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12 Things That Were Happening The Last Time There Was A Total Solar Eclipse In The US

1918 was the last time the US underwent a coast-to-coast solar eclipse. It also marked the end of World War I and the first Tarzan movie.

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Total eclipses don’t happen often in the US, which is why the one happening on Aug. 21, 2017 will be a big deal.

The last time there was a comparable eclipse in the US — one that, like this year’s will, crossed all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic — was June 8, 1918. (That eclipse’s path stretched from Washington state to Florida, while the upcoming one will go from Oregon to South Carolina.)


That was 99 years ago! So besides the moon blocking out the sun, what else was going on in 1918?

1. Renting an apartment in the US cost an average of $178 — a year.

Courtesy / Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-26050 / Via

That’s a decent chunk of change, considering that the average family income was $1,518, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, a pound of steak cost 37 cents, five pounds of flour cost 34 cents, and a pound of butter went for a whopping 58 cents.


5. World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (11 a.m. Paris time on Nov. 11, 1918).

U.S. Army - U.S. National Archive / Via

More than four years after it began, the fighting ended when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies and effectively accepted total blame for starting the war. Within Germany, anger at the Treaty of Versailles and the harsh provisions it imposed led to the rise of radical right-wing parties, including the Nazis.

Nine million soldiers died and 21 million were injured over the course of World War I, and at least 5 million civilians also died.

So times were tough. But there were some lighter moments, too.

8. Twins Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther Friedman (the future “Ask Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby”) were born in Sioux City, Iowa.

John Gaps III / Associated Press

Other famous 1918 babies: Nelson Mandela (future president of South Africa), Ingmar Bergman (future director of films like Wild Strawberries), and Sam Walton (future founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club).


12. And America was getting worried about…Russia.

Photographer unknown; public domain / Via

A pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917 led to the ouster of the czarist regime and the rise of the Bolsheviks, a group of socialists led by Vladimir Lenin. In 1918, Allies intervened in the Russian civil war to support anti-Communist forces. That tension forged in Americans a deep sense of hostility toward the Soviet Union.

Fortunately, America and Russia have been on great terms ever since!

Stephanie Lee is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Stephanie M. Lee at

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