Thursday, March 6, 2008

1909: Events, Facts, Life Styles

Glinda writes:

In thinking about Grandmother Lottie Hart (later, Brenz) and her experience at the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages, I am also wondering about her life and times. While she was practicing her piano during those long dedicated hours and en route to something that meant a great deal to her:

What was happening in 1909 in the world around her?

I had fun with this. Here is a look at what I found. Please note that the more I found, the more I wanted to know. (Sources are numbered at right and shown below.)

Events and facts:

  • 76,000,000 Americans live in 46 states. Source: (1)
  • Shackleton’s expedition finds the magnetic South Pole. (2)
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded. (2
  • Theodore Roosevelt completes his Presidency and is followed by William Howard Taft. (2)
  • Construction of the Titanic begins.
  • Joan of Arc is declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in Rome. (2)
  • Alice Huyler Ramsey, a 22 year-old housewife and mother from Hackensack, New Jersey, is the first woman to drive across the United States. She is accompanied by 3 female companions, none of whom could drive a car. Her adventure takes her 3,800 miles from Manhattan, New York to San Francisco, California, in 59 days. Her vehicle: A Maxwell. (Alice is one of my new heros!) (2)
  • The United States Navy founds a navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (2)
  • 259 miners die in a fire at the St. Paul Mine in Cherry, Illinois. (3)
  • Benny Goodman (2) and Katherine Hepburn (3)are born.
  • Frederic Remington, Geronimo and Red Cloud (Lakota) die. (2)
  • The United States invades Nicaragua. (3)
  • Bird banding society is formed. (3)
  • Louis Bleriot is the first man to cross the English Channel by plane. (3)
  • Orville Wright tests the 1st U.S. Army airplane, flying 1 hour and 12 minutes. (3)
  • A subway car with side doors goes into service in New York City. (3)
  • Serbia mobilizes against Austria-Hungary. (3)
  • Workers start pouring concrete for the Panama Canal. (3)
  • The 1st Lincoln head pennies are minted (3) marking a time of putting dead U.S. Presidents on coins.
  • The world's 1st air race is held in Rheims France. (3)
  • The first credit union in the U.S. is established. (3)
  • Comte de Lambert of France sets the airplane altitude record of 300 meters. (3)
  • The Sultan of Turkey Abdul Hamid II is overthrown. (3)
  • Robert E. Peary (a white), Matthew A. Henson (a black) and 4 Eskimos are believed to have reached the North Pole. (2)
  • Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879-1961) opens the National Training School for (Black) Women and Girls, combining classical and trade courses with required black history classes. 7 students enroll. (4)
  • The average worker made $12.98/week for 59 hours. (1)
  • Life expectancy for females was 47.3 years, males was 46.3, blacks was 33. (1)
  • "Full suffrage" (which means the right for all groups of women both to vote and run for any office) would not happen for 11 more years. (9) (I wonder about Blacks, American Indians, and other groups historically disenfranchised from power?)
  • The Model "T" Ford (or "Tin Lizzy") was beginning to roll off the assembly lines. (13)
  • 1909 was a very dark time for the nation's natural resources due to drastic overuse, unregulated use, and the fact that people were not self regulating. Deer and Turkey populations were way down. Bison had been reduced from 30-40 million before settlement to less than a 1000. Elk had been eliminated from most areas. The land and wildlife were treated as commodities without a conservation ethic. (14)
  • The last Passenger Pigeons could only be seen in zoos. Passenger pigeons were slightly larger than Mourning Doves and common to deciduous forests in the eastern half of the United States. At one time, they numbered 2 billion. (14)
  • Laws regarding environmental protection and food safety associated with industrial processing were only beginning to be enacted.
  • As a result of Teddy Roosevelt's 1908 White House Governors' Conference which focused on national conservation policy, states began forming conservation departments.
  • The biggest problem (for education) was cited as population growth due to the influx of immigrants to America. (1)
  • Teacher education improved during this decade. (1)
  • I wonder about American Indians who had been pushed off their lands and were now living on reservations in most cases far from the familiar. What are the stories of these Grandparents?
Life Styles:

  • People were very clothes conscious. Gibson girl styles promoted the feminine ideal. Huge hats were in. Skirts brushed the floor. (7)
  • George Eastman developed the lightweight, easy to use Kodak box. (1)
  • People could buy homes from Sears Catalog of Modern Homes. (1)
  • Many novelists produced 'happiness novels' because women were the greater readers of fiction. Popular novels of the time included: Frank Baum's The Wonderful World of Oz, Jack London's Call of the Wild. (1)
  • Leisure time was spent in family get-togethers, baseball, picnics, long Sunday drives (mostly horse and buggy). In the evenings, families gathered for sing-alongs around the piano. (1)
  • "The Great Train Robbery", was America's most popular film. This story-driven film is considered the first true Western. (10)
  • Silent films were in. (11)
  • Music reflected changing events and times: "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis". Others showed racial prejudices of the period: "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home". (1)
  • Radios brought music to the countryside and the 1st hand-cranked victrolas allowed those privileged to have them to listen to opera stars. (1)
  • Vaudeville was in. (1) and (12)
  • Scott Joplin made ragtime popular. (1)
  • Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan were opening on Broadway. (1)


(1) Kingwood College Library; (2) Wikipedia, 1909; (3) Hisdates; (4) National Women’s History Project; (5); (6); (7) Wikipedia, 1900s fashion; (8) Wikipedia, Gibson Girl;(9) Women's History. (10) The Picture Show Man: 1890-1960; (11) Silent Era (12) Wikipedia, Vaudeville; (13) Wikipedia, Ford Model T (14) Richard Crawford.


Postscript: I shared this list with Mother last night and it brought up more memories. We are on a roll!

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