In 1915 Henry Clarence Schlarb turned twenty-three years of age. He had graduated from Taylor Academy the year before. What was 1915 like, when Henry was finishing up his freshman year at Taylor University?
In 2015, a Bureau of Labor Statistics paper described the life of workers in 1915. More than half (52.4 percent) of the 100 million Americans were younger than 25, life expectancy at birth was 54.5 years (today, 78.8) and fewer than 5 percent of Americans were 65 or older. One in 10 babies died in the first year of life (today, one in 168). A large majority of births were not in hospitals (today, fewer than 1 percent).
In 1915, only about 14 percent of people ages 14-17 were in high school, an estimated 18 percent ages 25 and older had completed high school, and nearly 75 percent of women working in factories had left school before eighth grade. There were four renters for every homeowner, partly because mortgages (usually for just five to seven years) required down payments of 40 to 50 percent of the purchase price.
Fewer than one-third of homes had electric lights. Small electric motors — the first Hoover vacuum cleaner appeared in 1915 — were not yet lightening housework. Iceboxes, which were the norm until after World War II, were all that 1915 had: General Motors’ Frigidaire debuted in 1918.