Sunday, March 14, 2010


This article on CNN really irks me. It cites three innovations of the twentieth century that have changed America: 1. The building of the interstate highway system.2. The blanketing of the United States with coast-to-coast television.3. The introduction and spread of the Internet. Now, I know that these developments in the latter half of the century had great impact, but they are not any more or less significant than a host of other post-war changes across the country, including credit cards, planned communities, the space race, plastics, microwaves and shopping centers.

Computers are cool, no doubt, and the Internet Age is with us to stay.

But let's not forget the innovations of the first half of the century, developments that were truly revolutionary for societies worldwide: refrigeration and indoor plumbing, convinences without which we find living quarters to be condemnable today.

Refrigeration in the home became available in the United States in 1911. I daresay no family can conceive of living without it these days, even if they had access to roads, television and the internet.

Many rural and urban American homes still did not have running water at the turn of the 20th century. Rural families without indoor plumbing obtained their water from rain barrels and windmill-pumped underground wells, while city dwellers got water from water-hauling tank wagons, street hydrants, and public water mains. The lack of running water in the home meant that chamber pots and outhouses were the primary collectors of human waste.