Life Lessons From the 1900s That Are Still Relevant Today

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The early 1900s were a time of dramatic changes. The Spanish flu pandemic was ravaging the world. The virus struck quickly, inciting fear and stoking panic on a global scale, eventually leading mistrust between people and authorities — much like during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Other monumental changes were happening early last century, too. The telephone and electricity were transforming homes. Cars were putting people on the road, and the invention of the airplane would soon put them in the air. Industrialization was shifting workers to the cities from farms. More children were going to school and not to work. Immigrants were flowing into the U.S. from Europe. Laborers were demanding higher wages and safer working conditions. The women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum.

As these changes took place, Americans were taking to heart lessons that would help them navigate their lives. 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of life lessons from that time that are still relevant today by consulting sources such as as well as gleaning attitudes and perspectives from Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” which depicted small-town American life from more than a century ago.

Many of the lessons Americans in the early 20th century learned were the product of age-old proverbs and adages from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Those lessons were learned in schools that bear little resemblance to the schools of today. This is what school days used to look like.

Lessons such as being punctual, learning from failure, and seizing opportunities would help Americans maneuver through the workplace in fast-growing metropolises in the early 20th century. Here are what the most populated cities in America used to look like the decade you were born. 

In order to compile a list of life lessons from the 1900s still relevant today, 24/7 Tempo reviewed materials from a variety of websites to try and capture the outlook and perspective of the culture more than 100 years ago. Many of the lessons from that time were imparted in plays such as Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which depicts small-town American life in the early 20th century.

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