It is sometimes easy to forget just how short 150 years are when viewed from a human lifespan. The First World War ended 94 years ago, and the last combatants have only passed away in the last few years. There are many alive today who lived through the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression. Our own parents and grandparents have seen some of the most remarkable changes in history as the 20th century progressed.
Jason Kottke, has brings up the examples of three Civil War widows (Maudie Hopkins, Alberta Martin, and Gertrude Janeway) who lived into the 2000s, two of them collecting their husbands’ pensions until their deaths.
We view television as something from the modern era, and do not think of links to the 18th century. However, in 1956, a guest on a game show had been watching the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Philadelphia the night that Abraham Lincoln was shot. Here is that footage from “I’ve Got a Secret”.
Kottke proposes calling this people ‘human wormholes’ and their experiences as ‘the great span’. More of us are living longer lives and more information about us and our stories is being recorded on video and audio and in photographs.
History really isn’t so far away.