10 Crazy Ways People Amused Themselves Before Television

1. Public Dissections

Back in the 1300’s, these dissections were taken from small rooms or houses and brought out into the open for onlookers to see. It was quite the event. They were called “anatomy theaters”, a place built specifically to entertain this morbid display.
Tickets were sold and the prices varied depending on how interesting a particular dissection might be. In Hanover, the price was high to see one woman who died while she was pregnant.
These events were attended by both men and women. They became so popular that they even had to have separate viewings for men and women. These viewing only occurred about 3-4 times a year and were attended by the most affluent people in town. It was a grand event that usually preceded a festival or ball that evening.
The “Murder Act” of 1751 in England allowed for the public dissection of all criminals. This increase in public dissection did not decrease their popularity. Thousands of people attended them each year and they were finally outlawed in the 1800’s.

2. Inflating balloons

The first hot air balloon flight occurred in 1783 and since then, it has become a popular event with some of the biggest crowds ever gathered in Europe. The first balloon took many days to completely fill and the crowds became so large that it endangered the entire process. When the first balloon flight reached the ground for the first time in a village a few miles away, the villagers were so frightened that they attacked it with pitchforks and destroyed it.
The first living creatures to be in one of these balloons was a goat, a duck and a rooster in Versailles. The crowd was enormous and included the King and Marie Antoinette. It is said that “practically all the inhabitants of Paris” attended and many paid large sums for VIP seating.
The first manned flight was in England with a man named Vincenzo Lunardi and it drew a crowd of 200,000 people, including the Prince of Wales. One woman was said to have died of fright at the sight of this in the audience and the navigator, Lunardi was tried for her murder! However, he was eventually acquitted. Even George Washington witness the first ballooning attempt in America in 1793.

3. Poking patients with sticks

During the 1800’s, people were flocking down to the local insane asylum to watch the patients get poked with sticks. They paid a small fee to gawk at the residents who were taunted in front of them.
The poking was meant to stimulate the onlookers more than the patients themselves. For example, if the patients were being too calm or docile for the patrons, they were antagonized to create more of a show. Many people smuggled in alcohol to give to the patients in order to watch their behavior while intoxicated.
During the year 1814 over 96,000 people visited one hospital, Bedlam and because not everyone could pay to visit, there was free admittance on the first Tuesday of every month.

4. Riding escalators

The first escalators were patented by Jesse W. Reno in 1892. It was called “Endless Conveyor or Elevator” (later called the “inclined elevator”). By 1896, the first working example had been installed and became a popular ride at the Coney Island amusement park.
The difference between the ones back then as compared to now was that you sat on slats rather than stood on stairs. However, the general principle was the same. The belt moved up to two stories high at a 25-degree incline. It was only at the park for two weeks but approximately 75,000 people rode it during that time.
Later, the same prototype was moved to the Brooklyn Bridge. Again, it was a popular ride and in 1900, it was shipped to Europe and displayed at the Paris Exposition Universelle, where it won first prize. Afterwards, the Otis Company bought Reno’s patent and started producing escalators for businesses.
The first department to install one was Frederick Loeser in New York City in 1897 and it was included in their advertisements, saying to their customers that they could reach the second floor in only 26 seconds.
However, these escalators only moved upwards. Once the downward ones were in place, it took the public and businesses approximately 30 years to accept the frightful ride DOWN.

5. Staring at quintuplets

The Dionne Quintuplets were born in 1934 in Ontario, Canada and no one even knew that this was possible. These babies were also two months premature and their existence astonished the world. Newspapers paid huge sums for photos of them and when they became 1-year-old, their father benefited financially by displaying them at the 1935 Chicago World’s Fair. At which point, the Canadian government decided that their parents were unfit to raise them properly and they were placed in a hospital/nursery directly across the street from where their parents lived. Then the Canadian government took to exploiting their existence themselves.
During the first 10 years of their lives, 3 million people came to see them. Sometimes up to 3,000 people a day. They watched them play, eat and sleep through special one-way windows. They were the most popular tourist attraction in Canada at that time, receiving more visitors than Niagara Falls. They generated a half a billion dollars in just 9 years. Famous people were also anxious to see them, including Amelia Earhart, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bette Davis, James Cagney, Mae West, and the future Queen Elizabeth II.

6. Mummy unwrappings

The fascination with mummies has been going on for centuries. Egypt was a popular tourist destination and back then, you could even own your own mummy! At one point, the owners became curious about what was underneath all of that garb and decided that they wanted to find out for themselves. They invited family and friends to witness the unraveling of these antique bodies and even served food and drinks. Some did not go over very well and these bodies and wrappings were discarded afterwards. Hundreds of mummies were lost in this manner.
Also, mummies were very rare in America and for that reason, their unwrappings were popular events and even advertised in papers to mostly male audiences. One unwrapped mummy included an Egyptian princess and people flocked to see this royalty uncovered. The crowd for this event was 2,000 people and they were shocked when the princess was shown to have a mummified penis.

7. Public executions

Public executions were the most popular events in history. Every county engaged in this activity and all sorts of people from children to royalty came to watch. It was especially popular if the one to be hanged was infamous at the time. For example, 40,000 gathered to see the hanging of a Protestant pastor in Paris. Also, in 1849, a dual hanging of a man and woman in London accused of killing a man brought in 50,000 people. The last to be hung was a forger in England in 1824 and this crowd was an astonishing 100,000 people! The largest crowd yet and it took place in the UK.
These hangings were meant to discourage others from doing bad things however, they ended up being the highest form of entertainment. People paid huge amounts of money to get close to the kill while musical ballads and short stories about the history of the person’s crime were sold to the crowds. The event was often covered in the papers and high society ladies were quick to discuss the outfits chosen by the condemned women upon their deaths.
These events were usually about an hour long from start to finish. The condemned were often driven in a cart through town were everyone else could witness them as if they were on parade until their ultimate demise.

8. Military battles

During battles of war, many people often had a picnic in the fields near these battles to witness this as entertainment because the weapon range was short and so there was no threat of being shot. These war picnics occurred during the Battle of Bosworth, during various battles of the English Civil War and, of course, The American Civil War.
One battle that drew in 10,000 onlookers was The Battle of Memphis and it only 90 minutes long. The people perched themselves on the cliffs that overlooked the Mississippi to watch the battle ships below. However, during the First Battle of Bull Run, many elite people in Washington expected an easy victory, including numerous congressmen but when the Union army retreated the panicked onlookers fled in droves and blocked the streets of Washington.

9. Taking X-rays

X-rays became possible in the 1890’s and people went mad for this technology. They were anxious to see inside of themselves! Also, it was a cheap and easy set-up so that many people could gain access to one near them. Many “Bone Portrait” studios were established to give people an insight on their bodies. They were popular with newly engaged couples and X-ray slot machines were set up in major tourist areas so that people can take a minute long peek at the inside of their hand.

10. Selfies

Apparently, taking photos of ourselves has been around for a long time. The first photo booths were created in the late 1800’s but they didn’t produce great results. The modern photo booth was created by a Russian immigrant named Anatol Josepho. He was first trained as a photographer in Europe before learning the mechanics of cameras in Hollywood. Afterwards, he went to New York City and borrowed $11,000 to make his first photo booth. The pictures were much clearer and it was completely self contained. His studio opened on Broadway in 1925 and all he had to do was sit back and watch the money roll in.
An attendant at the booth took a mere 25 cents and then directed the patron to” look to the right and to the left and then at the camera”.
Afterwards, the booth spit out eight photos in only 10 minutes. This instant gratification was all that the customers seemed to want. The popularity grew and soon, the line to this studio was around the block with up to 7,500 anxiously people waiting each day. All in all, more than 280,000 people visited this booth in the first six months alone, including the Governor of New York and at least one Senator.
10 Crazy Ways People Amused Themselves Before Television 10 Crazy Ways People Amused Themselves Before Television Reviewed by 1 on April 01, 2018 Rating: 5
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