The Good Old Days--They Were Terrible!

The Good Old Days--They Were Terrible!

by Otto L. Bettmann

This book explains why the "good old days" were only good for a privileged few and why they were unrelentingly hard for most. Sobering, actually.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 3.72
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: October 12th 1974 by Random House
  • Isbn10: 0394709411
  • Isbn13: 9780394709413

Read the Book "The Good Old Days--They Were Terrible!" Online

This book takes a very clear-eyed look at just how "good" those days really were. In the winter, horse-drawn snowplows did not do much more than move the snow a few feet. Alcoholic children were not uncommon, as a result of many trips to the local bar to fill a pitcher of "beer for father." Most medical schools were run by people more interested in tuition fees than standards, thereby graduating many who knew nothing about medicine.

And this book makes clear that crime and political corruption are not just a curse of the twentieth century. I rated this book a four; the text is really a three, but the pictures--which are repreinted from newspapaers and books of that time rate a five by me, so the average is four.

But I've also read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, and while I do realize she romanticized a lot of it, she did seem to have a rather happy childhood -- her father dragging her mother and sisters around when he gets bored with a place notwithstanding. Also, the nature of the way in which Bettmann chose to write his book gives very little detail to any particular ill of the time. I understand that Bettmann's goal was to disillusion the American public a bit from their wishing for the "good old days," but I feel like he swung too far to the other side of things. They weren't the good old days, it's true, but neither were they truly that horrible.

Otto Bettmann's "The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible!" is an illustrated wake-up call for those who assume that domestic bliss, moral perfection, and gilded prosperity characterized the years between the Civil War and the dawn of the twentieth century. Accidents involving horse-drawn conveyances killed ten times more people than automobiles do today. "The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible!" is not a critical or insightful look at the problems that plagued nineteenth century society.

This section has no facts in it. The only reason I knew guns were terrible was because of the title of the book & I happen to disagree. Some sections were milked to show just how terrible life really was. His facts would be of great benefit to any fiction writer with a level of technology before 1900 or so. Similarly, few writers have any idea of how much waste a city relying on horses generates. If you want to know what happens when there is none, just read this book.

The illustrations that Otto Bettmann collected and used for this work are striking. I remember poring over the pages of this book, fascinated by every illustration of the United States of America's not so charming Gilded Age. I was absolutely anamoured with the idea that there could be a construction of history that did not accord with reality. Of course, these are minor quibbles and the book is what it is - a great collection of illustrations filled with intriguing facts about the past. I read some Amazon reviews of this book and was amused by the number of reviewers who were vexed by Otto Bettmann's perceived attack on the United States itself. The idea that a "foreigner" would come to the United States and then write this book is, to them, a betrayal of the highest order. There was even one reviewer asking how a Jew could write this book and not be grateful for the shelter given by the United States .

The rarely-seen illustrations and photos from Dr. Otto Bettmann's famous archive are what make this book a classic.

This book doesn't speak about how life is improving (a topic I enjoy) but simply enumerates how life really sucked between about 1870 to 1900. About 200 pages but with photos and illustrations on every page.

If we compare this purported Arcadia with our own days we cannot but feel a jarring discontent, a sense of despair that fate has dropped us into the worst of all possible worlds.