View Full Version : Life in the 1500's

May 16th, 2005, 09:34 AM
I got this in an e-mail today - any discrepancies found? I wonder how long it took to die from lead poisoning?

IN THE 1500'S
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.
Here are some facts about the1500s:
These are interesting...
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. "

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high with no wood underneath It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and off the roof. Hence the saying: "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while.Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."<O:p></O:p>

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England</ST1:p is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

And that's the truth... Now, whoever said that History was boring!

Educate someone... Share these facts with a friend!<O:p></O:p>

May 16th, 2005, 10:01 AM
I knew some of those, but not others. Thanks. I probably would not want to live back then. At least if I was destined to be a peasant (chances are I would be).

May 16th, 2005, 10:29 AM
WHAT!?! People used to not be able to tell the difference between a corpse and a person in a coma! BLASPHEMY!

May 16th, 2005, 12:52 PM

Excellent post and thread Snoop. Some of that I have read somewhere or other, but the majority I was totally unaware of.

Thanks for the ed-u-ma-ka-shun!

May 16th, 2005, 09:09 PM
And they are called the 'GOOD OLD DAYS'!!!!!!!

There were fifteen of us living a hole in the middle of the road.
A hole? What luxury!

Talking of 'holes'.
There was a chronic shortage of burial space in London in the early and middle 1800s and burials ended up being 'hot bedded', cremation was largely taboo and the situation reached a crisis. Especially as there were cholera outbreaks. One 'holy' man of the cloth realised his crypt was over a sewer; he knocked a hole through and opened for business. Corpses, cholera and all would be 'launched' and eventually find their way into the Thames - which as a source of drinking water just fuelled the eperdemics. God indeed acted in a mysterious way it seems!

ps. Snoops, pewter used to have quite a high lead content - this is now largely replaced by upping the tin content these days.

May 20th, 2005, 02:19 PM
As a footnote:


The year is 1905 - one hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes!

Here are some of the U.S. statistics for 1905:

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.

A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.

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.

With a mere 1.4 million residents, 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 an hour.

The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,

a dentist $2,500 per year,

a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and

a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the U.S. took place at home.

Ninety percent of all U.S. physicians had no college education.

Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned

in the press and by the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death in the U.S. were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza

2. Tuberculosis

3. Diarrhea

4. Heart disease

5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.
Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was 30!!!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two of 10 U.S. adults couldn't read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at
corner drugstores.

According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health." (Shocking!)

Eighteen percent of households in the U.S had at least one full-time
servant or domestic.

There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.

And I forwarded this from someone else without typing it myself, and sent it to you in a matter of seconds! Try to imagine what it may be like in another.

100 years ....... it staggers the mind.

May 20th, 2005, 03:11 PM
There were 4 dollars to the pound stirling. There were 12 pennies to a shilling and twenty shillings to the pound.

5 shillings was often referred to as a dollar and 2 shillings and six pence, half a dollar. This persisted even when the dollar grew stronger against the pound.

May 2nd, 2008, 07:57 AM
I see some analogy between what happened in the 1500's and what's happening today. Mainly the "religious wars". The reformation in Europe could be a forerunner for the upcoming Democrats reformation of the Federal government. Either that or we have to wait for an assasination or four more years - whichever comes first.

The Sixteenth Century

The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent. The renaissance in Italy was peaking and spreading north, even arriving in backwaters like England. Life was largely prosperous for the average person, the economy was growing. The mechanisms of commerce, systems of international finance, ocean-going trading fleets, an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, were all building a recognizably capitalist, money (http://www.lepg.org/money.htm)-based economy. Geniuses were stepping all over each other on the street corners producing scientific innovation after innovation. Technological innovations like gunpowder were changing the nature of warfare and the military caste nature of society -- the cannon probably had a great deal to do with the rise of the centralized nation state as we know it. The printing press created a media revolution. It brought ideas, partisan rhetoric, and how-to manuals to the people. Most of all, it brought the Bible, in its original tongues and in the vernacular, to the masses. A spirit of inquiry, a desire to return to first principles, was blowing through the Church, which had been the unifying cultural foundation of Europe for a millenium.

The first half of the century saw what contemporaries viewed as the most earth-shattering change in the century: the Reformation (http://www.lepg.org/religion.htm). The cultural consensus of Europe based on universal participation in the Body of Christ was broken, never to be restored. Along with the Reformation came challenges to secular society. The nature and organization of power and government came under reevaluation as well. No one could imagine religious change without it going hand-in-hand with social and political change, as indeed it did.
There were other things fueling the furnaces of change. The economy was a prosperous one at the beginning of the century, with even the average peasant able to afford a bit of meat in the stew pot. People were optimistic about the future, they were having larger families (http://www.lepg.org/family.htm)and the population was growing. The combination of population pressure and inflation exacerbated by the flow of gold and silver from the New World saw a price rise (http://www.lepg.org/money.htm#valueOfMoney) that cut effective wages in half by about mid-century. Changing economic conditions saw many peasants lose their land as the terms of their tenancy become much less favorable, while land was becoming concentrated in the hands of the elites, especially the rising bourgeousie. Homelessness and vagrancy were on the rise, and towns experienced a sense of crisis trying to deal with the poor. By the end of the century, a peasant almost never saw meat, and many of them had reached such a state of despair about the future that they engaged in widespread revolts. Tensions between the social orders (http://www.lepg.org/classes.htm) were high on many levels.
Athough the peasants and more marginal classes of people were struggling, the middle class was growing and generally becoming more powerful. In a port city like Calais (http://www.lepg.org/calais.htm), located on the north Atlantic with an active maritime trade with the English, Dutch, and other French ports, the quality of material life saw an overall improvement. People in towns had leisure time to spend in taverns (http://www.lepg.org/tavern.htm#Taverns In Society), gaming (http://www.lepg.org/games.htm), and drinking -- hard liquor as an escape from a hard life began to be a social problem during this time.
In France, the first half of the century saw the reign of François I<SUP>er</SUP>, who brought the art and culture (http://www.lepg.org/culture.htm) of the Italian Renaissance to France and encouraged the new humanistic learning. His contemporaries were Henry VIII of England and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose Hapsburg territories stretched from Hungary to Spain. All were destined to leave their mark on the times and all were rivals. The Hapsburgs in particular represented a constant threat to France, as their territories, Flanders in the north, the Imperial duchies and bishoprics in the east, and Spain in the south, almost completely surrounded its land borders.
In the second half of the century, the dynastic struggles continued and the characters of many of the emerging nations of Europe (http://www.lepg.org/affairs.htm) were formed. Henry VIII of England was eventually succeeded by Elizabeth (http://www.lepg.org/people.htm#Elizabeth), perhaps England's greatest monarch. Her age was one of genius, exploration, and growing national pride. Charles V divided his empired between his son Philip II, who received Spain and the Netherlands, and his brother Ferdinand, who received the eastern territories (Austria/Hungary) and the imperial title. Philip II (http://www.lepg.org/people.htm#Philip) was the most powerful monarch of the age, controlling an empire that stretched completely around the world. The mind-boggling riches of the New World were his, and for the most part they were spent making war to enforce Catholicism in the Netherlands and elsewhere. By the end of the century, Spain had declared bankruptcy twice.
The untimely death of François I<SUP>er</SUP> 's son, Henri II, in 1559, saw the social and political consensus in France dissolve under the forces of the Reformation, dynastic rivalry, and economic pressure. The second half of the century was consumed with the Wars of Religion, (http://www.lepg.org/wars.htm)which were as much a political and civil conflict as a religious one. The young sons of Catherine de' Medici (http://www.lepg.org/people.htm#Catherine)came successively to the throne, and the last of them, Henri III (http://www.lepg.org/people.htm#Henri III), was assassinated in 1589. The first of the Bourbon dynasty, Henri IV (http://www.lepg.org/people.htm#Henri IV), acceded to the throne, but as a Protestant his claim was hotly contested. Throughout the '90's he has been fighting the forces of the Catholic League, backed by Spain, to win control of the country. He converted to Catholicism in 1593, finally entered Paris in 1594. Internal League opposition began to wind down in the mid-90s, but as of 1596 Spain is actively at war with France and in the spring captured Calais, where we live. The 1590s have been difficult years for the common people everywhere in Europe. The weather has been cold and wet for three years and there have been at least three bad harvests in a row. The League warfare has destroyed transportation and food supplies. Bread is scarce and prices of food, fuel, and housing are high, while wages are low. The costs of war and the huge national debt have meant that taxes are also high. There have been peasant uprisings in some provinces, sometimes with Huguenots and Catholics alike uniting against the nobility. The effects of war have been so severe in Northern France that two-thirds of the population of Picardy are widows and orphans. The Spanish are still pressing hard agains the northern border and these are bleak times, but Henri's leadership offers France some hope for the future.


May 2nd, 2008, 11:53 AM
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

But wait! There's more. If someone was found passed out like that and they couldn't find a family, they would often be buried anyway. However, knowing that this phenomenon would occur, a string was attatched to the buried person's wrist and run up to the surface of the ground and attatched to a bell. A servant would stay out in the graveyard at all times, and if he heard a bell ringing he'd quickly dig the person back up. The person who came out was a "dead ringer" for the person who died a few days ago.

May 30th, 2008, 11:30 AM
Life in the 1500's is just another version of a 1999 internet hoax/email campaign of humorous but false historical information. People dont seem to have enough common sense to realize how ridiculous this "information" is, but a few minutes of research would show them. Here is the truth if you care to post it, but at the very least, please remove this false and blatently stupid historical section from your website.

Brides did not marry in June and carry bouquets to keep from smelling bad!
Juno was the Roman goddess of marriage. For this reason, many Romans chose to honor her by tying the knot in June. Like a lot of traditions, this one stuck. Still, honoring Juno isn't the only reason why June is such a popular wedding month. According to Associated Content, couples often married in June so they could time the conception of their first child. This way, the wife wouldn't be too far along in her pregnancy to perform the manual labor required during harvest time.

Before the use of flowers in the bridal bouquet, women carried aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs, and grains to drive evil spirits away as they walked down the aisle. Over time, these were replaced with flowers, symbolizing fertility and everlasting love.

Baby out with the bathwater?
Bathing was not conducted this way in the 16th Century. There were public bathhouses, as few homes had the means to heat a substantial amount of water at one time. There is no literature stating that people bathed in the manner of man-of-house down to baby and the practical considerations of keeping that much water warm during such a ritual are not plausible. Lastly, children of the 16th Century were bathed far more often than adults (see numerous works by J. Brundage, F. Braudel, M. Block, and many others) and anyone who has ever been charged with the care of an infant knows personally the obvious requirement to clean them daily. Poor families and ones living in outlying areas would often bathe in rivers if firewood was not plentiful.
The saying is actually of German origin and of relatively recent use in the English language. The saying was a humorous take on throwing a baby out with it's OWN bathwater and refers to "throwing out the good with the bad" EXACTLY as the saying is used today.

How could, and why would cats and dogs live in a thatched roof to keep warm when they could sit next to the fire with the family? Did you imagine little cat elevators up to the thatched roof that was so loosely thatched that dogs and cats could actually live in it? The entire point of a thatched roof is that it is tightly woven to try to keep water from getting through. Never the less, there are several theories about this rainfall saying. It is possible that the word cat is derived from the Greek word 'catadupe' meaning 'waterfall.' Or it could be raining 'cata doxas,' which is Latin for 'contrary to experience,' or an unusual fall of rain.

In Northern mythology the cat is supposed to have great influence on the weather, and English sailors still say the cat has a gale of wind in her tail when she is unusually frisky. Witches that rode upon the storms were said to assume the form of cats; and the stormy northwest wind is called the cat's nose in the Harz mountains even at the present day. The dog is a signal of wind, like the wolf. Both animals were attendants of Odin, the storm-god. In old German pictures the wind is figured as the "head of a dog or wolf," from which blasts issue. The cat therefore symbolizes the down-pouring of rain, and the dog the strong gusts of wind that accompany a rainstorm; and a rain of "cats and dogs" is a heavy rain with wind.

Canopy beds were not made to keep bugs and cat poop from falling on you! The canopy bed came into existence more from utilitarian means than that of extravagance or decadence. In fact, the earliest incarnations were beds of common people seeking an additional layer of shelter from the rain beyond that of a less-than-impenetrable thatch roof. Canopy beds with curtains that could completely enclose the bed were used by lords and noblemen in medievel Europe for warmth and privacy, as their attendants often slept in the same room. Until the 16th century, these beds, even those of the nobles, were fairly plain and understated. During this period, carved work on the headboard and posts became popular and more ornate canopy beds followed.

The term "Dirt Poor" was not around in the 1500s! This term is American in origin and dates to at least 1937. The exact reference is uncertain, but it is most likely to be evocative of the dust bowl and the extreme poverty and unclean conditions in which many had to live during the Depression.

Pease Porridge Hot, Pease Porridge Cold is not about old stew! The origins of this rhyme are unknown; it takes its name from a type of porridge made from peas, pease pudding, also known as pease pottage (in Middle English, "pease" was treated as a mass noun, similar to "oatmeal" and it is from that we get the singular pea and plural peas).

There is no historical proof where "Bring home the bacon" came from! The origin of the expression "bringing home the bacon" is uncertain. It might come from the English custom, which originated in the 12th century, of giving a young couple bacon if they were still happy after a year of marriage. Maybe it comes from the 'greased pig' competition at fairs, the winner bringing home the bacon (the pig). Or maybe bacon is meant to represent all food, since it is very ancient, having been a favorite of the early Romans and Greeks.

Chewing the fat! The first reference in the Oxford English Dictionary is in a book by J Brunlees Patterson published in 1885, Life in the Ranks of the British Army in India. He suggested it was a term for the kind of generalised grumbling, the bending of the ears of junior officers as a way of staving off boredom, that’s a perennial and immemorial part of army life. It was not a reference from the 1500s as a notorious internet hoax from 1999 suggests.

Tomatoes and Pewter Plates, are you kidding me? The mistaken idea that tomatoes were poisonous probably arose because the plant belongs to the Nightshade family, of which some species are truly poisonous. The strong, unpleasant odor of the leaves and stems also contributed to the idea that the fruits were unfit for food.

The term "upper crust" was also not around in the 1500's This term alludes to the choicest part of a pie or loaf of bread. [First half of 1800s]

Blah blah blah drinking booze out of iron cups..... The English word "wake" originated from the ancient Indo-European root "wog" or "weg," meaning "to be active." This evolved into several meanings, including "growth" ("vegetable"), "to become or stay alert," and "watching or guarding." The third also evolved into the word "watch," and it is in this sense that people have a "wake" for someone who recently died". While the modern usage of the verb "wake" is "become or stay alert" meaning, a "wake" for the dead "harks back to the antiquated "watch or guard" sense". This is contrary to the urban legend that people at a wake are waiting in case the deceased should "wake up."

The Graveyard Shift is not named after people hoping to hear dead people ring bells! The term derives from a time when a graveyard keeper would be one of the few people expected to work this shift.

Dead Ringer, give me a break! Let's first dispense with the nonsensical idea that's sometimes put forward as the origin of this phrase, i.e. that it refers to people who were prematurely buried and who pulled on bell ropes that were attached to their coffins in order to attract attention.

A ringer is a horse substituted for another of similar appearance in order to defraud the bookies. This word originated in the US horse-racing fraternity at the end of the 19th century. The word is defined for us in a copy of the Manitoba Free Press from October 1882.

Saved by the Bell, also not a reference to being buried alive! This is boxing slang that came into being in the latter half of the 19th century. A boxer who is in danger of losing a bout can be 'saved' from defeat by the bell that marks the end of a round. The earliest reference to this that I can find is in the Massachusetts newspaper The Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, February 1893.

May 30th, 2008, 12:12 PM
Ziminy just busted my historical bubble :(

Well the 1500's were notable for delivering thousands of Europeans to America - you can't dispute that!