As we prepare for this auspicious occasion, I did a little research to see what the world looked like a century ago. Here's some of what I found out...
- New York, 4.8m (New York, 8.5m)
- Chicago, 2.2m (Los Angeles, 3.9m)
- Philadelphia, 1.5m (Chicago 2.7m)
- St. Louis, 695K (Houston, 2.2m)
- Boston, 670K (Philadelphia, 1.5m)
- Cleveland, 565K (Phoenix, 1.5m)
- Baltimore, 560K (San Antonio, 1.4m)
- Pittsburgh, 535K (San Diego, 1.4m)
- Detroit, 470K (Dallas, 1.3m)
- Buffalo, 425K (San Jose, 1m)
The population of the world was 1.75 billion. London was the world’s biggest city in 1916 (7.5m). The map of the world looked very different. Before the end of World War 1 (which was still raging in 1916), there was still an Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as an Ottoman Empire. Africa contained only two independent nations (Liberia and South Africa). "India" stretched from Pakistan in the West to Burma in the East and was under British Administration. Panamá was still part of Colombia.
Somewhere a Voice Is Calling by John McCormack was the most popular song for the year (though it had been recorded in 1914). The most popular movie was Intolerance: Love’s
Struggle Through the Ages, starring Lillian Gish as The Eternal Motherhood. This was the most expensive movie ever made up to this point, and it bankrupted filmmaker D.W. Griffith. It was 3.5 hours long. The most popular books of 1916 included James Joyce’s The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (fiction), Albert Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and the General Theory (nonfiction), and Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.
Life expectancy for men was still under 50 years, but for women it was 54 years. Only 13% of the nation's youth received high school diplomas. California's minimum wage was 13¢ an hour. Eggs were 38¢ a dozen, a loaf of bread cost 8¢, and milk
was 36¢ a gallon. Ten pounds of potatoes would set you back 25¢. A first class postage stamp was 2¢. In automotive news, production of the Ford Model T exceeded 500,000 cars for the first time. They sold for $345, down from $390 in 1915. Gasoline was 22¢ a gallon. Materials for a 3-bedroom 2-story home could be ordered from Sears for $630.
Famous people born in 1916 include: Olivia de Havilland, Jackie Gleason, Roald Dahl, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Glenn Ford, François Mitterrand, Eugene McCarthy, James Herriot, Betty Grable, and Walter Cronkite.
Here's one important event for each month of 1916:
- January 9: The Ottoman Empire defeated the British Empire at Gallipoli.
- February 3: Emma Goldman was arrested in the USA for publicly advocating women’s birth control.
- March 7: BMW was founded in Munich.
- April 20: The Chicago Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Park (which later became Wrigley Field).
- May 16: Britain and France finalized plans to divide the Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire between them.
- June 15: President Wilson signed a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America.
- July 1: The Battle of the Somme began which would last until November 1916 and see more than a million men wounded or killed.
- August 25: The National Park Service was created.
- September 13: In Erwin, Tennessee, Mary, a circus elephant, was executed by hanging after an accident which killed her handler.
- October 7: Georgia Tech beat Cumberland College in football 222-0.
- November 7: Election Day saw Democrat Woodrow Wilson reëlected President (along with V.P. Thomas Marshall), and Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) elected as the first female member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
- December 18: The Battle of Verdun came to an end, with over 700,000 men wounded or killed.