The Chicago Cubs have just won the World Series, ending one of the longest droughts in professional sports history. Until yesterday, the Cubbies hadn’t been able to call themselves World Champions since 1908. Obviously, the world is a much different place now than it was during that last victory, but just how different may surprise you.
State of the Union – The last time the Cubs won it all, there were only 46 states (Arizona and New Mexico joined the Union in 1912, followed by Alaska and Hawaii in 1959). The modern Federal Reserve System did not yet exist, although the Panic of 1907 and subsequent depression were starting to put a spotlight on the unregulated role of bankers in the national economy. In fact, the Aldrich-Vreeland Act, which acted as a precursor to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, was passed in 1908. The country’s population was counted at 88.7 million people, half of whom either lived on farms or in towns with populations under 2,500. The unemployment rate came in at 8%.
More bang for your buck – How does 2 cents for a Hershey’s bar sound? How about World Series tickets for $1.50? Well, in 1908 both were a reality. A first-class stamp cost $0.02 and a box of Corn Flakes cost $0.10. Sure, inflation plays a huge role here but it can’t be quantified exactly because the Consumer Price Index (CPI) wasn’t even established until 1913.
Down to business – As the Cubs were starting their last championship run, one of the most influential innovations of the modern era was unfolding. 1908 was the year that production began on the Model T, which was being sold for an average sticker price of $850. Henry Ford’s breakthrough created a revolution in the transportation industry, exemplified by one of the first cross-country journeys, which took 32 days. In labor news, the Supreme Court came to a decision in Adair v. United States, which upheld so called ‘yellow dog’ labor contracts, which allowed companies to fire employees for being members of a union.
Fun Facts – If somehow you’re still not yet convinced that life was all that different during the last Cubs World Series, consider the following: Mark Twain was still alive, Al Capone was 9 years old, and Babe Ruth was just a 13 year old kid who liked baseball. And if you think the Cubs’ win last night was the best thing since sliced bread, nobody in 1908 would know what you were talking about because… it hadn’t been invented yet.