The Year Was 1909

Bleriot AeroplaneThe year was 1909 and in the UK, the Old-Age Pension Act of 1908 began paying claimants. There were 837,831 people who filed claims in the first three months of the program, which offered public support to those over seventy years old who met specific qualifications. Individuals had to have been resident in the UK for the past twenty years, have an annual income under £31, and not disqualified because of “habitual failure to work,” criminal records, or being recipients of Poor Law relief.

Relief was also made possible for those working in the sweatshops of the day, known as the “sweating system.” In the sweating system, contracts were made with a middleman, who would then employ low-paid workers to complete the work in crowded and poor conditions. It was particularly prevalent in the garment industry at that time. The Trade Boards Act of 1909 established a minimum wage for workers in the sweating system.

Early in the morning of July 25th, a small glider made history as Frenchman, Louis Bleriot, became a pioneer in international flight with the first flight over the English Channel. He won a prize of $5,000 for this feat of aviation and was praised by Orville Wright in the U.S. (The photograph is the “Bleriot Aeroplane” from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Following the famous first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903, the Wright brothers had continued their work in aviation.  In 1908, Orville had flown for more than an hour in a demonstration for the U.S. Army, and in 1909, they delivered the first military plane, designed to army specifications.

In June, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition opened in Seattle and while it was open, more than 3.7 million people came to see exhibits that included gold from Alaska, huge fruit displays from Hawaii, a telephone switchboard, a pair of six-foot-thick dice carved from timber, and even the “first display of clams ever shown at an exposition.” There were vaudeville shows and side shows like “Prince Albert, the Educated Horse,” and an upside-down house. An anthropological display of the Igorrotes who were native to the Philippines drew large crowds and there were also Eskimos from Siberia. A round “cyclorama” was built to host reenactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. The fair was successful in raising $63,000, which was donated to the Anti-Tuberculosis League and to the Seaman’s Institute.

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4 thoughts on “The Year Was 1909

  1. My husband’s great-grandfather was involved on the board for the AYP Exposition in 1909 Seattle and we’re looking forward to the 100th Anniversary commemoration next year!

  2. Bleriot also teamed up with an Englishman by the surname of Weldhen at the beginning of the 1900’s. Weldhen and Bleriot were based in Seymour Place,London and their firm made carriage lamps. Bleriot had invented a special acetylene lamp for the first cars. The lamp’s beam could be positionally altered by the driver from inside the car. Their firm can be discovered on the Trade Register to confirm this.
    My grandfather worked for Mr Weldhen’s family at that time.
    Jean (Davis) Slattery

  3. My grandmother and grandfather were married at this 1909 Expo.
    A drawing was made for a couple to be married up in a balloon with the minister. However, the balloon could not lift with the weight of three people, so they were married on the platform in front of thousands of people. I have the original pictures with them on the platform. My grandmother’s sister and brother were there from Montana, as a surprise.

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