5 Most Obscure Facts About Living in the 1800’s

The 1800s, also known as the 19th Century, is probably most well known today as the birth of heavy industry and, reacting to that, the Labor movement calling for better working conditions. But what are some weird things you probably don’t know about the 1800s? Read on!

1. Lady blacksmiths in the Black Country

West of Birmingham in England is a region which, during the Industrial Revolution, became so full of air pollution and covered in soot that it is still known today as the “Black Country”. Chains were increasingly in high demand due to their use in pulling coal out of mines and on ships in the navy. Most families were poor enough to require the women to work as well as the men, and thousands of strong women in the Black Country became employed making chains in small, cramped forges. Next time you hear about an amazing opportunity to work at home, keep in mind that in the 1800s you could have been hammering iron over a smoky forge.

2. Resurrection Men

People in this time were poor enough that graverobbing had become a very profitable profession. Medical doctors, who were trying to study anatomy and teach the art of autopsy to their students, paid as much money for one stolen body as a worker could make in 6 months! The most famous of these bodysnatchers or “Resurrection Men” were William Burke and William Hare in Edinburgh, Scotland, who eventually got impatient waiting for enough people to die — and began murdering the living to get more corpses to sell.

3. A guy in Michigan fought a bear to the death

In 1883, the body of a man named Frank Devereaux was found next to the body of a bear in the woods outside Cheboygan, Michigan. It is believed that the bear attacked Frank after he fired his muzzleloader rifle. Those who discovered the bodies said the ground for 20 feet around them had been torn up and there were signs of a ferocious battle. Sounds like we were tougher back then!

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4. Chicago was lifted 4 feet with hydraulic jacks

Due to poor sanitation conditions, the city of Chicago suffered badly from typhoid, dysentery, and cholera in the early 1800s. Eventually, a plan to create a new sewer system was created, but there was one catch: the city needed to be high enough to let the water run downhill into Lake Michigan. Undaunted, the leaders of the city paid engineers to use hundreds of jacks to lift entire buildings and their sidewalks up into the air — some as much as 6 feet, though 4 was the average — install all the necessary plumping, and fill dirt in the roads to make up the difference.

5. Bob the Railway Dog, aka the King of Outcasts

Between 1878 and 1895, a famous dog named Bob rode the rails in Australia. He traveled thousands of miles, becoming part of the local folklore. To have a third-class compartment all to himself, he would bark at passengers until they left out of fear that he “had reserved the carriage”. One man made him a collar so that he wouldn’t be mistaken for a random stray; the collar read, “Stop me not, but let me jog, For I am Bob, the driver’s dog”. When Bob finally died in 1895 outside one of his favorite butcher’s shops, he was mourned around the world, and some named him “the King of Outcasts”.