Reel and Retro

Presenting the Past

Does History Repeat Itself?

What was life like leading up to the 1920’s? Doing research for the series ‘Get a WOW! Retro Style’, brings me to a prequel to the sequel. Because I thought I’d start with the 1920’s, I realize, maybe I didn’t pay enough attention in school. So, finding all of this is fascinating.

The questions I wanted answers for are:

  • What was life like leading up to the 1920’s?
  • How is it similar to life 100 years later?
  • What great things can we emulate from the past?
  • What can we learn from the past to prevent hardships in the present and future?

Holy crap! I kinda feel stupid because I wasn’t really aware of the details and timeline of this particular history but, here we are. This article is all based on what our world was like

100 years ago!


Here is a very interesting article from the New York Times that you may find worthy of your time to read:

Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services

Yes! That was from 1918! Here are more interesting articles about the pandemic 100 years ago and how it lead to life in the 1920’s:

Why did the flu affect men more than women?

Known as the Spanish flu, the 1918 “great influenza” left more than 50 million people dead, including around 670,000 in the United States.

American Expeditionary Force victims of the flu pandemic at U.S. Army Camp Hospital no. 45 in Aix-les-Bains, France, in 1918. (Wikipedia)

The Flu Pandemic Of 1918: Modern Parallels From A Century-Old Pandemic

The 1918 flu pandemic is caused by influenza AH1N1 virus — also associated with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. It infected one-third of the world’s population at the time and killed approximately 50 million worldwide.

This is from Snopes. It’s important to clear up this misconception:

“Widespread immunization ended the pandemic”

Immunization against the flu was  not  practiced in 1918, and thus played no role in ending the pandemic.

Posted  by Ben Carlson

Frederick Lewis Allen wrote the definitive book on the 1920s called Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s.

Allen paints a picture of what life was like in 1919 and then compares it to the wonderful advances in technology that came about because of the Roaring 20s.

Surprisingly, the flu pandemic that gripped the world from 1918-1919 gets just one passing line, with Allen commenting that the influenza pandemic had “taken more American lives than had the Germans, and had caused thousands of men and women to go about fearfully with white cloth masks over their faces.”

Yep, that freaks me out a little. Do you find all of this a little ironic? Or, am I just being dramatic?

Also, in the article you will find this chart: 

GDP contracted more than 38% while 1920 remains the most deflationary year on record in modern economic history in the United States, with prices falling close to 37%.

The federal government likely made things worse during this downturn, slashing spending by one-fifth in order to pay down war debt. And for some reason, the Federal Reserve actually raised interest rates, from less than 5% to 7% in 1920.

This 8 or so years looks like hell on earth:

And yet…look at what came during the aftermath.

How many people at the time would have predicted during the war/pandemic/recession/depression years that the 1920s would be one of the most innovative, prosperous periods our country had ever seen?

The 1920s ushered in the automobile, the airplane, the radio, the assembly line, the refrigerator, electric razor, washing machine, jukebox, television and more.

There was a massive stock market boom and explosion of spending by consumers the likes of which was unrivaled at the time. After the immense pressure of the Great War, many people simply wanted to have fun and spend money.

What do we do with this information? Is there more to the current environment we’re experiencing with Covid-19 than a virus? Such as, do you believe governments have something to do with it? Do you feel our economy will be affected the same in 2020 as it was 100 years ago? What will the aftermath leave us with?

I hope you found this as thought provoking as I did. We were hit hard but what came from it may have made us stronger. Especially women. We experienced World War 1, the men were off to combat and the world experienced a pandemic. The women in America held down the home-front  and helped create… a new kind of existence. 


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Women on the Home Front

With hoe in hand, a latter-day Gibson Girl shakes hands with Uncle Sam, who welcomes her into the Women’s Land Army of America (1917–1921). This civilian organization arose during World War I to provide placement of volunteers, usually women called “farmerettes,” in agricultural work to replace men in military service. Using Gibson’s illustration with the line “Until the Boys Come Back,” the New Jersey WLA produced several versions of this poster for fund-raising and recruitment campaigns.

Help! The Women’s Land Army of America, 1918. New Jersey Division, State House, Trenton. Lithograph poster. Reprinted from Life, May 23, 1918. Gift of the artist, 1933. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (018.00.00) [LC-USZC4-10239]


This was what life was leading up to the 1920’s. Stay tuned to the blog, Reel and Retro, for the lighter side of things. Kicking of this series we have ‘Get a WOW! Retro Style’ (intro) and next we will be inspired by the roaring 20’s. 

Stay fabulous darlings

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