In 1907, Americans had a life expectancy of just 45.6 years for men and 49.9 for women. Even worse, this was the year that typhoid, an abdominal disease spread through water and food supplies, ravaged the nation.
But alas! Public health officials discovered that 47 people stricken with the disease were all from families that employed a cook named Mary. With "Typhoid Mary" safely quarantined, these were the highlights of that year.
Read about more surprising highlights from 1907 on the next page.
The Chicago Cubs Win the World Series!
The World Series was only four years old in 1907. What's more, Ty Cobb was merely 20. But youth was on the side of the Chicago Cubs as they won the World Series, beating Cobb and his Detroit Tigers four games to none. The Series wasn't without its share of drama -- the first game was called because of darkness.
An Economic Boom
Industrial capitalism was on the rise in 1907 and with it came lots of jobs. New businesses created a need for more clerical help and a new "white collar" mentality was born. More and more workers received a salary instead of an hourly wage. Retail jobs also flourished, and women were working more than ever before.
A Movie for a Nickel
Way before the TV network and even before the Ryan and Tatum O'Neal film, the word nickelodeon meant a small neighborhood theater where people would gather to see a movie. The cost? A nickel, of course! These theaters held about 200 people and featured live piano music before each show. Movies were comedic sketches, animal acts, or vaudeville acts that lasted around 15 minutes each.
No One Wanted Their MTV
A lucky few enjoyed phonographs in 1907, but the most common way to hear a new song was by piano. People would trade, borrow, and collect the sheet music to their favorite songs. A popular choice was George M. Cohan's "You're a Grand Old Rag" from his hit Broadway musical George Washington, Jr. The song quickly spread beyond New York City and became a staple in piano benches across the country. Eventually, Cohan changed the title to "You're a Grand Old Flag," and the song remains a national treasure.
And Now for the Tresses
In 1907, America was at war against tuberculosis, which killed hundreds of people from the 1880s to the 1950s. To complement their pale complexions, survivors opted for masses of ringlets, thanks to the invention of the waving iron in the 1870s. Hair coloring was frowned upon, but the brave went for it anyway, using herbs, rust, and other concoctions. To promote hair growth, petroleum jelly, castor oil, and gallic acid were also part of the beauty arsenal.
The "Monobosom" and Other Fashionable Styles
Ladies of the early 20th century certainly didn't show much skin. However, they were very creative in enhancing their fully clothed silhouettes. The hourglass figure was highly coveted, but if you weren't a full-bodied woman by nature, you simply had to work harder. Corset strings were pulled so tightly that the hips were forced back and the chest thrust forward creating a "monobosom." But things loosened up a tad after dark. To show off their fine jewelry, women of 1907 wore low sweetheart necklines often accented with feathered boas.
Swimming Without a Skirt is a Police Matter
When Australian long-distance swimmer Annette Kellerman decided to swim at Boston's Revere Beach in a one-piece bathing suit -- without a skirt -- she was arrested. The charge? Indecent exposure, of course! The 22 year old wasn't the only one under scrutiny. Even infants were required to wear complete bathing costumes in the land of the free until a quarter of a century later.
The First Electric Washing Machine
By 1907, U.S. power companies were growing in technology and scale. As a result, life became a little easier for housewives, especially when the Thor washing machine was introduced by Hurley Machine Company of Chicago. To go with the Thor, a company in Düsseldorf, Germany, came up with the first household detergent in the same year. It was called Persil.
The Beginnings of UPS
Seattle entrepreneur James E. Casey was only 19 in 1907 when he borrowed $100 to create a delivery service he called the American Messenger Company. He and his friends ran errands and delivered packages and trays of food. Most deliveries were done on foot, with longer trips made via bicycle. A Model T Ford was added six years later and the name was changed to Merchants Parcel Delivery. By 1919, the company had expanded beyond Seattle and was renamed United Parcel Service.
The Invention of the Paper Towel
The paper towel was created by a crafty teacher in Philadelphia who found a way to keep her students from perpetuating a cold epidemic. Instead of sharing the same cloth towel, she put her scissors to use and cut some paper into individual squares. The Scott Paper Company, which was already making toilet paper, got wind of the story. As luck would have it, the company had an entire railroad car full of paper that was rolled too thick to be used in the bathroom. Arthur Scott came up with a way to copy the teacher's design on a bigger scale. It didn't take long before he was selling them as a product called the Sani-Towel.
The Creation of Mother's Day
After her mother died, Anna Jarvis started a letter-writing campaign in support of the celebration of mothers everywhere. A minister in Grafton, West Virginia, obliged and dedicated the second Sunday in May specifically to the late Mrs. Jarvis. Ironically, the woman who is credited with creating what we now know as Mother's Day never became a mother herself. Her entire life was dedicated to caring for others: first her elderly mother and then her blind sister. Jarvis never married and, in 1948, died a pauper.
Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen
HowStuffWorks looks at the lessons, including advanced building codes and medical treatments, that endure from Boston's 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles