Ah, summer. For many of us, it’s our favorite season, and one that in the dead of winter feels like it will never arrive. But what was summer like in the past? If you could take a time machine and travel back 100 or 115 years, what would you see?
Upon arriving in the past, you will notice that many of the activities we enjoy today such as fairs, picnics, outdoor sports, ice cream and amusement parks also are enjoyed.
You will notice a number of differences as well. The air will smell strongly of horse manure. The arrival of the automobile helped alleviate this problem, but there are still many horse-driven vehicles. The smell is one of the reasons why the wealthy leave the city to travel to their summer homes.
The following are some other differences you’ll notice during your time travel adventure.
There were no refrigerators. People had ice boxes to keep food cool. The ice man delivered ice to homes and businesses via a cart.
The ice was nothing like the shredded pieces you can buy in a 21st century grocery store. It was an ice block, measuring approximately 24 inches by 18 inches and removed from the cart using a large hook.
Ice was harvested by ice houses during the winter months, stored in large buildings and transported to populated areas via boat or railroad. It was sold by the pound.
On rural properties, an underground room that stayed cool enough year round was used to preserve food and dairy.
During the first half of the 20th century, air conditioning was primarily found in public buildings. Homes, especially the upper floors, could be extremely hot during the summer. To solve this problem, many properties had sleeping porches.
The porches were screened in and were roomy enough to accommodate full-sized beds. These are built in the back of the house because they were intended to be seen only by the home’s residents.
In addition to being more comfortable for sleeping, the porches were thought to be more hygienic, providing fresh air to tuberculosis patients and others who are ill.
Apartment dwellers obviously didn’t have porches, but the fire escape made a good substitute on summer nights.
If you are affluent enough, you could beat the heat by taking a vacation or going to the lake or seashore to go swimming.
During the summer, fashions changed. It was common for both men and women to wear white during the warmer months.
It’s the Edwardian era, and women have begun to wear short sleeves and necklines, baring their arms, neck and upper torso. These fashions were among the first to liberate women from constricting clothing.
Updated: 26 October 2020
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