6 Tiny Things In History That Made Our Ancestors Act Crazy
Modern folks are so damn sensitive. It's not like back in the good ol' days, when you could kill a man in the open street and nobody would so much as blink, including the man getting killed. People were simply less touchy back then, right? Sexually harass a woman, scream a racial slur, employ a child in a coal mine -- truly, it was a golden time for freedom. Was there anything that could make our tough-skinned ancestors lose their shit? Turns out yes! And some of it was hilariously petty. Like how ...
Wearing Straw Hats After September 15 Could Result In An Ass-Beating
A hundred years ago, hats were serious business. Even more serious than you're thinking. No, even more than that. Look, let's just talk about the 1922 Straw Hat Riots, when groups of New Yorkers patrolled the streets violently punishing hat etiquette violators.
At some point in the early 20th century, it was decided that anyone wearing a straw hat by the end of summer must be a complete chump. As soon as September 15 rolled around, it was felt hat season, motherfucker. Young men would slap straw hats right off of people's heads when they saw them -- you know, as a public service. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated this gesture. In September 1922, some straw-hat-wearing dock workers fought back against a bunch of hat-slapping kids, and things escalated from there.
Soon, packs of hat haters were ambushing pedestrians and even jumping on motorists, while "a mob of 1,000" burned piles of stolen straw hats in large bonfires. They were armed with clubs with nails on them. It was like a Mad Max movie by way of Charlie Chaplin.
The violence died down after a few days, but the message was loud and clear: Do not wear a goddamn straw hat after September 15. The problem sort of solved itself once the Great Depression came around, since no one could afford hats anymore.
Women Couldn't Eat In The Same Restaurants As Men
Back in the 19th century, women were outright banned from eating at restaurants, though some of the more liberal places merely required a male chaperone. The concern was that they might be mistaken for "easy women" ... who were also banned from restaurants. "You can't come here because you might be mistaken for somebody that's not allowed here" -- flawless logic, that.
The only way to ensure women could eat food without falling into selling their bodies for deli meat was the creation of "women-only" restaurants, though men could also come inside if they were on a date or wearing a convincing wig. These special lady restaurants were known as ice cream saloons, and focused on light lunches (because women are vain and obsessed with their weight) and elaborate desserts (because women have no self-control and gorge themselves on tasty junk).
By the 1920s, restaurants stopped pretending they were protecting anybody's morals and finally admitted that they didn't want women there, "easy" or otherwise. As such, women spent the first half of the 20th century launching lawsuits and staging demonstrations until they were finally allowed to eat wherever the hell they wanted. In some cases, that took until the fucking 1970s. Man walked on the Moon before women were allowed in certain restaurants.
Tipping Used To Be Profoundly Un-American
America believes so deeply in tipping that it's legal here to essentially not pay certain kinds of workers, leaving their financial fate up to the sheer charity of strangers. But for a good long chunk of history, we had the exact opposite attitude. When tipping first started in post-Civil-War America, people called it "a cancer in the breast of democracy." We'd just fought a war over slavery and segregation was still going strong, but sure, tipping was the big issue of the times.
See, tipping was originally "invented" by rich Europeans trying to show off by handing out wads of cash to servants. Visiting rich Americans loved the idea and brought it home, where it was swiftly condemned as a return to feudalism and degrading to American ideals of democracy. Oh, and even though it was well-off Americans who brought it over, it was blamed on immigrants, because that's how we roll.
Fearing that tipping would destroy America, several states actually passed anti-tipping laws in the early 20th century ... but everyone ignored them, including the legislators themselves. By the 1920s, America had moved on to the next moral panic (something about alcohol, you probably aren't familiar), and the anti-tipping laws were repealed. Although we've since passed other laws to make sure tipped employees make as little money as possible. What could be more American than that?
Victorian Londoners Got Mad If The Mail Didn't Come 12 Times A Day
There's a general consensus that technology is great and all, but it's also turning our brains into Swiss cheese. Why, look at today's vapid instant messaging conversations, and then look at the Victorian Era, when you would write your beloved a novel-length letter and then raise a child or two while patiently waiting for the answer to arrive.
Just kidding, we've always been dumb and impatient. Even in the 1880s, people demanded constant communication -- it was just way, way more difficult. In London, this need was met by having the mail delivered 12 times a day. Every single house in the city had a mail carrier pass by at multiple hours, just in case somebody was involved in a midday pre-internet sexting spree.
Because of this, Victorian letter writers intentionally wrote shorter correspondence. Many letters ended with the phrase "return of post," which was old-timey speak for "respond quickly, asshole." People were so impatient that mail services got major complaints if letters weren't received within a couple of hours. Of course, not all mail was welcome. As we've covered, Victorian England also had telegram spam, which is proof that we're not getting stupider; we're simply more effective at being stupid.
Thanksgiving Used To Be Like A More Chaotic And Racist Halloween
Thanksgiving wasn't always about shopping sprees and hiding in the kitchen from your anti-vaxxer relatives. No, back in simpler, more wholesome times, people respected the spirit of the holiday by, uh ... begging for money and mocking other races. Back in the mid-1800s and early 1900s, Thanksgiving was widely recognized as a time to put on disguises and run around town like maniacs. Popular costume choices included parrot masks, cross-dressing, and of course, pure racism.
Thanksgiving partiers would go around asking for money, blowing horns, and chucking confetti at pedestrians. But by the 1920s, the general public grew tired of handing out nickels to hooligans dressed like parrots, so the practice gradually disappeared ... and was almost immediately replaced by Halloween, to the relief of the latex mask industry.
White People Thought Coca-Cola Would Turn Black People Into Rapists
We've all heard the classic Coke vs. Pepsi arguments, but it used to be a little easier to tell who was supposed to drink what. See if you can guess from these old advertisements for Pepsi ...
... and Coke:
That's right. Pepsi was for black people, and Coke was for ... pasty gremlins, apparently. This wasn't some innocent coincidence or anything. Coke and Pepsi knew exactly what they were doing. See, Coca-Cola was originally served with a splash of cocaine, hence the name. Everybody was cool with this, until they realized that *gasp* black people could buy this drink too. Middle-class white people worried that blacks would take a sip of Coke, become cocaine addicts, and then go around raping white women. The makers of Coke, desperate to avoid controversy, removed the cocaine from the beverage and intentionally stopped advertising their product anywhere where it could be easily seen by black people (that whole "segregation" thing came in pretty handy there).
That's when Pepsi stepped in. Seeing Coke's racism as opening up an "untapped market" in society, Pepsi hired an entire "negro markets" department dedicated to ensuring black people drank their sweet, sweet nectar. They went all in, hiring black salesmen, using black celebrities in advertising, and even circulating the racist shit that Coke's CEO had said.
Eventually, the two companies decided to shed their labels as "white" and "black" sodas, and transition to something more neutral. Now we know both are horrific for everybody's bodies.
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