Then and Now
In the 1890s, life in America was changing fast. Every day, newspapers
printed stories of new inventions. Skyscrapers of twenty stories rose above city
skylines. Changes took place on farms, in towns and in cities. If you lived in the
1890s, you wouldn’t know about TV, computers, plastic, airplanes, movies with
sound or space travel! Just turning on a light switch was a new experience! That
time is often called the “good old days”. By the 1890s, people were using things
they had never dreamed of before – drinking straws, chewing gum, zippers and
typewriters. A ticket to a baseball game cost 50¢. You could get a pair of shoes for
$1.95. It cost 3¢ to mail a letter.
Adapted from …If You Lived 100 Years Ago by Ann McGovern (pp.6-7,24,32).
The Wright Brothers
It took brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright almost a year to build their first
airplane. On December 17, 1903, they were ready to test it. Orville warmed up the
specially-designed gas engine. The airplane started forward, slowly lifting itself
into the air. That first airplane ride lasted twelve seconds. Orville had flown 120
feet. The brothers made two more flights that day. Wilbur made the third flight. It
lasted 59 seconds, and he flew 852 feet! These three flights were the first to be
controlled by a man through the use of an engine. But only a few newspapers
across the nation carried the story. People just could not believe that man could
really fly. They thought the story was a joke.
Adapted from ABeka New World History and Geography Grade 6.
The Panama Canal
To allow United States battleships to move rapidly between the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans, President Theodore Roosevelt made plans for the building of the
Panama Canal. In 1903, he signed a treaty with Panama which gave the United
States permanent control of a strip of land ten miles wide across the Isthmus of
Panama. The United States paid Panama $10 million for the Canal Zone, plus
$250,000 a year. Roosevelt visited Panama while the canal was under construction.
This was the first time a U.S. President had ever traveled to a foreign country while
Building the canal kept 40,000 people busy for ten years. It was one of the
greatest engineering achievements of all time. When the Panama Canal opened in
1914, all nations not at war with the United States were allowed to use it. Because
the U.S. bought the right to build this canal, it had the right to control the canal
from its enemies.
Adapted from ABeka New World History and Geography Grade 6.
A Different War
The war that broke out in Europe during the summer of 1914 and lasted until
late 1918 was different from any other. It was different in scale. At first it had five
main participants – Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary. But
eventually it involved soldiers from five continents. Thus it was the first “world”
war. It was also different in nature. New weapons, vehicles and tactics were used.
Civilian populations were also involved as never before.
Adapted from World War I: 1914-1918 by Christine Hatt.
Wilson Declares War
On April 2, 1917, thousands of people assembled outside the U.S. Capitol
building. President Woodrow Wilson finally spoke. He told the country that the
United States would choose to fight. It would choose to make the world safe for
democracy. When he finished his speech, Wilson received a tremendous ovation.
The applause shocked him. He turned to his secretary. He said he was shocked that
the American people were applauding death for its young men.
Adapted from Scholastic Encyclopedia of the United States at War by June A. English and Thomas D. Jones.
Tanks in World War I
In 1912, an Australian, L.E. Moles, suggested building an armor-plated,
bullet-proof vehicle with guns. This vehicle could be used to bulldoze through
enemy lines. He was ignored! When World War I broke out, a British soldier
persuaded Winston Churchill to look at the idea again. An armored vehicle with
caterpillar tracks would be able to travel over rough ground. It would be able to
smash through barbed wire and trenches. It could also knock out the enemy’s
machine guns, allowing the infantry to move in. The first tanks were slow and kept
breaking down. Gradually tanks were improved. By 1917 British and Americans
produced the Mark VIII. It carried a crew of 8. It could fire 208 shells an 13,000
bullets. Although not yet perfect, the tank had shown itself to be a weapon for the
Adapted from Key Battles of World War I by David Taylor, page 16.
Chlorine gas was first used as a weapon by the Germans in 1915. Containers
of gas were opened and allowed to drift toward the enemy. The problem was if the
wind changed direction, the gas could be blown back at them! The first gas attacks
caused panic among enemy troops. They had never experienced anything like it
before. Chlorine gas filled the lungs with fluid. This often resulted in death from
suffocation. By 1917, both sides of the War were using mustard gas. Mustard gas
was far more deadly. It caused sickness, internal bleeding, blindness and burning
of the skin. By now, gas was fired in shells from long-range guns. It no longer
mattered from which direction the wind was blowing. During the war more than
91,000 soldiers were killed by gas. More than 1,200,000 were injured by it.
Adapted from Key Battles of World War I by David Taylor, page 17.
Christian runner Eric Liddell was excited to compete in the 1924 Paris
Olympics. He was stunned to learn that the heats for his three best events, the 100
meter race and two relays, were on a Sunday. But he said he was not running. Eric
considered Sunday to be sacred, a day set apart for the Lord; and he would honor
his convictions at the expense of fame. He turned his attention to train for the 200-
meter and 400-meter dashes. On Sunday, July 6, Liddell preached in a Paris church
as the guns sounded for the 100-meter heats. Three days later, he finished third in
the 200-meter sprint. He won an unexpected bronze medal! He quietly made his
way through the heats of the 400 meters to the final. He was not expected to win.
Shaking hands with the other finalists, he readied for the race of his life. Arms
thrashing, head bobbing and tilted, legs dancing, Liddell ran to victory. He was
five meters ahead of the silver medalist. "The Flying Scotsman" had a gold medal
and a world record, 47.6 seconds. Most of all, Eric Liddell had kept his
commitment to his convictions of faith.
Adapted from InTouchMinistries.org, Life Examples website.
Louis Armstrong was one of the greatest jazz performers ever. He started out
very poor. He sold coal in New Orleans for two bits a sack. Then someone gave
him a trumpet. It must have been a good angel. Louis Armstrong was born to play
the trumpet. People began to call him “satchel-mouth” because his cheeks seemed
to hold a suitcase full of air. “Satchmo” was soon playing on riverboats that went
up and down the Mississippi. Then he went to Chicago and started making history.
Satchmo had a big grin, but when he played the trumpet he closed his eyes and
blew clear, heavenly tones. The style he played was jazz. People in the 1920s were
crazy about jazz music. They were especially crazy about Louis Armstrong.
Adapted from War, Peace and All That Jazz (History of US) by Joy Hakim, Chapter 11.
George Herman Ruth certainly didn’t look like a hero. His body was shaped
like a barrel with spindly legs sticking out the bottom. His face wasn’t much to
look at either. In the middle was a mashed-in nose. But none of that mattered.
Ruth, who was known as “the Babe,” turned beautiful when he stepped onto a
baseball field. He was the most famous baseball player of all time. Ruth was a
lefty—a southpaw—and he started out as a pitcher in 1914 with the Boston Red
Sox. He was sensational. But he could also hit – harder and faster than anyone. So
Boston had him pitch some days and sometimes had him play first base. In 1918
he was about the best left-handed pitcher in the game. That year he also led the
American League in home runs. Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees. His 60
home run record stood for 34 years. It took 13 more years for someone to top his
career home-run total of 714.
Adapted from War, Peace and All That Jazz (History of US) by Joy Hakim, Chapter 9.
The Great Depression
The Great Depression of the 1930s was a ten-year-long economic nightmare.
The human suffering brought on by the depression was appalling. Thousands of
people lost their jobs. Many became homeless. Families who could not pay their
rent or mortgage were thrown out of their homes. Farms were seized by banks for
non-payment of loans. They were auctioned off to the highest bidder. In the winter,
people put newspapers under their clothes to ward off the cold. Others walked
about with cardboard stuffed in their shoes to cover up holes. Lunch for some
families was bread smeared with lard. The very symbol of the depression was the
breadline. A breadline was a very long line of people waiting to receive free food
from a mission or welfare agency.
Adapted from The Great Depression (Cornerstones of Freedom) by R. Conrad Stein.