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January 29, 2005

Factoids to make you blink, as they did me

Here's another contribution from our good friend, Russell Chapin, a native of Red Rock who now lives in Florida after retiring from the U.S. Department of Justice in the nation's capital. This is especially interesting because of the statistical contrasts it highlights, but Russ tells me it is even more so because his mother, as a single woman working in a Winfield, Kan., bank, boarded a train there and went to the St. Louis World's Fair about a century ago. Remember the Judy Garland movie, "Meet Me in St. Louis." That's the one. Maybe these factoids will cause you to blink, as they did me.

1904 was an interesting year in many ways. The good news: First perfect baseball game, New York City subway system opened first section, first speed law passed in New York state (20 mph in open country), Teddy Roosevelt reelected President, first Olympics in U.S. opened at St. Louis Exposition. The bad news: 900 died when the steamship General Slocum burned in New York City harbor; fire destroyed an 800-block area in Baltimore with $80 million in losses, a woman was arrested for smoking a cigarette while riding in an open automobile on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Now, just imagine; that was only in the U.S. The year is 1904, just a little more than 100 years ago. What a difference a century makes! Here are some U.S. statistics for 1904, courtesy of Michael M. Dunn, Lt. General USAF and president of the National Defense University FYI. This was also circulated to students.

The average life expectancy in this country was 47 years. Only 14 percent of homes in the U.S. had a bathtub. Only eight percent of the homes had a telephone.

A three-minute call from Denver to New York cost $11. There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most U.S. cities was ten miles per hour.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populated state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower. The average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents per hour. The average worker in the U.S. made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to earn S2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

Interesting information, right? We might have some more of these later on if you find them worthwhile. What do you think?