“Few of the homes of working-class families had running water, and almost none had running hot water.”

from Mark J. Perry “Tuesday Evening Links” at AEI.org.

America 1915

What About the Availability of Energy in the US 100 Years Ago and What Was Life Like Then?

Pretty miserable, harsh and wretched by today’s standards, according to this report from the BLS “The Life of American Workers in 1915,” summarized here by Derek Thomson in The Atlantic.  Here’s a description of life in America in terms of the availability of energy, heat, water, lighting, technologies, etc. of 1915:

Few of the homes of working-class families had running water, and almost none had running hot water. Whether or not your abode was a single-family home or a crowded tenement, it probably was heated by a potbelly stove or by a coal furnace in the basement. It wasn’t until the coal shortage during World War I that oil or gas-powered central heating became a popular replacement for the hand-fired coal furnaces and stoves. Your home probably wasn’t yet wired for electricity; less than a third of homes had electric lights rather than gas or kerosene lamps. However, electricity was the byword of new middle-class homes, which sported electric toasters and coffee pots. Gas stoves were starting to replace coal and wood stoves in part because they conserved kitchen space. Telephones could be found in at least a few million homes. However, direct dialing did not exist until the 1920s. If your home had an indoor toilet, the toilet likely was located in a closet or a storage area. It would be a few more years until it was common for toilets, sinks, and bathtubs to share a room.

Sounds pretty depressing by today’s standards, no? But hey, on the bright side, the workers in 1915 weren’t yet burdened by rising CEO-to-worker pay ratios and increasing income inequality, like today’s workers, who are now burdened by those first-world problems of life in the 21st century!


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