2020? No, it’s 1920

Dealing with a global pandemic? New electronic technology in the home? Those may seem like some of today’s big issues but I’m not talking about 2020. I’m talking about 1920.

Life back then wasn’t so different in some ways

There’s an essay at the Family Search blog which gives you a tiny window into life 100 years ago. We’ve come a long way in some things, and in other things it does seem like the world hasn’t changed a lot.

We’re just beginning to get to the point where we have a century of real documentary data to show us what life was like in our grandparents’ (or great-grandparents’) day. Photos have been around since the mid-1800s but it wasn’t until the invention of the Brownie camera in 1900 that average folks started taking pictures. It took another decade or so before movies started becoming really popular, and the first public radio broadcasts in the US started in 1920.

And yet it was different in other ways

In 1920, women first gained the right to vote. This was just one step on the road for justice and equality, a fight we’re still having today. But back then it was cause for celebration when 55% of adults who couldn’t vote before, suddenly could.

And yes you can say that in 1920 we had cars, we had broadcasting, we had public schools and electricity. You can say the world was evolving and was looking more like today’s world than the world of, say, 1820. But walk down the streets of an average town and you’d find a lot different. The air might smell worse, because a lot of people burned coal to stay warm. There were cars, but the pedal-and-steering-wheel arrangement we take for granted wasn’t standard yet. There were movies without sound, there was broadcasting without pictures. There were pictures without color. And phones, there were no phones without wires. None.

Want to find something? Find a map first. Want to know something? Go somewhere with a book. Play a game by yourself, if you had a deck of cards. And no one even had the slightest idea what a “google” was.

Get a better look at 1920

As I said, though, by 1920 there was some real documentary footage of the way the world worked. Not as much as there is today, when every event has 100 phones pointed at it. But, there’s enough to get a general idea. Check out the Internet Archive’s selection of content from 1920. It will keep you busy for a while.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.