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A Century of Progress?

Tiffany Mosig - Monday, January 14, 2019

Many 1919-ers called 1919 the ‘worst year of the century so far.’ So I did some digging to see why, and what impact it had on the world today.




  • Treaty of Versailles ends WWI and creates the League of Nations to prevent another world war. The League calls it quits during WWII.
  • Mussolini invites everyone to a party in Milan - the National Fascist Party.
  • Russia embraces communism. US embraces black lists.’
  • 130 years after the first presidential election, the 19th Amendment FINALLY gives women the vote. 


  • Ma Bell offers national dial phone service. We no longer need Sarah to “git us the Mayor up in Mount Pilot.”
  • The Pop-up Toaster is invented. Fewer people burn their Pop-Tarts.


  • The Volstead Act leads to Prohibition in January 1920. (Luckily, it was over in 1933.)
  • Most popular boy’s names: John, William, James, Robert, Charles
  • Most popular girl’s names: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth
  • United Artists is formed by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks for artistic freedom. Since then it’s been bought, sold, merged and restructured over and over and over.

Headline News

  • Edsel Ford promises to make Fords more stylish. Like the Edsel perhaps.
  • President Wilson predicts WWII. Wait. I thought WWI was ‘the war to end all wars.’
  • Molasses flood in Boston kills 21 people and injures 150 more. (Imagine sugar hurting anyone.)


  • First gasoline tax: 1 penny per gallon in Oregon
  • 1st Class Postage goes up 50%. (from 2 cents to 3 cents)

Science / Nature

  • The Grand Canyon becomes one of our first National Parks. It still draws 5 million+ every year.
  • Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (published in 1905) is finally confirmed by the Royal Astronomical Society. It was that light bending during the eclipse, wasn’t it.
  • In March,1919, Daylight Savings Time is approved. In January,2019, state legislators are trying to abolish it.


  • Chicago ‘Black Sox’ scandal establishes the need for a baseball commissioner.
  • The Bosox sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000. His baseball card sold for $717,000 in 2016.
  • Green Bay Packers organization is established. Cheesehead foam hats arrive in 1987.
  • Jack Dempsey wins the World Heavyweight Championship…and he holds it until 1926.

New words in 1919

  • Wonky(went from nervous to nerdy in 1978)
  • Bagel (thanks to 70 Lower East Side bakeries)
  • Ad-lib (replaced by “improv” in 1978)
  • Pokey (replaced by “slammer” in 1952)
  • Cross-selling (made it onto many how-to-succeed book covers)
  • Naugahyde (replaced by ‘leatherette’ and ‘pleather’)
  • Bimbo(meaning ‘guy’ back then) Seriously.
  • Dunk(as in your coffee; became a basketball-ism in 1937)


I leave it to you to decide what we’ve learned from 1919. Wonder what they’ll say about 2019 in 2119? Let’s give them lots of good things to talk about.


Happy New Year from all of us at R J Augustine. May it be everything you hoped for.



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