Here’s a sneak peek of a review I wrote for the ProJo (not yet published) of a book entitled America, 1908:
What was it like to live in America one hundred years ago, in 1908—when we had yet to survive the First World War, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold War (including Korea and Vietnam), not to mention latter day terrorism and 9/11? Journalist Jim Rasenberger offers us a view of the way we were, when a woman’s dress could spark a riot, men wore three-piece suits even in the heat of summer, and most people had never seen a human being fly in anything but a balloon.
Before cell phones, before television, radio, and at the very dawn of the motion picture, the greatest advance in communications technology was Marconi’s wireless telegraph. In a 1908 article published by Hampton’s Magazine, one author predicted that “when the expectations of wireless experts are realized everyone will have his own pocket telephone and may be called wherever he happens to be.”
During 1907, the greatest influx of immigrants in history reached our shores—approximately 1.29 million people, most of whom came through Ellis Island and settled in New York City. Casting visions a century forward in January 1908, one journalist (writing for the World) asked, “What will the year 2008 bring us?” He predicted that the U.S. population (then 90 million) would reach 472 million people, that airplanes would fill the sky, and that 200-mile-an-hour trains would be common. No one predicted the immense impact of the automobile. Henry Ford unveiled his Model T in the fall of 1908, and the demand was such that by 1911 the Ford Motor Company was producing 50,000 cars annually.