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1912 Height and Weight

Discussion in 'Health Medicine and Hygiene' started by Robert Berg, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. Robert Berg

    Robert Berg Member

    I recently heard that James Cameron built his Grand Staircase larger than the original so it was in proper porportion, as people "are larger" today than in 1912. Does anyone know what the average height & weight would have been for man and woman in 1912?
  2. While working in the costume collection at the university, I noticed that 5 ft. 9-10 inches and about 170 pounds seems about average for the men. (Archie Butt was 5' 10'and 185 pounds in 1907, but he was very fit and muscular, and terribly athletic). The ladies seem to be about 5' 3-4" on average with dress sizes running on average with what we call today a 6 or 8.(about 120 pounds) There were of course exceptions to the average- very tall men, very wide ladies, extremely petite etc,- and tailors and dressmakers must have been very busy keeping up with all the work. It is hard to find really large and wearable clothing from the Victorian- Edwardian period- our bodies are so differently shaped. Girls began corseting young. Our waists and bosoms are allowed to spread all over the place (not to mention augmented).

    I think the last restrained generation must have been my own back in the 50's when the gals still packed into nature-defying girdles and bullet-proof brassieres- and we never left home without our thighs clad modestly in Lycra-Spandex. The thing I notice most is how narrow the feet were for both men and women in 1912 and the ladies seem to have a size which today would be about a 6 or 7. Women's feet have gotten enormous today with the average size now at 8 1/2 with a great many gals going into 9-10 and even 11! Jackie Kennedy wore a size 10. Women's body shapes were quite different too, owing to that S-curve corset and mono-bosom look at the turn of the century. Posture has certainly changed as well-just take a look at how women carry themselves nowdays-in 1912 I suspect it would have been called "wanton abandon". Marjorie Newell had the best posture of anyone I ever met. She sat right on the end of her seat with a ramrod straight back at age 102. I complimented her upon that one day and she explained ladies were taught how to sit in the good old days. And how they could sit for hours without fiddling and figeting or having to go to the "convenience"- she said they all developed marvelous bladders as a consequence! Naturally anything connected with bodily functions was to be avoided.

    Also of note is the difference in hand size. Gloves of the period are long, thin and narrow. Ladies never left the house without gloves, some slept in cotton gloves at night, after massaging the knuckles well with rose water and glycerin, and of course middleclass- to upperclass did not redden and spread their knuckles by doing housework which required soaking in hot water. The wearing of gloves helped delay brown spots, kept chapping and sunburn away and gently molded the hand. A soft white hand was the sure mark of a real lady of refinement. You may recall that in the film The Age of Innocence, May (Winona Ryder) had her hands sculpted in Paris- which was the rage for the wealthy.My great-aunts and granny had a horror of the full sun and never went out without a sunshade or large-brimmed hat-they were born in the 1890's and knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of the sun.
  3. A great site for all vintage clothes and accessories, with photographs, especially Edwardian is

    A price list from a New Jersey newpaper 1912
    Men's blue or brown serge suits 1.98-5.98
    Men's hats 1.95
    Men's shirts .95
    Men's trousers 1.45-2.95/pair
    Women's dresses 12.50-25.00
    Women's serge dress 4.98
    Women's spring coat 4.98-9.98
    Children's dresses .50-2.95
    Children's shoes .85-3.00/pair
    Shoes, custom made 5.00/pair
  4. Robert Berg

    Robert Berg Member

    Very informative, thanks for the info!
  5. Tracy Smith

    Tracy Smith Member

    The average height and weight don't seem too different from today, but, as you said, the proportions vary.

    And as far as shoe sizes go, at 5-11, I wear a MEN'S 10 and a half, and generally a woman's 12, but with a normal width.

    They had the right idea about the sun in those days and I've pretty much followed that pattern. I've never laid out in the sun and never try to tan during the summer. At the age of nearly 48, it's paying off now in that I still don't have any crow's feet.

    I'm interested in bustle era clothing, and it is likewise difficult to find normal sized vintage clothing from that era. Finding even something that would correspond to a size ten would be considered a "large" size then.

    But it still baffles me, as larger women had to have existed even then...one would think clothing of larger proportions would appear occasionally. As an example, the children's author Louisa May Alcott was six feet tall.
  6. Large women certainly did exist. Queen Victoria was short but very wide after Albert died- in fact, her black mourning dress in the costume museum at Bath, England is as long as it is wide. We come across many dresses at the university collection in inventory which have been extensively altered down to smaller sizes. Clothes were passed around and down many times, hemlines; necklines, sleeves were altered, gussets inserted, etc. so gowns got maximum wear. Even worn or stained garments were put on for wearing around the house. One famous old dress was burned by Lizzie Borden in 1892. She said she had gotten paint on it back in March, and burned it in the kitchen stove the day after the murdered parents' funeral- although the maid said she often wore it in the early morning doing chores! I suspect something more than paint may have been on the dress. There is currently a basque and skirt on ebay from the 1890 period which would correspond to about a ladies' 14-16 today.
  7. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    The photos in Titanic show that most of the people of the period were pretty trim. Lots of walking helped. There's a famous photo of H & W workers starting to walk home after a hard day's work. However, not everybody was in good shape. The two women on page 174 might have stepped out of a modern shopping mall.

    You wouldn't want to run into Sir Robert Finlay either. (page 248)

    [Moderator's Note: This thread, originally placed all by itself under this topic, has been moved to this subtopic which deals with related matters. MAB]
  8. I doubt obesity in 1912 was as widespread a problem as it is in 2007...
  9. Vicki Logan

    Vicki Logan Member

    Shelly, the link for vintage clothing is wonderful, although I'm not sure some of those shoes would be very comfortable.
  10. A lot of people were shorter or smaller back then though. More petite. My great Grandmother was only 4ft 11inchs in height. Childhood diseases did a lot to stunt growth.
  11. Alyson Jones

    Alyson Jones Guest

    In 1912 era alot of trim people,small amount of fat people.

    2008 era alot of fat and obeast people,small amount of trim people.
    That's how i see the to era's.

    I don't think height really has change in men from 1912 era to 2008, but 2008 men are more buffed up then 1912 era men.Gym was actually new at that time!
  12. >>In 1912 era alot of trim people,small amount of fat people.<<

    Possibly, but I would resist the temptation to give credit to a "healthier" lifestyle as some romantics are tempted to do. For the wealthy at least, they could afford better quality food. The less well heeled had to make do with whatever they could afford. If there weren't so many of them with weight issues, it helps to know that they did a lot of manual labour. For a lot of reasons, they also tended to have shorter average lifespans.
  13. Jim Kalafus

    Jim Kalafus Member

    >In 1912 era alot of trim people,small amount of fat people.

    Quite the opposite! In 1912, fat was desirable. Fat meant that you were going to live.

    Things were beginning to change but...hey...check out the weights of the various female bodies recovered from the Titanic, on this site! 5' 3" and 150 pounds seems about average.

    At that point, 'trim' still carried with it the suspicion of being tubercular. The gag the innumerable Catskills comics have attributed to mothers and grandmothers~ "Eat. You're too thin! People will think you're sick. EAT!"~ is a pretty accurate summation of how people, prior to the 1920s, viewed thinness.

    Even people who did crushing physical labor, like mill workers, tended to be thick waisted 'tho not corpulent.

    Check out the recent Taschen book of female and male nudes, 1850-onward. Hundreds of pre-1920 photos, none prurient, give you a pretty good idea of what was considered the physical ideal thru the entire history of photography. Let's just say that up til the 1920s, fat was good. Fat meant you were going to live.
  14. People were clearly shorter in the early years of the 20th century. I have seen World War I uniforms (and read British army records) and a man 5 ft 8 inches or 5 ft 9 inches in height would have been regarded as somewhat taller than the average. Moreover, examination of uniform tunics suggests that they were often narrow-chested and very thin. I think Lawrence of Arabia, for example, was only about 5 ft tall.
  15. Yes, I can tell. I often research ebay and it is impossible to get period clothes... I am 6 feet and 3 inches and have longer arms than average people as well as legs. And believe me, it is impossible to get anything...
  16. Alyson Jones

    Alyson Jones Guest

    Hi jim yes i knew that,curvy women was very popular in 1912 i read and heard curvy and not thin was in,curvy does not mean fat.Curvy i meant by a women body being natural filled out body,that's how women are meant to be like those women in 1912,curvy with a bit of muscle and tissue,that was popular in 1912,fat obeast can't really be around in 1912 cause there was not much of junk food around unlike todays world ,well yes there was a bit of junk food back then.

    To me,1912 height has not really change compared to todays hieght. My dad and bro are the same hieght as the guys in 1912,my dad is 5 10-11 foot and my brother is 6-1 foot that's around the same size as a man back then.
    But i think us we have gotten alot wider than they were, manly cause of Gym being a fashion for men and so much junk food is being influence on us!What do you guys think?

  17. >>fat obeast can't really be around in 1912 cause there was not much of junk food around unlike todays world<<

    Oh don't you ever believe that. Obesity has been around for as long as there have been opportunities to over eat. Recently, the mummy of Queen Hatshesphut was identified and among her identifiable medical problems were dental absesses and overweight as well as evidence of diabetes which may well have hastened her death.

    But you don't have to go all the way back to Ancient Egypt to find examples. James Buchanan "Diamond Jim" Brady was an American businessman and also a notorious trencherman who was known to eat enough to feed ten people at one sitting. Click on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Jim_Brady I think you might be amused.
  18. >>fat obeast can't really be around in 1912 cause there was not much of junk food around unlike todays world<<

    ...But they were gargantuan eaters, what with those seven course meals, etc.....

    One more "From what I've heard department":
    There is a story going round that during the reconstruction of the banisters on the Grand Staircase at The Old Red Museum in Dallas, they had to be two inches higher than the original due to OSHA requirements "because people are taller than they were in 1890".
  19. Alyson Jones

    Alyson Jones Guest

    Guys that pic he's in you could of fooled me! he's not even obeast,he looks like my father size an average man.Just cause back then he was classed as obeast that does not mean he's obeast in our world. If you want to see an obeast person just go to you're local shopping centre and just have a look around,even better if you live in the USA!
    This is very weirid to me what you are saying,i watch a program a couple of years ago called TODAY TONIGHT and it run a program about hight and wight size back in the early 1900's and the average wight on a men and women were lighter than us and they stated that on average they were not much difference in height the men were the same us todays men but on the other hand women were shorter than us. To go with that story you harldly ever see an obeast person in a 1900-1912 pic,If you watch programs they to run programs about obeasty once every two months.
    Well i have notice back in those days that most people are around the same height average and same wieght average.I have notice in todays world some people are really tall and then some are really short,some people are really fat and some are very skinny.
    In my eyes it was us that change and not them!
    What do you think?
  20. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    Obese in 1912? Try President William Taft, the heaviest US president ever at more than 300 pounds.