When you think of 1902, you probably think of daguerreotypes, smallpox, and the anthracite coal strike in eastern Pennsylvania, which lasted 163 days, until miners got a 10% raise and had their workdays shortened to a chill nine hours. And while that does seem fun, 1902 was even more awesome than you think.
A show called Another Period (new episodes Wednesdays at 10/9c on Comedy Central) has shown me the hilarious truth about the early 20th century, and I’m here to share it with you. Pour yourself a glass of cocaine wine, pop some arsenic to make your skin look extra-pale, and prepare to learn.
Modern medical science has answered so many questions and saved so many lives. I would say too many. Oh, what’s that, you have syphilis? Yawn. That’s treatable with penicillin now, aka “the world’s most basic pill.” But a century ago, diseases were exciting! Who wouldn’t want to experience an iron lung, just for a day? Or try out a “servants’ disease?” People go skydiving for excitement now, but all you had to do for a thrill in 1902 was get coughed on by a commoner!
2016 is rough on those of us who are stunningly attractive. We’re expected to have marketable skills and shamed for not having “real bodies.” But in 1902, there was no shade thrown at gorgeous women who battled other gorgeous women in a competition to determine who was best at the most important aspect of being a human: hotness. Even plump cabbages and cute babies got in on the pageant action! God, can you imagine choosing one winner among those three categories? I mean, obviously it would be a cabbage, but the women and babies would be pissed.
Sure, the science behind it was 100% wrong, but women were encouraged to have medically induced orgasms as a treatment for all manner of conditions, such as “terminal boredom” and “desire for equality.” If you ask your doctor for a vibrator prescription today, you’d probably get some raised eyebrows, but in 1902 you’d get an Rx for a bizarre bicycle-powered contraption that your servant would get on to get you off.
I wouldn’t know where to find a Kardashian if my life depended on it, but according to Another Period, it seems like Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain were available for any old brunch. Cold chilling with Charles Ponzi would be a story you’d pass down to your grandchildren. Lillian Bellacourt was truly a lucky woman.
Morphine, opium, heroin — all available at your local apothecary! Sure, you might be less productive, but you have servants to do your housework. (I’m assuming you’re rich, btw.) I know what you’re saying: “But what about the long-term health consequences of drugs?” People in 1902 only lived to, like, 50, so shoot up and party down. YOLO. (In 1902, that stood for “Ye olde laudanum, o!”)
Rich people get away with a lot now, and they got away with even more in 1902. But did they really have dinner parties explicitly for dogs? I didn’t learn about them in history class, but I’ve seen them on Another Period, and if it’s not true, I think we should reevaluate the importance of the concept of “truth.” Just think about like 12 pugs sitting at a fully decked-out dining room table. See what I mean? Dog dinner parties are the best.
With all that, sometimes I wish I could travel back to 1902, if only for a day. Oh wait, I can — every Wednesday on Comedy Central at 10/9c, by watching Another Period. Sure, it’s a comedy show, and probably not everything on it is 100% factual, but since I refuse to learn about history any other way, I choose to believe it all.
Tony Carnevale is a senior writer for Studio@Gawker.
Illustrations by Alex Cannon.