1910s

17 Ultimate Facts About the 1910s

Following on from a barnstorming decade of transportation and social revolution, the 1910s is a decade that, regrettably, was marred by war. In many ways, it’s hard to talk about the period between 1910-1919 without mentioning World War I, but we won’t be shying away – for the sheer fact that people who lost their lives during the conflict deserve to be remembered.

However, the decade total was actually about more than just global conflict. During this pivotal ten years for society, we discovered new places, started revolutions, and survived a major pandemic. Yes – oddly enough, pandemics seem to come and go every century!

Let’s dive into some important facts about the 1910s that are worth remembering – for pub quizzes or out of respect, we’re here to help bring back the past.

1. World War I dominated the decade.

Let’s start with inarguably the defining event of the 1910s – the “Great War,” which started in 1914 on the back of Austria’s then-Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, being murdered – which led to an escalating conflict across Europe, bringing in allies and foes from around the world.

This was a bloody war that saw soldiers consigned to trenches and crossing “No Man’s Land” – with many men knowing death or glory were the only two options on the table. It’s estimated that 16 million people died as a result of the conflicts during World War I by the time it came to a close in 1918.

Austria-Hungary was at the heart of the conflict, with backing from Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Germany would eventually face reparations for its role in the war, which would lead the country into steep economic decline.

This was a brutal conflict that those who lived through it would remember for the rest of their days. Tragically, it would not be the last time the world went to war – as we would soon find out in the 1930s.

2. Russia underwent another revolution.

Following the 1905 revolution, Russia was in a shaky position – at least, the Tsarist regime, headed by Nicholas II, was on borrowed time. Distaste for how the country was being run grew even more bitter during the 1910s, as Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks overthrew Tsarism, leading to the murder of Nicholas’ family and the installation of Communism.

The revolution came to pass in 1917, which effectively took Russia out of the action during the war – and would see Lenin eventually become a dictator in charge of an increasingly unhappy nation.

In fact, as of December 1917, Lenin and Russia would make an armistice with what was known as the Central Powers, with Trotsky pushing for France and Britain, the Entente Cordiale, to enter peace agreements.

3. The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.

It’s probably still known as the most infamous ship sinking of all time – and the Titanic, a passenger cruise liner the size of which the world had never seen before 1912 – set sail as of April that year from Southampton, UK. It would never return – eventually colliding with an iceberg, killing the majority of people on board.

The ship sailed with around 2,224 people and sank taking 1,500 of them into the water. One of the major failures of the Titanic cruise was a shortage of lifeboats – there was barely enough space to house half of the passengers on the roster.

The disaster is probably more famous now thanks to the enormously popular James Cameron movie dramatizing the event in 1997. However, the disaster itself and the story behind the ship’s demise is perhaps more shocking than Hollywood’s take.

interesting facts about RMS Titanic

4. Spanish Flu spread far and wide.

Long before COVID-19, there was the dreaded Spanish Flu, or the rise of the H1N1 virus. Its name is something of a misconception – there’s no proof it ever originated in Spain, but it swallowed up the US and Europe over the course of two years between 1918 and 1920. Just as the world was recovering from war – a pandemic reared its head.

The Spanish Flu, while eventually defeated by medicinal evolution and natural immunity, is said to have claimed 50 million lives across the world – exacerbated, some historians claim, by the fact that many people were left ill and living in cramped conditions on the back of WWI.

Flu viruses are still around – as is COVID-19 – but we have the ability to treat a huge array of illnesses and diseases beyond what was thinkable in the 1910s.

5. The automobile business was booming – cars were now mainstream.

If you’ve read our fact file on the 1900s, you’ll know that one of the defining facts of the era was that the Ford Model T rolled out to help make automobiles more accessible and affordable to families in the West. Well, the industry truly exploded in the 1910s – to the tune of more than three and a half million vehicles taking to the US roads by 1916.

That’s on the back of an impressive production line churning out over a million new vehicles every single year. What was once a hopeful luxury was now the “must-have” travel option for Western families. And, in the decades to follow, the car industry would grow beyond all recognition.

6. Revolutions erupted all over the world – not just in Russia.

Many know the 1910s for the Russian revolution and the rise of the Bolsheviks – however, the decade in fact gave birth to further societal change across the globe.

For example, Porfirio Diaz was deposed as Mexico’s dictator following an intense revolution at the start of the decade, and China – in spectacular fashion – became a republic after two millennia of empirical control. This period became known as the Xinhair Revolution, and it unfolded in the middle of the decade.

7. Danish women seized the right to vote.

In a landmark moment for gender equality in Europe, Denmark officially granted its women the right to vote in elections for the first time as of June 1915. The decision, passed after years of protesting by Danish Women’s Suffrage, also enabled female citizens in Iceland to vote, too – as the country was still under Danish oversight at the time.

This landmark ruling would pave the way for other significant reforms in Denmark, such as the introduction of a new constitution the same year. The reforms to the Danish government and voting system were widely welcomed.

In the years since, Denmark has regularly scaled the heights of “happiest countries in the world” lists – just goes to show that a little progressive thinking might be all you need!

8. The Tommy Gun made its debut.

Do you know why it’s called a Tommy Gun? It’s a nickname for the Thompson submachine gun, a highly deadly weapon commonly used in the US military. It was officially invented and adopted by 1916, though it’s gained some infamy over the years.

This gun is perhaps most infamous for its association with mobster warfare during US Prohibition. However, it proved highly useful to Allied forces during the height of WWI, especially those based in Canadian, American, and British units.

9. The British royals changed their name.

It’s true! While many of us probably don’t recall the media referring to British royals by their surnames, it’s officially “Windsor” – as in, the “Royal House of Windsor.” But, this isn’t a name that any of the royals in the lineage started with before WWI.

The royals changed their family name to Windsor as a result of growing resentment towards Germany at the height of war. That’s because British royalty has German roots – and their name up to the mid-1900s was “Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.”

It was decided that the new name of Windsor was more British-sounding. Essentially, it was a bold PR move as the conflict unfolded.

Royal House of Windsor

10. The coatpack parachute was tested for real.

It’s fairly rare that an invention is released but not tested for several decades – but for something as potentially delicate and as life-or-death as testing a parachute, you can perhaps understand the logic.

The coatpack parachute was invented by Charles Broadwick this decade, though the modern parachute as we know it was actually devised all the way back in 1783, by French hot air balloon enthusiast Louis-Sébastien Lenormand.

Broadwick’s take on the parachute was one that compacted the floating support, thus allowing people to quickly leap or otherwise disembark from planes or other air vehicles at short notice.

The invention’s seen some tweaks over the years – and honestly, skydivers have a lot to be thankful for!

11. The American population actually decreased.

It’s extremely rare for a population to decrease at all, and the birth rate continues to rise even today – but for a short period of time in the 1910s, the US reported a brief decline in population, a scary moment for families across the country.

By 1918, the US was in the middle of a perfect storm. WWI was coming to a close, and of course caused millions of needless casualties. This compounded with the rise of H1N1, which, as mentioned, was the Spanish Flu.

However, that’s simply accounting for population decline because of death! Fewer people emigrated to the US in the 1910s because of the war, and many people held off having children until the country returned to peace.

All told, the perfect storm led to a surprising decline of around 50,000 people by 1918.

12. Coco Chanel changed fashion forever.

The legendary Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was a fashion icon whose name is still synonymous with luxury labelwear to this day. By the 1910s, the businesswoman had gained enough acumen to open her first dress shop in France.

It was a stepping stone on route to Chanel establishing her name as a household calling card for premium fashion and perfume. Chanel No 5, for example, remains one of the best-selling fragrances worldwide.

Chanel would live long enough to witness her dress shop expand into an incredible global empire, passing away in 1971.

Chanel No. 5

13. The decade brought about some curious dance crazes.

Despite it being a decade of tragedy and uncertainty in many ways, people living and working through the 1910s still found time to cut loose and have fun. In particular, it was a decade full of interesting new dance crazes in and out of the ballroom.

In particular, 1910 saw New York City play host to couples doing a tango – a popular dance that picked up in South America some years before.

Beyond this, ballroom dancing in general gained immense popularity on the back of the Castles, a duo who showed people how to dance while wearing comfortable clothing. This was a revolutionary time for women in particular, who were inspired by comfortable, lighter clothing they could wear out on the tiles.

14. Mother’s Day was recognized as a national holiday.

Mother’s Day can get a little confusing sometimes, as different nations celebrate it at different times of year! However, the US established their own holiday as of 1914, with Congress under Woodrow Wilson declaring American Mother’s Day to fall on the second Sunday of every May.

Mother’s Day in the US actually dates back quite a bit further than the 1910s. It was decided by Philadelphia citizen Anna Jarvis, who started to recognize mothers everywhere following a memorial of her own mother in May 1907.

However, festivals to honor the mothers in our lives date back to ancient times – and there are plenty of examples of people worshipping maternal deities, too.

15. Bell made the first-ever cross-continent phone call.

There’s a chance you’re reading this on a smartphone – and you have more than Steve Jobs to thank for your iPhone if that’s the case. The telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, first made its debut in the early 20th century.

However, it was in 1915 that Bell took an extra step in his quest to perfect audio communication. He’d previously proven that his invention worked as expected – but in January of the year in question, he made what’s regarded as the very first telephone call that traveled across the continent!

Specifically, Bell started a call to his assistant, Thomas Watson, in New York – with Watson based in San Francisco. The message he relayed? “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”

However, Watson confirmed the invention worked with a bit of a quip: “It will take me five days to get there now!”

Grandmother

16. Hitler attended a significant meeting after the end of World War I.

Barely months on from the end of WWI, a meeting of the German Workers’ Party – which was infamously nationalistic – first took place on January 5th, 1919, its founding date.

This organization would hold similarities with the ideology of the Nazi Party that came to prominence over the next decade or so in Germany. And, as it happened, future dictator Adolf Hitler would attend a meeting of the GWP in September 1919.

It’s here that some historians argue Hitler first started taking steps toward the German Premiership, which – as many of us know – would trigger the Second World War in the 1930s.

17. The very first crossword puzzle found its way to publications.

Crossword puzzles are some of the most popular of their kind – the highlight of many people’s newspapers and magazines. Believe it or not, these black-and-white grids first debuted back in 1913.

The first-ever crossword puzzle of its kind was devised, written, and published by Arthur Wynne, a journalist working on behalf of the New York World, on December 21st of that year.

Crosswords have grown to become something of an international phenomenon – with many people around the world even getting competitive with them and timing their completion!

Adolf Hitler

FAQs About the 1910s

What was popular in the 1910s?

The 1910s saw a big boom in various types of entertainment. For example, ballroom dancing started becoming popular with couples, and the film industry started booming in the US. In fact, the 1910s saw a shift in film-making locations, where the heart of the US movie industry headed out towards an unassuming town called Hollywood.

What was invented in the 1910s?

The 1910s were amazing for convenient inventions! For example, the toaster was devised during this decade, quickly becoming a staple appliance in kitchens around the world. At war, inventions such as the Tommy Gun and the gas mask became highly useful. Beyond this, the decade also welcomed inventions such as the coatpack parachute, which redefined an invention that already debuted some centuries prior.

What was life like in the 1910s?

In many ways, living in the 1910s – or at least, growing up in them – felt increasingly modern. Suburbs were becoming more urbanized, for example. However, for many people, the period was marred by war – meaning that there was much cutting back of supplies and many restrictions placed on everyday life.

Do you know any fun facts about the 1910s? Share them in the comments below!

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This page was last modified on April 10, 2024. Suggest an edit