Author Topic: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!  (Read 982 times)

cannotWAIT

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This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« on: January 30, 2023, 12:16:00 PM »
Proving that the need for face punches is not a modern phenomenon, behold this 1905 article from The Atlantic, "What Should College Professors be Paid?" One 1905 dollar is worth $33.73 today. To give you just a taste of the delights within, dude is making $45K and forced to spend at least $843/mo on a "passable servant" to help out his presumably stay-at-home spouse. Obviously these numbers don't directly translate across time. An assistant professor at a public university could expect to make closer to $65K today, but would still need a good talking-to if they were spending like this guy!

I cannot for the life of me figure out how to do live links here so here's the URL: https://delong.typepad.com/ghm-may-2005-atlantic.pdf

ChpBstrd

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2023, 01:17:53 PM »
This is a humor piece. I suspect in 1905, having things like an electric bill, plumbing, servants, and a $15/mo meat budget meant you were in the top 1% of society. The article proposes a $3150/year or $60.57/week salary at a time when the average male worker earned $11.16/week according to the census:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cu56779232&view=1up&seq=15

The icing on the cake is the statement that their $25/week servants (earning twice what the average person earned) would not do laundry so they had to hire it out elsewhere.

This is an archaic facepunch!

AMandM

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2023, 02:04:28 PM »
I suspect in 1905, having things like an electric bill, plumbing, servants, and a $15/mo meat budget meant you were in the top 1% of society.

The other things, maybe, but not the servants. Servants' wages were so low that people relatively far down the economic ladder could afford them. My great-grandparents were farmers, and they had a "hired girl." A generation later, my grandmother did too; her husband ran a grocery store and after his death she worked as a secretary.

Siebrie

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2023, 01:44:52 AM »
My grandmother ran a greengrocer's after her husband died; she had 3 young daughters. She hired a man to help her with the dogcart to peddle the wares through the neighbourhood; she also had a maid to help with housekeeping. This was 1930-1950 (excepting the war years) and money was tight.

My Mum (the youngest) moved cities to become a child care worker in a children's home for children that were no longer safe in their home environment in the 1960s. She knew how to stretch pennies. She was asked to go to University for some select Social Studies courses, and the Professor teaching the course told the students that they now owed it to their class to no longer eat their homemade sandwiches in the train, but that they had to buy lunch at the station or in the train. Mum was flabbergasted!

beekayworld

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2023, 07:09:02 AM »
In "Little Women", taking place during the Civil War, the March family had a housekeeper/cook.  The father was a minister with the Union army and the mother was volunteering at a hospital. 

The four daughters' perspective is that they are of modest means. The oldest babysits.  Another is a paid companion to her aunt (and also sells her hair to get money).  The youngest wants art lessons and the aunt gifts them to her.

Having the housekeeper is presented as a normal expenditure, not a luxury.

I know this is a work of fiction, but the matter-of-factness of having a servant in spite of the family pinching pennies is not portrayed as an error in their thinking, but just accepted.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2023, 07:12:17 AM by beekayworld »

ChpBstrd

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2023, 09:22:21 AM »
It was also just accepted that the cast of Friends could afford their spacious New York City lofts on barista wages.

Obviously not every family could have a hired servant, or everyone would have to also be a servant. Some small fraction of society had such helpers. I suspect those families which once had servants were better off than they let on. The upper middle class always feels their position is perilous and, as MMM pointed out, can live a paycheck-to-paycheck existence despite the appearance of material wealth.

mjdh1957

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #6 on: Today at 03:03:27 AM »
In "Little Women", taking place during the Civil War, the March family had a housekeeper/cook.  The father was a minister with the Union army and the mother was volunteering at a hospital. 

The four daughters' perspective is that they are of modest means. The oldest babysits.  Another is a paid companion to her aunt (and also sells her hair to get money).  The youngest wants art lessons and the aunt gifts them to her.

Having the housekeeper is presented as a normal expenditure, not a luxury.

I know this is a work of fiction, but the matter-of-factness of having a servant in spite of the family pinching pennies is not portrayed as an error in their thinking, but just accepted.

In fairness to the people who lived in those times, household labour was much more arduous than today. Nowadays people have invested in washing machines, dishwashers, electric irons, gas or electric cookers and other labour saving devices. In the past, the cost of labour was cheap so instead of the housewife herself (it was always the housewife...) getting wood to heat the fire to heat the water to wash the clothes by hand, she would have a servant to help with all that. If she was rich she would have more than one servant to do everything. It was the way the world worked up until very recently.

nouseforausername

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #7 on: Today at 10:13:11 AM »
The upper middle class always feels their position is perilous and, as MMM pointed out, can live a paycheck-to-paycheck existence despite the appearance of material wealth.

It's interesting to see how not much changes when it comes to sentiments and perceptions.

Take this gem from the early 1990s for instance:
https://youtu.be/LoeaytgytZ0

The classics: "I want to invest but I'm worried about a recession." "Isn't the market too high right now?" Etc. etc.
« Last Edit: Today at 02:03:53 PM by nouseforausername »

ChpBstrd

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #8 on: Today at 11:29:59 AM »
The upper middle class always feels their position is perilous and, as MMM pointed out, can live a paycheck-to-paycheck existence despite the appearance of material wealth.

It's interesting to see how not much changes when it comes to sentiments and perceptions.

Take this gem from the early 1990s for instance: https://youtu.be/vAOOgvCaUkQ

The classics: "I want to invest but I'm worried about a recession." "Isn't the market too high right now?" Etc. etc.
The link leads to a Robinhood ad. Must have grabbed the link too late!

nouseforausername

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Re: This Atlantic article from 1905 is a trip!
« Reply #9 on: Today at 02:01:51 PM »
The upper middle class always feels their position is perilous and, as MMM pointed out, can live a paycheck-to-paycheck existence despite the appearance of material wealth.

It's interesting to see how not much changes when it comes to sentiments and perceptions.

Take this gem from the early 1990s for instance: https://youtu.be/vAOOgvCaUkQ

The classics: "I want to invest but I'm worried about a recession." "Isn't the market too high right now?" Etc. etc.
The link leads to a Robinhood ad. Must have grabbed the link too late!

Oh junk! Thanks -- I had no idea that was even possible. (To accidentally link to a Youtube ad rather than the video.) Let me edit here.

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!