The nineteenth century is nicely and actually gone. That will sound like a trivial declare, on condition that we’re now residing within the 2020s, however solely in recent times did we lose the final individual born in that point. With Tajima Nabi, a Japanese lady who died in 2018 on the age of 117 years, went our final residing connection to the nineteenth century (1900, the yr of Tajima’s beginning, technically being that century’s final yr.) Fortunately that very same century noticed the invention of pictures, sound recording, and even movement footage, which supplied sure of its inhabitants a method of preserving not simply their recollections however their method. You’ll be able to view a group of simply such footage, restored and colorized, on the Youtube channel Life within the 1800s.
Within the channel’s playlist of interview clips you’ll discover first-hand recollections of, if not the actual decade of the eighteen-hundreds, then not less than of the eighteen-fifties by way of the eighteen-nineties. Take the inventor Elihu Thomson, interview topic in the video on the high of the put up. Born in England in 1853, Thomson emigrated along with his household to the US in 1857.
They settled in Philadelphia, the place Thomson discovered himself “pressured out of faculty at eleven” as a result of he wasn’t but sufficiently old to enter highschool. Some advisors stated, “Preserve him away from books and let him develop bodily.” To which the younger Thompson responded, “If you happen to try this, you would possibly as nicely kill me now, as a result of I’ve received to have my books.”
A type of books was filled with “chemistry experiments and electrical experiments,” and carrying them out himself gave Thomson his “first information of electrical energy” — a phenomenon of nice significance to the event that will occur all through the remainder of the nineteenth century and into the 20 th. Albert L. Salt additionally received in on the bottom ground, having began working for Western Electrical at age fourteen in 1881 and ultimately turn out to be the president of Western Electrical’s equipment subsidiary Graybar. However after all, not everybody had such an expert ladder out there: take the aged interviewees in the footage simply above, who have been born into slavery the eighteen-forties and eighteen-fifties.
The extra distant a time grows, the extra it tends to flatten in our notion. Within the absence of deliberate historic analysis, we lack a way of the assorted texture of eras out of residing reminiscence. In the US of America alone, the nineteenth century encompassed each nice technological innovation and the times of the Wild West. The latter was the realm identified to Civil Battle veteran and photographer William Henry Jackson, who within the interview above remembers the American west “earlier than the cowboys got here in” — not the time of the cowboys, however earlier than. Might Florence Pannell, whose recollections of Victorian England we beforehand featured right here on Open Tradition, have imagined his world? Might he have imagined hers? See extra interviews right here.
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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by way of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.