The greatest age

  • Thread starter Colin W. Montgomery
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Lee Gilliland

Member
Brandon, I hardly think that either of your extremes cover the majority of people on this site - we are interested in the era, yes, and understand it's pitfalls whilst being fully aware that most people then, as most people now, enjoyed their lives and the fact that they were always getting better. And they were - that period of time, for me, is so fascinating because of the amount of wonderful wonderful change contained in such a short period. But that should not (and does not) blind me to the fact there was still some real awfulness out there.
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

Member
Your using traditional evidence though to prove you points. The stuff you always find in a textbook. Anyway, if someone had a disease like one that could be cured today with antibiotics, it did not always mean they were going to die. Also its not like there were no medicines either. There may not have been any antibiotics though. The point is most people then didn't die and you seem to me like you are saying they did.

There is a cemetary not a mile away from my home. I have spent many hours going over this entire cemetary. The period it covers is from 1750-1995. Although most of the people in it lived during the early to mid 1800's. I have looked and studied all or almost all the tombstones. There are a couple hundred at most. I would say that the great majority of people buried here lived as long if not longer than the average life expectancy of the U.S. There was even a woman, born in 1746 who lived to be 97!
In fact there was more than 80 people in the entire cemetary who lived to be 90 or more.

What does that say?
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

Member
Also to Jack Devine, Electricity was available as early as 1805, mabey only to a select few, but it was available. Also my great grandparents had electricity even as they were young, so that must have been in the late 1880's and early 1890's. They wern't wealthy either.
 
Brandon McKinney

Brandon McKinney

Member
I don't think I made myself clear... I was being general in my extremes, as in the image presented in textbooks, on history specials with keyboard music (lol) and a few other things. I thought it reflected on a few people here, but I wouldn't go as far to say that you're blind. I don't want to give the wrong impression.

And about dropping like flies, I don't deny people died easily, but I didn't deny the existence of disease. In a group of postcards sent in rural areas I have (And many of you probably have postcards too, probably different subjects, but still.) I'll find a line like "Diptheria this summer." "Much sickness" etc. I'm guessing urban areas had their own diseases, but they were more suited to things like water poisoning and TB. I didn't say that there weren't any deaths from their illness. People had an immune system... some fought it off, others couldn't.
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

Member
It was never my intention to say it was a picnic. That is of course not true. And I apologize for not going into more detail in the first place, but I stand by my statements. Here is some sort of proof. I can't even ride my bike on the sidewalk or street anymore, I and everyone else have to go to a special place to do that, far away too. Now what did I ever do to the community? Was I hurting anyone?
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

Member
Well I would think people then were more resiliant too. Like with the Europeans and the indians. The Europeans had resistance to the disease, but the indians didn't. We all know the results of that.
 
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Lee Gilliland

Member
Whups, Colin, we posted at the same time so I didn't get to add my comments about your post.

I think you're right about the fact people were hardier. And, in fact, they had much better immune systems in order to survive - I know I would never want to journey back to the past, I'd probably not last long either. Urban areas has a lot of disease, cholera, TB and diphtheria being among the nastiest. There were constant epidemics yearly. And never forget influenza and what it did.

No, you didn't hurt anyone, you just made a statement that many of us, having studied the era closely, know is not precisely the truth. And we are not attacking you - we are discussing the idea you presented is all.

P.S. Monica, it's called the Gilded Age because that's what Mark Twain called it and the name stuck.
 
Brandon McKinney

Brandon McKinney

Member
Oh, by the way, Colin, what sources do you have? Books from the period? Or things that were written by people today? I think things from the period are a better source, as more generality is made of the past in today's history books. Lack of space, I guess.

You'll find that the past, though pretty, had its ugly times. The Civil War wasn't pretty, China in the late 19th century wasn't pretty (I believe they had a plague there in that period.) and rural areas were a little more primitive, but not too primitive.

Here's an example from that little rural group of cards. Written April 8th, year illegible, but from the card, probably before 1914 and after 1910. It was sent to a Mollie Garver in Mt. Gilead, Ohio.

"Dear Cousin This leaves us well hope it will find you the same and how is Hazel's arm the rest are well as far as I know except aunt Vine she is some better but Joe is poorly Well it is time to clean house and I wish mine was cleaned I have some garden made but the first of the week it dident look like any thing would grow but I see my onions are coming up. (The first punctuation mark in the message!) We had a big snow sunday."

And this is from Alice... someone who wasn't very literate in the group of cards... although there is worse. Rural areas didn't have much in the way of education then.
 
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monica e. hall

Member
There is a cemetary not a mile away from my home. I have spent many hours going over this entire cemetary. The period it covers is from 1750-1995. Although most of the people in it lived during the early to mid 1800's. I have looked and studied all or almost all the tombstones. There are a couple hundred at most. I would say that the great majority of people buried here lived as long if not longer than the average life expectancy of the U.S. There was even a woman, born in 1746 who lived to be 97!
In fact there was more than 80 people in the entire cemetary who lived to be 90 or more.

What does that say?
It says that an awful lot of people were buried somewhere else.

And I didn't say 7 out of 11 would have died, I only said they might have.
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

Member
"It says that an awful lot of people were buried somewhere else."
Thats funny but seriously there is another cemetary right next to it that has thousands if not tens of thousands of people from what i've seen it looks much the same. And Lee I didn't mean that you are attacking me I meant the cops and how they don't allow people in my area to ride bikes anymore. I think its ridiculous. I mean really we didn't hurt anyone, so why can't we ride our bikes, we're not going to run anyone over. Don't you think thats silly?
 
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Jack Devine

Member
"Electricity was available as early as 1805, maybe only to a select few, but it was available."
Well, electricity was available in the sense that there were a few scientists performing parlor tricks with Leyden jars and static electricity, but there was nothing remotely like a commercial electric power grid and nothing for it to power. That had to wait until the very end of the century.
As for people dropping like flies, it certainly wasn't that bad but the infant mortality rate was far higher than it is today. Infections often turned fatal and what passed for "medicine" was almost laughable. Doctors still believed in bleeding patients and that "bad air" caused disease. A good overview for this is "The Great Influenza" by John Barry. He describes how medicine only got a scientific grounding starting around the 1880's.
I'll agree that there was a lot of good in the nineteenth century, and tremendous progress, and yes, it would be a treat to visit, but I'd like to hang on to my ticket to return to the present.
 
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Colin W. Montgomery

Member
No, Sir Humphry Davy invented the electric arc lamp in 1801. It produced light just like a light bulb would have. And don't forget Edison in 1879 with the first official light bulb, thats long before Titanic. They were preforming rather sophisticated surgery too. Don't forget the first use of anesthesia in 1846. But before that there was always opium or alcohol. Are you forgetting Dr. Lister and his studies about germs in the 1850's? Bleeding people? Maybe in the early parts of the 19th, but not much beyond that. Besides thats not so crazy, bleeding does have certain beneficial effects. There was hypodermic injections even in the seventeenth century too. And you cannot deny that there were indeed medicines available even in the 1700's.
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
Colin: A great reference tool for you can be found on eBay. There is a dealer by the name of chescrowel who sells bound copies of a series of scrapbooks kept 1880-1900 by a rather morbid late Victorian who titled each volume "Death." 'Though not inexpensive, ($29.99) they are invaluable windows into the Victorian era in the N.E. US. The compiler, who I will assume was a "he," faithfully clipped the Connecticut monthly mortality figures for each month of 1898, and from this we learn that in 31 days (July):

153 died of measles
58 died of scarlet fever
71 died of diptheria and croup
101 died of whooping cough
35 died of typhoid
9 died of cerebro-spinal fever
2 died of ersipelas
7 of malaria
69 of homicide
262 of diarrhea
87 of tuberculosis
53 pneumonia
22 bronchitis
125 heart attacks
and
407 by other, or unnamed, diseases.

And these only in towns which reported to the Health Department.

This is by no means an attack, but do you realise (I see by your profile that you are 15) that in 1890 you would be, statistically, three years away from the midpoint of your life? Great strides WERE being made- in 1917 you could have expected to live to age 52. 1918 it dropped to 47 because of the Great Flu.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
There are a few problems with using your local cemetery as a yardstick for measuring mortality rates, Colin. The sample draw from the headstones is not really representative even of the bodies buried there - it is not uncommon (even now) for a great many graves to go unmarked, or to have flimsy, impermanant markers. This was particularly true of those who could not afford a more substantial marker. If you were wealthier, and happened to be among those who lived a longer life, chances were better that your life was more likely to be commemorated in this way. These visible monuments are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak!

Rather than relying on an unreliable visual survey like this, you may want to look to studies that incorporate data drawn from registries, parish and medical records, etc.

According to studies by AmeriStat, for example, life expectancy increased significantly between 1900 and 2000 in the USA: from 51 to 80 for females, and 48 to 74 for males. There have been tremendous strides made in combatting infant mortality, and in diseases like smallpox and polio. This is not to say that we don't have the introduction and/or spread of other illnesses - AIDS, for example - but very few statiticians would dispute the general world trend towards longer lifespans.

As I said before, having a realistic view of the past does not preclude admiring the achievements of our ancestors, or believing that everything is necessarily 'better' now (the assessing of which involves subjective interpretation as well as objective data anyway). There are certain things I believe we've lost along the way that I wish we had kept. But eras build upon the achievements of those that went before - sometimes we do take regressive steps, but overall it has been an evolution. We wouldn't be where we are today if not for their achievements, but then that era didn't emerge fully formed from a clamshell either - it was a progression of what went before. The period you outline was one of great achievement and progress...sometimes. Sometimes it was one of narrow bigotry, oppression, war, famine, tragedy and death. Just like what went before and what came afterwards.

As Dickens wrote in 'A Tale of Two Cities':
IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>What does that say?<<

Not as much as you might think. As Inger pointed out, markers for graves that last awhile weren't readily affordable and unmarked burials were quite common. If you want evidence to give you the whole of the picture, you might try researching what's kept in any number or records repositories from church records to those held in government archives as well as peer-reviewed scientific/historical studies of the periods you're interested in.
 
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