As preppers we are always thinking about different ways to become more self-reliant and live like they lived 100 years ago. People who lived during the turn of the century lit their homes with kerosene and oil lamps, heated their homes with fire wood. If they wanted new clothes, they had to buy fabric and make them.
In today’s world this seems unfathomable with our “right here right now” mentality, we could literally never leave the comfort of our couch and get anything we need or want. If we don’t want to wait for something to be shipped, we can head out to the local store that probably has anything our hearts desire.
Living in the west in the early 1900’s was quite a bit different than living in the eastern states. The industrial revolution had started, cars and electricity were beginning to be part of their everyday lives, but out west it was a completely different story.
Lisa and I recently went to a western history museum in Montrose Colorado and other than being really cool to see how people lived back then, and the tools they used to survive daily life, a couple of things came to mind.
- We love to think about all the things we might need to survive and sort of grid down or SHTF event, but the saying “easier said than done” couldn’t apply more. We have the luxury of thinking about things we might need, and the luxury of waiting until it fits into our budget to get them.
In those days it was a luxury to have a new pair of shoes to wear, and even if they had the money for them, they still had to wait for the cobbler to make them.
- Community is more important than we think. As people began to move west with the hopes and dreams of striking it rich or just staking a claim to give themselves an opportunity for a better life it couldn’t have been done without the help of a group of people with different skill sets.
People relied on each other more than ever in the early 1900’s because it was impossible for one person to be the cobbler, the seamstress, the blacksmith, the farmer, the rancher and the school teacher. While all these skills can be learned, there just wasn’t enough time or money to become proficient in all these areas.
Just like today, once you get good at something that other people want, you go where they are and offer your services to make their lives easier. This doesn’t just go for the pioneers that settled the west, this is how we have survived since the beginning of our time on this planet.
Skills and Needs – When Today Becomes the Good Old Days
Most men who ventured out west did so gambling on the promise of riches caused by gold fever. I say men because contrary to what Hollywood would like you to believe there were very few women who ventured out west, more on that in a bit.
The real riches were not made by the would-be miners, the real riches were made else ware. Knowing that miners would need food, tools and clothing many skilled craftsman and merchants followed right behind them.
How does this apply to us? We might not barter, sell or trade our skills like they did in the old west, but we do trade our time for money which is ultimately the same principal. We learn a skill that someone else wants or needs, and we trade that for what we want or need.
Some of these skills that were valuable during the turn of the last century will become more valuable if there isn’t a Walmart at every corner and Amazon becomes a thing of the past.
While we do have some technology like solar power that wasn’t available 100 years ago, and I don’t think it would take 100 years to get back on our feet, it never hurts to get back to the basics. Just about every SHTF event we think about involves not having the conveniences we have today.
Doctors, Dentists and Medical Needs
We have made some great advances in medicine over the last decade, but if everything goes down the drain we might find ourselves in a similar situation as the people of the old west.
They didn’t have all the fancy pharmaceuticals we have these days so people died of infection and common illnesses that we take for granted all the time. As far as pain killers go the drugs they used were Cocaine, morphine and a whole lot of alcohol…that’s if you could afford it.
The medical professionals also used some pretty basic tools and the conditions were not very sanitary at all. People don’t like to go to the doctor’s office today, I can’t imagine how bad it would have been back then.
The sound of a dentist drill is almost enough to make you run out of the dentist’s office today, could you imagine how frightening it would be if your dentist rubbed some cocaine on your teeth and started drilling away with his foot powered drill? I think I would tell him “just yank that sucker out!”
Doctors & morticians were one and the same, especially in the pioneering days of the west. I’m not exactly sure how the payment system worked, but I assume that payment was made before they started slicing and dicing.
The machine pictured above is actually a blood transfusion and embalming machine. I guess how the operation went decided how it was used…
Post Collapse Application: While we have made huge advancements in medicine, in a post collapse environment it could look a lot like this. Clean rooms and equipment will be “as clean as we can rooms” and the drugs we currently have available will be highly guarded and given on a priority basis.
Tools of the Trade
Just like our advances in medicine, are our advances with tools since the advent of containing electricity. I LOVE my power tools but I think it’s necessary to not only have tools that require man power, it’s important to actually use them.
The Blacksmith: From the shoes you put on your horse, to the plows you pull behind them a blacksmith was a very important part of surviving in the west. Blacksmiths don’t usually specialize in one area or another, they had a general knowledge of how to make and repair many things, from the most complex of weapons, to simple things like nails or lengths of chain.
Livery: Because cars hadn’t quite made it out to the West yet, a livery was an integral part of western life, going to the livery was basically like taking your car to the mechanic, except you were getting your horse detailed, not your car.
Medieval nobles provided specific colors of matching clothing to their servants. Initially “livery” referred to providing food and these clothes to your servants. This was extended to include feeding and sheltering the horses.
Household Tools: Not all tools belong in the garage, most of our household appliances require energy. From our washing machines to our can openers, without electricity we would be scrambling to get things done. Believe it or not, you can still buy washboards, cloths washing plungers, Oil lanterns and even hand powered drills on the internet.
Last but not least, guns were also one of the tools of the trade. Guns were not only used for hunting and security, there was a reason they called it the Wild West. Unlike today, guns were a way of life, and just like today, not having one puts you at a disadvantage.
Post Collapse Application: Learning skills like welding are great, but without electricity or fuel welding might not be an option. Learning how to forge and shape metal will be valuable not only to you, but to the many people who will need your services.
We all know how vulnerable our electrical grid is, and who knows how long it would take to get up and running if it were to go down. You can think of this like long term camping, only you’re camping at home. Having supplies like coffee percolators, washing boards, wood burning stoves or fireplaces are great ideas. These days we also have the option of solar lights and radios.
From Head to Toe
Although this would be unthinkable to most people these days, most of the pioneers had 2 sets of clothing, 1 for church, and 1 for work. Getting a new shirt today means getting online and ordering whatever your heart desires, back then it meant you make it yourself, or you order 1 of the few designs that had in a catalog and wait weeks or months for it to get to you.
A cobbler was also one of the staples of a western town, they not only made shoes, but they did all sorts of leather work such as repairing saddles, chaps and anything else that needed more strength than regular fabric. The cobbler probably worked pretty closely with the blacksmith and the Livery.
General Store: A general store was probably more like a Walgreen’s than a Walmart, while they did have the main supplies you might need, they didn’t have everything you might need. You could get grain for planting, thread and fabric, some premade cloths (if they fit), medicine and probably even some snake oil.
Because people didn’t have a payday like we do these days, general stores even had a credit system for their good customers. People who were waiting for crops to grow could buy needed supplies and repay the store at harvest. You would think this might be a little risky, but when you think about it where would they go? You can’t just move or ignore bill collectors like you can today.
Post Collapse Applications: We don’t need to become proficient cobblers or become post collapse fashion designers, but having some general skills could become helpful not only for ourselves, but for bartering and trade. Even knowing just a little bit about how this stuff works is far beyond what most people know.
After all the dust settles becoming a post collapse entrepreneur might not only be beneficial, it might become necessary.
The Darker Side of the West
In just about any town worth its salt a saloons, gambling and prostitution were just as important as a general store. These might not have been absolutely necessary for survival, but just like today we all have our vices and need to unplug for a little bit.
Saloons were designed for 1 purpose, to take people’s money, and everything in them was geared around this. Everything poker tables to whisky to the girls upstairs was geared to separate you from your hard earned money.
Today we have places like Las Vegas that do the same thing, they keep you happy, drunk and occupied until you stumble out and find your pockets completely empty.
Prostitution: Another misconception given to us from Hollywood is that the working girls would be hanging out in the saloons draped over the men and joining in on the fun. In reality a saloon was considered a man’s place and the women stayed upstairs behind locked doors.
It makes you wonder if there was a little gambling involved with getting a “bed with pleasure” and for what it’s worth, $1 back then was worth around $30 today.
Home Breweries: Back in the west you could get whisky delivered from the east by train, but home brewing was vital to keeping the supply replenished.
Remember, beer and alcohol was not just used for recreation, it was used as a painkiller for doctors and dentists, and depending on where you lived was safer than drinking because the fermenting process kills harmful bacteria in dirty water.
Post Collapse Application: Regardless of the situation history has shown that people need a way to unwind, to some people that is reading, listening to music or dancing, for some people it’s gambling, prostitution and getting 3 sheets to the wind.
The call of easy money means games of chance will be part of any society, and there is a reason they call prostitution the oldest profession on earth. And finally having a couple extra cases of home brew laying around, and the ability to make more could turn out to be quite profitable in a post collapse society. Who knows, you might become the next Budweiser.
Could it Actually Happen?
With all the different variables involved it’s impossible to say what the world will look like after a collapse, it might not be this bad at all, and it could be far worse.
All we can do right now is learn as much as we can about living a simpler life and not depending on all the modern conveniences we rely on today. At some point these might all be gone, and if we don’t have the ability to help rebuild, we will be too.