From year to year a lot of things change. Add the changes up in terms of decades and it can be quite astounding. Compared to the first half of the 20th century today’s world looks a lot different in many ways. But, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so here are 10 photos that very clearly show just how different things used to be back in the day.

Cleaning Spittoons

There was a time when spittoons (also known as cuspidors) were on every corner, in every hospital, and general store. The trend for chewing tobacco was largely diminished when American GIs during Word War II were given cigarettes as part of their ration packs -along with a Hershey’s bar and some Chiclets gum. By the 1960s spittoons were a thing of the past, except for in the Florida senate apparently.

From the original caption: “These ornate and ancient brass cuspidors are getting the spit-and-polish treatment and will be in place in the Senate when the special session, called for reapportionment, gets underway tomorrow. There are 19 of these showpieces in all, so placed that two senators share one which is between a pair of desks. In case membership of the senate is enlarged there will be no additional cuspidors of this type ordered–they’re no longer available and the ones shown here have been in the senate for almost 40 years, when tobacco-chewing was the fashion. Valued as rare antiques, they are kept under lock and key when the legislature is not in session.”

young men cleaning spittoons
Via: State Archives of Florida

Measuring Bathing Suit Skirt Length

If you were going to be on a public beach in the 1900s-1930s you might have been subjected to decency checks to make sure that not too much skin was on display. Here an officer measures a woman’s bathing suit skirt (1922), but later swimsuits like bikinis and cut out suits have also caused scandals at various times.

measuring bathing suit length in 1922
Via/ Flickr

Girls Learning Sewing in School

There was a time when girls not only learned basic sewing skills in school, they were also expected to complete whole garments before the school year was out. Hand sewing, garment repair, fittings, machine sewing, home decor sewing, and more were taught in public, private, boarding, and university schools.

girls learning sewing in school
Via: U.S. National Archives

Friendship Was a Lot Different

It was not unusual all the way into the 1950s for female friends or family members to walk arm in arm down the sidewalk or even to hold hands in public. In some areas this is still practiced, but a lot of Western countries have now adopted more distanced physical norms- even with close friends.

women walking holding hands 1950s
Via: Pexels

Locking Bikes Up Wasn’t a Thing Yet

Schools in the 1940s and 1950s often had large bike racks since a lot of people used them. And, none of those bikes had locks since bike theft just wasn’t a thing that most felt they had to worry about. It’s hard to imagine that in today’s world.

2 girls putting bikes into a bike rack, 1940s
Via: Russell Lee/ Library of Congress

Horse-drawn Delivery

Even in the 1940s some deliveries were still made by horse and buggy or wagon. Especially when gasoline was rationed during WWII, horses, bikes, and carpooling were common ways to get around. Just imagine driving that buggy in the snow! It must have taken a lot of skill.

1940s horse and buggy delivery man
Via: Marion Post Wolcott/ Library of Congress Flickr

Mary Janes and Frilly Dresses

This was practically a uniform for little girls for decades. It’s what many kids wore to school every day, but in later decades this type of style was reserved to Sundays and holidays or big events.

school girls each in a frilly dress and mary janes shoes
Via: Thomas J. O’Halloran/ Library of Congress

Door-to-door Salesmen

Making house calls used to be a way that many people earned their living. This was back when they were often permitted inside and allowed to pitch to housewives. The Fuller brush man, Amway sales people, and later the Avon lady were all welcomed into people’s homes.

Fuller brush salesman, 1960s
Via: Marion S. Trikosko/ Library of Congress

Sunbathing: Old School Style

In the days before sunscreen was in everybody’s beach gear, laying out was the great summer activity. The Reflect-a-Tan was designed to reflect the sun upwards so that no square centimeter of one’s face was left untanned by the end. This was before it was widely known how much damage the sun’s UV rays could cause.

sunbathing in the 1960s
Via: Bert Morgan/ State Archives of Florida

Bowling Alleys Were Different

Back in the old days every bowling alley had to have at least one pinsetter on duty at all times because the automatic pinsetting machine wasn’t in wide use until the 1950s. That meant someone had to stand the pins all back up by hand after a bowler got a strike.

setting bowling pins manually 1941
Via: Russell Lee/ Library of Congress