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Surprising Facts About
Life 50 Years Ago



  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Social Studies
    ----U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Compile interesting facts about life in another time (for example, 50 years ago or during Colonial times).



  • research a period in time.
  • look for interesting facts about life during that time period.
  • write facts similar in style to the model shared ("Surprising Facts About Life 100 Years Ago").
  • properly cite the source of facts using a format you provide.
  • share what they learn by creating a class book or bulletin board based on the facts they find.


facts, research, time period, Colonial, Civil War, Depression

Materials Needed

  • access to library and/or Internet resources

Lesson Plan

Perhaps you have seen some of those collections of facts that describe what life was like in the 1500s, or in the 1960s, or at some other point in time. A list of "Surprising Facts About Life 100 Years Ago" landed in my emailbox the other day. I thought it would make a fun lesson to share those facts -- some of which are quite mind boggling -- and then let students loose to do some library (encyclopedias, history books, almanacs) and/or Internet research in order to create their own list of "Surprising Facts About Life 50 Years Ago."

If you are studying a specific period in history, students might research and put together a list of "Surprising Facts About Life During the Civil War" or "Surprising Facts About Life in Colonial Times" instead of "Surprising Facts About Life 50 Years Ago."

Introduce the lesson by sharing these...
Surprising Facts About Life 100 Years Ago...

  • The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years.
  • Only 14 percent of the homes in the U.S. had a bathtub.
  • Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S., and only 144 miles of paved roads.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
  • Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California.
  • California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
  • The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
  • The average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents per hour.
  • The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  • A dentist made $2,500 per year.
  • Sugar cost four cents a pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30!
  • Crossword puzzles hadn't been invented yet.
  • There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Once you've interested students with those facts, challenge them to use the style in which they are presented to create their own "Surprising Facts About Life 50 Years Ago" or during another time period that you might be studying. As students locate facts, they will need to document the sources of those facts. Provide a citation format that they might use for that purpose.

Citation Style 1 (MLA)
Citation Style 1 (Chicago)
Citation Style 3 (APA)

Gather students' facts and have each student select one fact to illustrate. Collect all facts and illustrations into a class book titled Surprising Facts About Life 50 Years Ago.


Did students properly document the facts they found? You might create a rubric that includes that standard as well as other qualities of work that you deem important in this activity (Neatness? Language/writing skills? Research skills? Cooperative learning?).

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NSS-USH.K-4.1 Living and Working together in Families and Communities, Now and Long Ago
GRADES 5 - 12
NSS-USH.5-12.1-10 Selected Eras (depending on the focus the teachers chooses)

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