6 Hilarious Old-Timey Versions of Modern Vices

The media like to claim that millennials are the most narcissistic and overall useless generation in history, but it turns out that all the silly and/or self-centered pastimes they supposedly invented have been around for generations. So the next time someone gives you crap for doing one of the following, dig out the fuzzy black-and-white photos of their grandfathers doing the same.

#6. Selfies

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

The "Modern" Fad:

If there's one habit that perfectly sums up the narcissism of social media, it's people taking pointless pictures of themselves making stupid faces at the camera. It's not enough to tell us what they're doing; they have to include a picture of their big, stupid faces in the process, camera in an extended hand or pointed toward a bathroom mirror.

Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
The Instagram filter is set to "douche."

But It's Been Going on Since ...

So how far back does this fad go? How about to one of the people who invented the freaking camera, photography pioneer Robert Cornelius? While the name makes him sound like a gruff industrialist who spends his spare time thinking up new ways to exploit child laborers, Cornelius was actually an amateur chemist who helped make important refinements to the daguerreotype (film's cooler-sounding predecessor). And what did he do with his great innovation?

Via Library Of Congress
"Going to hit the big frat party tonite!!!!1 #SWAG #YOLO"

The Library of Congress believes that this is the first portrait taken in America, and it might be the first portrait taken ever. So of course it's a selfie, featuring Cornelius (Bobby C-Dawg to his friends) sitting with his arms crossed like he's trying to casually look all badass. But OK -- if you're taking the first portrait in history, we understand why you'd want to be in it. Unfortunately, Cornelius started a trend that's carried through the ages to create the terrible flash-in-the-bathroom-mirror shots we all know and loathe today. Here's a woman from 1900 using the mirror trick:

Via Wikipedia
She then tweeted it to her friends by attaching it to a messenger pigeon.

And here's an Australian soldier from 1917 who looks like he's taking the World War I equivalent of an online dating profile picture:

Thomas Baker
"I'm just a fun-loving guy who likes music, sports, and not getting shot by Ottomans."

Even old-timey celebrities got in on the action. Below you'll see 13-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia showing off the 1913 equivalent of duckface: abject terror face.

Retronaut, via The Atlantic
When you gaze long into a selfie, the selfie also gazes into you.

Presumably she then took pictures of her lavish meals and that's how the Russian Revolution started.

#5. Staging Viral Stunts for Photos

Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The "Modern" Fad:

Remember planking? When the Internet decided that for some reason everyone should lie down in weird places and have their picture taken? Yeah, we didn't get it either.

Erin Nekervis, via Wikimedia
"This is the best possible use of my time!"

We're guessing that most plankers didn't quite understand the point, but they went with it anyway because all their friends were doing it and they wanted to participate. That's the power of the Internet, the same power that's fueled every dumb fad from icing your bros to the painfully overdone Harlem Shake.

Christopher Clabaugh
"We're only the 3,000th group of people to do this, so it still counts as original."

Once again, it's such a perfect sign of the times, proving that our young people are so bored and hungry for fame that they feel the need to perform some stupid stunt just to get strangers to look at them. Our great-grandparents must have had better things to do, right?

But It's Been Going on Since ...

Nope. It turns out you don't need the Internet to spread a silly fad. The earliest and most prominent example is flagpole sitting, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Via Yourememberthat.com
It was a simpler time.

That's Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly, who started a national craze by sitting on a flagpole for 13 hours and 13 minutes. Yeah, as usual, our predecessors are way more hardcore than us: Unlike planking, which half the time just looks like an excuse to take a nap, flagpole sitting requires you to, you know, climb a flagpole.

Chicago Daily News, Inc.
"And now I'm going to Mary Poppins this shit."

Kelly eventually set a record of 49 days and one hour, which is about 49 days and 50 minutes more effort than anyone's ever put into an Internet fad. Tragically, the novelty wore off and Kelly died in poverty, so maybe someone should make sure Leeroy Jenkins hasn't killed himself.

Then, in the 1950s, college students decided to stuff as many people into telephone booths as they could, presumably as part of an elaborate plan to get back at their mean old deans.

Joe Munroe, Life Magazine
The poor guy on the bottom just wanted to make a call.

There are 22 men in that booth, all of whom became intimately familiar with their friends' genitalia. That photo was featured in LIFE magazine, and Saint Mary's College held both a 25- and a 50-year anniversary re-creation. That all sounds like a bit much for a weird college gag, but it turns out that cramming people into things not designed for people to be crammed into has a long and storied history. Women students also got in on the telephone cramming:

Corbis, via Mentalfloss
Which led to the inevitable porn parody, Booth Crammers.

And here we see 37 young men shoved into a single outhouse, with the smarter ones making sure to keep their heads out of what has to smell like Satan's jock strap:

Corbis, via Mentalfloss
"There's no way we've got enough toilet paper for everybody."

What else were these bored, flexible, and very-comfortable-with-their-personal-space students forcing themselves into, you ask? Well cars, of course.

Bettmann/Corbis, via Mentalfloss
Later they'd realize they unintentionally offended their friend who was 1/4 clown on his mother's side.

And how about a goddamn tree?

Corbis, via Mentalfloss
This counts as Lord of the Rings Rule 34.

Man, our modern Internet fads look pretty lame in comparison. If the next viral hit doesn't combine precarious balancing, endurance, and turning random objects into clown cars, you can count us out.

#4. Prank Calls/Delivery Orders

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

The "Modern" Fad:

When modern kids want to play a prank on the grown-ups, they trick Papa John's into delivering a bunch of unwanted pizzas to some unsuspecting victim's house. It's not a terribly creative prank, but kids these days get bored because somebody passed a bunch of damned child labor laws that won't let us send them to the coal mines.

bodnarchuk/iStock/Getty Images
Minor, miner ... same difference.

And it isn't terribly new -- if you grew up before caller ID technology became common, you've made at least one prank call in your life. It used to be a teenage rite of passage: You get a bunch of kids together on a sleepover and somebody gets the idea to call a department store and ask them to page Heywood Jablome.

But It's Been Going on Since ...

The telephone's been around since the 1870s, so we suppose that on some level we always knew that old-timey hooligans were using them to mess with people. But at the same time, we just can't shake our image of folks from that era as being a bunch of dour, serious people who only phoned each other to trade tips on purging impure thoughts from their minds. That's why it's surprising to discover that the earliest known prank call occurred in 1884. How do we know? It made the goddamn news:

Via Tech Dirt
"Literally nothing else interesting happened today."

A "malicious wag" from Providence was calling undertakers to request freezers, candlesticks, and coffins for "persons alleged to be dead." While today people don't think about undertakers outside of the context of suplexes, back then they were a vital part of society. Making a phone call asking them to take care of your departed loved ones was serious business. So this was basically the 19th century equivalent of sending a dozen pizzas to a stranger's house, except much, much creepier. And thus the proud tradition of ordering a bunch of shit that no one needs was born.

The newspaper goes on to note that "In each case the denouement was highly farcical, and the reputed corpses are now hunting in a lively manner for that telephonist." That's a delightfully old-timey way of saying that a bunch of undertakers and their would-be customers were pissed about having to lug a bunch of coffins and associated crap around town. Loading up your horse full of funeral equipment is a much bigger commitment than driving a pizza across town and stopping halfway to get blazed in the backseat.

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
Sadly, there are no records of old-timey deliverymen delivering an "extra-large sausage."

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