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Historical Context: 14 Facts On What Life Was Like In 1914 When Phi Beta Sigma Was Founded

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., was founded on January 9th, 1914.

A lot of things have happened in the world since 1914 and to put everything in perspective, we at have come up with a few facts about what was going on in the world and what everyday life was like in the US the same year students that gathered at Howard University to form Phi Beta Sigma.

  • Fifty-one black Americans are known to have been lynched in 1914.
  • Average life expectancy was 52 years for men and 56.8 years for women.
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated, unofficially beginning World War I. (June)
  • Babe Ruth makes his debut with the Boston Red Sox. (July)
  • The first traffic light was installed in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5, 1914.
  • On July 4th, a Black boxer named Jack Johnson successfully defended his heavyweight title against Jim Jeffries. Congress responded by passing a law, valid for decades, which forbade interstate transportation of prizefight films. The law was enacted because they considered these films to be evil and if they showed a black man winning against a white, it could incite race riots.
  • The Panama Canal opened on August 5th. It took 34 years to build and cost over 27,000 workers their life.
  • On May 21st, Carl Wickman founded Greyhound Buslines in Hibbing, Minnesota.
  • The average costs for these items in 1914 were:

–          Sirloin steak at $0.26 a pound
–          Eggs at $0.35 a dozen
–          Milk at $0.36 per gallon
–          Loaf of bread at $0.06 each
–          Coffee at $0.30 a pound
–          Gasoline at $0.15 per gallon
–          Cars at $550.00 each
–          Houses at $6,156.00 each

  • Most homes had no indoor plumbing. Even by 1940, only 55% of homes had complete indoor plumbing.
  • Tony Jannus conducted the first commercial airlines flight on January 1st. It was a 23 minute flight between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida.
  • “Marriages are void when one party is a white person and the other is possessed of one-eighth or more negro, Japanese, or Chinese blood.”
  • “Building permits for building Negro houses in white communities, or any portion of a community inhabited principally by white people, and vice versa prohibited. Penalty: violators fined from $50 to $2,000, “and the municipality shall have the right to cause said building to be removed and destroyed.” – Kentucky
  • “Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them.” -North Carolina

Please share this with members of Phi Beta Sigma! This is a great way to show the historical context behind the founding of their fraternity.