People complain about a lot of things these days, and, sometimes, they have a valid point. Of course, there’s also the flip side to this, where people take issue with such minor annoyances that entire memes have been created to poke fun at their ridiculousness (i.e. “first world problems”). As always, history shows us why we should be thankful to live in the time that we do…
1. William Tecumseh Sherman Burns Atlanta, 1864.
Back during the Civil War, folks didn’t know whether or not they’d still have a proper country to live in by the end of the conflict. If you lived in the South, where most of the fighting took place, you were in danger of having your entire city burned to the ground.
2. Civil War Soldiers Bury Their Comrades Outside Fredricksburg, Virginia, 1864.
There was many casualties during the Civil War, indeed, so many that our losses during World War II pale in comparison. Thanks to an archaic form of battlefield strategy (where regiments would line up and fire at each other) used at a time when rifles were becoming more common, many more men lost their lives than was necessary.
3. Shady Figures Line An Alleyway in New York City, Late 19th Century.
No, this isn’t an image from the Great Depression. America’s “Gilded Age,” which occurred in the late 19th century, is relatively forgotten nowadays, but many important parallels can be made between that era and the one we live in now. That being said, our quality of life is much higher in the present.
4. A Coal Worker Relaxes, New York City, Late 19th Century.
The Gilded Age was rife with cases of worker abuse. Coal miners were victimized frequently, leading to many strikes and the formation of unions during this era. If you complain about the minimum wage in the present, just know that it was a heck of a lot worse a little over a century ago.
5. Children In A Classroom, New York City, Late 19th Century.
In college we complained about the cramp rows, tiny desks, and terrible seats all of the time, but our plight is nothing compared to what these kids (and teachers) had to deal with.
6. Italian Immigrant’s Home, New York City, Late 19th Century.
Being half-Italian, I’ve heard just about every story in regard to how treacherous of a journey it was to immigrate to the United States. And, even when you got through Ellis Island, you often lived like this for your first several years in the country. All things considered, today’s immigrants are a lot better off than our ancestors were.
7. A Hotel, New York City, Late 19th Century.
Even the worst hotels I’ve been in seem like five star establishments compared to this place.
8. Woman And Daughter Making Lace, New York City, 1910.
When things got bad back then, people often turned to making things in their own home and selling them out on the street. I doubt that’s something most people would think of doing these days.
9. Wall-Street Executive, 1913.
Wall Street used to take advantage of normal people back in the day, too. At least nowadays we are slightly more educated and have more ways of defending ourselves against their tomfoolery.
10. Kids Hold an American Flag During World War I, 1918.
We’re not used to looking at the “distant” past in color, but if you search hard enough you’ll find that lots of these “autochrome” images exist. Back in 1918, these kids would have had to deal not only with their fathers going off to war, but economic hardship and the Spanish Flu. We have it pretty good compared to them.
11. Out For A Swim, United States, ~1915-1918.
Aren’t you glad we no longer have to wear those frocks into the water? Yeah, me too.
12. Moonshine Distillery, United States, 1922.
Prohibition must have been tough. I’m no alcoholic, but I can appreciate a little something now and then. These guys worked under the cover of darkness to provide Americans with the alcohol they so desperately wanted.
13. An X-Ray Machine, United States, ~1920
Yeah, that thing looks about as likely to make the patient melt as it does properly image his bone fracture. I’ll take modern medicine, thank you very much. The year on this one was rather unclear, but based on the source of the image this is probably from the 1920s.
14. A Poor Family During the Great Depression, Central Ohio, 1938.
Poverty is still something that needs to be vanquished in the present, though at the very least we should be thankful that the poor no longer live like this family had to.
15. The Dust Bowl, Oklahoma, 1936.
Along with the Great Depression, Americans in the ’30s had to deal with this little thing called “The Dust Bowl.” Lots of crops were lost due to the lack of rain, and many established farming families had to move west. Drought is still an issue today, though improved irrigation and aqueduct techniques have alleviated this somewhat.
16. Women On A Lunch Break, Iowa, 1943
During World War II, everyone had to work hard to ensure our victory. This included women, who often took on the roles of men who went off to fight in Europe or the Pacific. Back in 1943, victory was nowhere near a surefire thing, and the stress caused by knowing that must have been very great indeed.
17. Duck And Cover, United States, ~1950s.
What are these kids doing, you ask? Why, they’re hiding under they’re desks to protect themselves from a nuclear bomb blast. Ludicrous, you say? Well sure, but the government made all schools perform these drills anyways. This is one of the many reasons to be glad that the Cold War is over.
18. Pro-Vietnam War Demonstration, New York City, 1970.
Yes, there were pro-Vietnam War demonstrations, although they weren’t as popular as those of the “anti” variety. Even today, when many are divided in regard to waging war in the Middle East, we at least maintain enough composure to not create chaos on the streets every chance we get.
19. Subway Graffiti, New York City, 1984.
I’ve ridden the subway a few times, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Thanks anti-graffiti government regulations!
20. Civilians Topple Soviet Statue In Moscow, 1991
It can be hard to believe that just 23 years ago, we were still trying to rid ourselves of the last vestiges of Soviet Communism. Of course, we have plenty of problems today, but at least that’s one big thing we no longer have to worry about!
There you have it folks, we’ve reached the ’90s. I’d keep going, but then I’d have to blame everything represented in the photos on us and not a previous generation, so I think I’ll pass.
Featured photo credit: World War II nurses/OnCall Team via flickr.com