can add more to this list.

The Genealogy Library is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to
2 p.m.

Address letters to Genealogy, White County Historical Society, PO Box
121, Carmi, IL 62821.

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The Coordinator for the White County, Illinois ILGenWeb page is Cindy Birk Conley

Copyright © 2002 by Cindy Birk Conley, all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information.