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What Life Was Like In 1923

Happy New Year! 2023 is here and many of you are working on your resolutions for the new year. Before you get too busy making plans, let’s go back in time and take a look at what life was like in 1923.

• The population of the U.S. grew close to 112 million. Our current population is now over 333 million, with one new person being added every 41 seconds.
• Men had a life expectancy of 56.1 years, and women lived an average of 58.5 years.
• The U.S. Federal Budget was 4 billion dollars and they had a budget surplus of 300 million dollars. Today, we have a Federal Budget of 6 trillion dollars and budget deficit of 1.8 trillion dollars!
• About 15 million motor vehicles were registered in the U.S. Today, we have over 290 million vehicles on the road.
• The price of a Model T Ford was $364. Ford manufactured over 2 million of these cars in 1923.
• 44 percent of the homes had electricity. Most of rural America would remain without electricity until the mid-1930s.
• The famous “Hollywood Sign” was erected in 1923. The sign originally read “HOLLYWOODLAND”, and was being used to promote a housing development in the hills above the city. That sign remained in place until 1949, when the sign was restored and the word land” was removed.
• On October 16th, Walt and Roy Disney founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, in Hollywood.
• Coca Cola developed the 6-pack carrier to encourage people to take the soda home and drink it more often. That year, they also renewed the patent on their famous contoured (also called hobbleskirt) bottle. All contour bottles produced between1923 and 1937 carried the Christmas day patent imprint, and are known as “Christmas Bottles”.
• Union wages in New York city were:
– Bricklayers at $1.50 per hour
– Carpenters at $1.12 per hour
– Painters at $1.12 per hour
– Plumbers at $1.25 per hour
– Structural steel workers at $1.12 per hour
• American farm workers had an average pay of $37.24 per month, with board. Without board, their average pay was $48.25 per month.
• The minimum wage in California was $0.33 per hour.
• The average person had 8.2 years of schooling.
o 17 percent got a high school diploma.
o 6.1 percent went to college.
o 4 percent earned a four-year degree.
• On January 1923, Fredrick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip were awarded the U.S. patents on

insulin and the method used to make it. They all sold these patents to the University of Toronto for $1 each. Banting famously said, “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.” He wanted everyone who needed it to have access to it.

  • On October 15th, Eli Lilly began the mass production of insulin and it became widely available for the

treatment of diabetes.

  • On May 28th, the US Attorney General determines it is legal for women to wear trousers anywhere – even in public!
  • The number one movie of 1923 was Cecil B. DeMille’s version of the “Ten Commandments”. Theodore Roberts starred as Moses in the film, and Charles De Roche starred as the Pharoah.
  • President Warren G. Harding died of a heart attack, on August 2nd. Calvin Coolidge became our 30th President on August 3rd.
  • The number one hit song was “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.
  • As a promotional stunt, Otto Schnering, founder of the Curtis Candy Corporation, had Baby Ruth candy bars dropped from airplanes over cities around the country. Each candy bar was attached to its own tiny parachute.
  • The average prices for these items were:
    • Round steak sold for 34 cents a pound
    • Eggs were 50 cents a dozen
    • Milk sold for 56 cents per gallon
    • A loaf of bread costs 9 cents
    • Coffee was 37 cents a pound
    • A ten-pound bag of potatoes cost 12 cents
    • Gasoline sold for around 20 cents per gallon
    • The price of a first-class postage stamp was 2 cents
    • A movie ticket went for around 10 cents

Yankee Stadium opened on April

  • 18th. It was nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built”.
  • The first 24 hours of Le Mans took place on May 26th. Andre Legache and Rene Leonard won the race in their 3-liter Chenard & Walcker.
  • Firestone Tire and Rubber Company starts producing inflatable tires, on April 5th. With Firestone’s innovation came the era of the flat tire. J
  • On March 14th, President Harding became the first president to ever pay income tax.
  • Prohibition was revoked in New York, on May 4th.
  • Time Magazine published its first edition on March 3rd.
  • Warner Brothers Pictures was incorporated on April 4th.
  • The first aerial refueling took place in San Diego, on June 27th. Two U.S. Army DH-4s were used to demonstrate that the concept worked.
  • John Hertz bought the “Jacobs DriveUrSelf” company from Walter Jacobs. Hertz renamed the company to “Hertz DriveUrSelf”. He made his cars available at railroad stations for customers to drive themselves to their own destinations. His company went on to become America’s leading rental car organizations for decades.
  • On June 4th, Frank Hayes won a steeplechase at Belmont Park. What makes this interesting is that he died late in the race, but somehow managed to stay in the saddle for the win. At 20:1 odds, he made some people very happy that day!

As you can see, life in America has changed a lot over the last 100 years. Can you even imagine living without electricity and your smart phone?