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Old 12-21-2012, 06:08 AM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Originally Posted by WestCobb View Post
It fascinates me too to think of the disparity and differences between Americans depending on region and class. I lived in North Idaho in the mid 90s for a brief time. Many of the people up there had just installed indoor plumbing. They were totally modern and didn't seem that different than the folks of southern California (where I had moved from), but it was still so bizarre to me ... people were living without indoor plumbing in America in the 1980s -- and this was the norm. These were regular, middle class people. I have a buddy who grew up there who is a bit younger than me (he was a kind in 80s) and he told me the house he grew up in didn't have an indoor bathroom, but they did have running water in the kitchen.
Not uncommon in rural areas. The house I used to live in didn't have sewerage, heck most of that town didn't.
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
Yes WWI basically affirmed the US's status as top dog, as the European Empires declined (look how easily the once great France was toppled by the Third Reich).
Escort Rider already laid out a good counter, but I just wanted to add a couple of things...

The US in 1939 was certainly counted among the "Great Powers" in the world, but was a relative newcomer to this "club" that was formed at the Congress of Vienna following the Napoleonic Wars. Foremost among the "Great Powers" was Britain (from 1815-1914 some historians make a case for Britain being a "superpower" but that status ends in WW1) but the club also contained France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan and the US.

"Great Powers" were defined along the lines of their overall military, economic and political capacity. In the case of the US, it had been recognized as part of the club around 1900 or so. However, this was based almost entirely on the US's economic position and the political influence it gave us. Militarily the US was still a giant question mark and in contrast to the other "Great Powers" had almost no military of note.

US military power in 1939 ranked 17th in the world in terms of size and combat power. That placed the US behind Romania and we had barely 190,000 personnel in all of the armed forces. When mobilization began we had only 14,000 officers. The average major was 48, nearly a third of lieutenants were over 40. Most senior commanders were nothing more then political appointees. Not a single active officer had even commanded a unit as large as a division. When the war started in 1941, we had one single division in the entire military apparatus that was actually "ready for war". Many of our coastal defense guns hadn't even been test fired in 20 years. The army lacked enough AA to defend a single city. We had a total of 464 tanks, almost all of them light "reconnaissance tanks" and senior cavalry officers were still arguing that mounted horsemen could effectively charge a machine gun nest if they were properly spaced. British military attaches were horrified at the absolute lack of any real combat capacity even when war broke out. In the last major exercises before the US entered WW2 our troops used wooden machine guns and tanks were trucks with giant signs on them that said "TANK".

What the US did have was the potential to become the greatest of the great powers, but that potential was not begun to be seen until well into 1943.
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Old 12-21-2012, 10:09 AM
Location: Victoria TX
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Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
I think Christian Fundamentalists didn't change, the society around them changed. If you hear sermons from MAINSTREAM Protestant preachers from 1880, they'd sound extreme even to some Fundies today! Society as a whole was a lot more Fundies, I mean most people believed in the literality of a 6 day creation, Noah's Ark, miracles.etc back then, but now it's considered being a fundie.
But the 70s was when the fundamentalist movement began to become mainstream, and fundamentalists were no longer conspicuous by their wierdness. And, in fact, emerged as an influential power in US politics, as a voting bloc to be reckoned with.
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Old 12-21-2012, 04:30 PM
Location: North Fulton
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I tend to think the US was largely a modern country by those standards the OP posted as in the 1950s to 60s. The US was a world power by that time and the wealthiest nation in comparison to the nations of the world. More of the social and political changes came somewhat later, but modernity in terms of material goods, and select creature comforts for everyday life for most Americans: 1950s.
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:19 PM
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Right after WW2. New York had the fastest cleanest subway in the world, the tallest building in the world, electric eyes opened doors which amazed people, nylon stockings could be bought, the first TV hookup, etc.. America was number one because New York was the most modern city in the world. Read the book 'Manhattan 45'.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:53 AM
Location: Berwick, Penna.
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Originally Posted by Brian430 View Post
Only 54% of households in 1940 had electric lights and 26.9% had electric refrigerators. By 1950 it was 85% with electric lights and 67% with electric refrigerators.

I'd say America couldn't be considered "modern" at least until the vast majority of the country had electricity, which happened sometime between 1940-1950.
I'm going to borrow a paralell here from David Kennedy's book Freedom from Fear, a volume of the serial Oxford History of the American People covering the years 1933-1945. Mr, Kennedy points oui that while most communities with a population of more than a few hundred had electric service (sometimes still generated by a small munipally-owned powerhouse) and indoor plumbing by 1925, this was not the case in rural areas, particularly in the Agrarian South.

There's an interesting paralell here. Television came to my native area in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1953, and spread very quickly. Within five years, by which time you could walk a block on a summer evening and seldom be out of earshot of a broadcast, cable TV (from antennas placed on mountaintops and able to receive stations up to 100+miles away) had gained a large audience.

Satellite-based "super stations" and premium subscription TV emerged around 1975, but it was not until the mid-1990's that cable operators began to offer service to many rural areas.

Last edited by 2nd trick op; 12-29-2012 at 06:03 AM..
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Old 01-26-2014, 07:40 AM
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I think life was basically modern by the 50's in terms of widespread commercial availability but most of that stuff had been around since the late 20s.

Cinema, cars, planes, phones, air conditioning, refrigerators, fast(er) trains, washing machines, vaccines, even semiconductors were all around by the late 1920s. The only thing that was still a few years off was penicillin.
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Old 01-26-2014, 11:40 AM
Location: Jamestown, NY
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Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
The wheel was modern at one time. Like the definition supplied points out, modern is today as opposed to yesterday.
That's pretty much what I was going to say. Modern is relative to the current time. If you want to talk about "modern" in any meaningful way, you have to put it into some context/relationship that others understand.

For example, when people talk about "modern languages", they're talking about languages that are being used by many people today as opposed to languages that are no longer spoken such as Latin or Old English. "Modern European nation-states" share certain characteristics that differentiate them from medieval or even Renaissance political forms.

As far as society goes, every era or decade was "modern" in its own time. In the Early National Period (1783-1815) you have a bunch of inventions that were really important at the time, namely the cotton gin, interchangeable parts, and the steam engine. You have a societal component in that slavery was abolished in most of the northern states and strengthened in the southern states. You have the addition of several new states to the Union as well as the beginning of the end of the Federalist Party plus you have movements in many states to abolish property requirements for voting. If you had been living in 1810, all these things would have defined your "modern" world.
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Old 01-26-2014, 12:26 PM
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Linda summarized in pretty well. It's all relative.

The relativeness aside, late 19th century urban dwellers were very conscious of living in the "modern" era as they had experienced technological innovations that made large scale urban living not only possible but even enjoyable. Indoor plumbing, telephones, electricity, the beginnings of mass transit (subways and streetcars), elevators, introduction of steel technology that allowed for the construction of high rise buildings, these are just a handful of the astonishing changes in one-two generations. An argument can be made that the "birth" of the "modern era" manifested itself when society became urban based, not rural, and man began to organize his life on the urban model. He lived in a house or apartment in a residential area, took some kind of transportation to his workplace outside the house, and bought almost everything he needed. This is in direct contrast to the pre-urban society where most people lived on farms and produced most of what they needed. While, technologically speaking, we are far more advanced than our forebears in 1900, on a day to day basis our lives are not necessarily that different as we still live in residentially segregated areas, take some kind of transportation to a separate work area and buy what we need rather than make it ourselves.

Even though the majority of Americans still lived on farms or small towns in 1900, they were still dependent on urban cities and received their instructions from those cities. The technology they used came from urban areas, the media they read/listened to were almost wholly urban based. The urban areas provided the markets that bought their crops and other output. Few farms in 1900 were wholly self-sufficient, most had evolved to focus on a cash crop or two and farmers started buying the things they needed, including many foodstuffs, from stores. For all practical purposes by 1900 America had become an urbanized, and thus modern, country.
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Old 01-26-2014, 01:08 PM
Location: USA
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Is basically modern different from modern? A modern house used to mean indoor plumbing.
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