Education in America some 110 years ago – 1909

My oh my, how time flies! It seems like only yesterday when only 6% of all Americans graduated from high school, the average salary was 22 cents per hour, and the average age was 47. On the home front, only 14% of homes had a bathtub and 8% of homes had a telephone. Sugar cost four cents a pound, eggs were fourteen cents a dozen, and coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

There were 8000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. The leading cause of death was pneumonia and influenza. Considering how far we’ve advanced in 100 years, I wonder what it will be like in 2119?


John Deitz, Brookhaven Hamlet historian, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd on Sunday. Before John began, he announced: “this is my third and final presentation of ‘Brookhaven Hamlet Cultural Heritage 101’.” Luckily, the event was filmed and will be available on John generously donated his slides and slide board to the Society for use in a future exhibit.

It didn’t matter if this was the first or third time hearing this presentation, it was still fascinating. John, seated at the slide machine but facing the audience, spoke of each individual as someone he had known intimately. His program discussed visual, literary, and performing artists from 1890 to 1930 who lived at one time or another in Brookhaven Hamlet. John Deitz was also a firm believer in setting up a great St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Bellport Village a few years ago.

These people were not only well-known artists but friends and neighbors. Imagine Kost, Glackens, or Frazer living and working next door. This was brought closer to home as John discussed not only their work but where they lived. It was interesting to see what the homes looked like at the time the artist lived there, and how they look today. See also this post about the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society.

The audience was encouraged to interject additional information. As John put it, “I get most of my information from the Internet. However, there are those in the audience who may have been small children listening to stories from their parents or grandparents and can add first-hand information about a particular person.”

John augmented his slide presentation with examples of magazine covers, books, and illustrations, all created by the artists themselves. A delightful surprise, when talking about Gardner Rea, was a film clip from Busby Berkley’s production of “We’re in the Money” from the 1933 movie “Gold Diggers.”

We were also treated to a piano recital by pianist Carol Robinson playing Debussy’s Arabesque #2 in G Minor, which was recorded in 1923. It was an extremely interesting, informative, and pleasant afternoon, and we are eagerly looking forward to John’s next project.