Hagen History Center will be closed Wednesday December 7th for a staff development day - we will reopen Thursday December 8th 10am-5pm.

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Happiness & Long Life for All its Residents #100

Becky Weiser

Wednesday Nov 2nd, 2022

I cannot believe that this blog series has lasted so long! My first edition posted in April of 2020. If you have been a regular reader, you learned the contents of the “1888 Erie PA Illustrated", as well as a lot of other local historical information. It has been fun! To celebrate blog #100, I have decided to write about something different - - - me.

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The author is on the left pictured with Curatorial Assistant and overall great gal, Amanda Rockwood.

If you ever met me, there is usually one thing that most people notice immediately, I am taller than the average person. According to my last doctor’s visit, I measure in at 5 feet, 11 ½ inches. Admittedly, it was not easy growing up taller than almost all my classmates in school. Buying shoes and clothing was a nightmare, and even if I didn’t necessarily want to play basketball, I was on the team!

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Image from www.thehenryford.org

A few weekends ago, my younger son and I traveled to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan outside of Detroit. If you have not made the journey to that huge complex, I highly recommend it! It took us two solid days of walking and we maybe saw it all. The Greenfield Village concept was to move buildings of historic significance to one site. What does this have to do with being tall? Well, one building was from colonial Connecticut and had very short doors and ceilings. The docent explained that the people who lived there and then were not necessarily shorter, they just built everything for keeping the warm air that rises closer to the floor. It made sense. What about the short beds? People slept more in a reclining position therefore not needing such long beds as we have today.

I decided to do a little more research on my own about the height of people and how that has changed historically. There is a thorough study done by Max Roser, Cameron Appel and Hannah Ritchie on www.ourworldindata.org on the history of height in people. I won’t get into all the facts but I learned a few things I would like to share. 

  • Height is based about 80% on genetics and 20% on nutrition and childhood illness.
  • People who lived in the Middle Ages were on average taller than those living in the 19th The warmer than average temperatures in the world at that time allowed for a longer growing period of food.  Consequently, people of that period at more fresh, nutritious food throughout most of the year.  Also, people did not travel much then so communicable diseases did not spread as rapidly.
  • Over the last 200 years, the height of men and women have remained relatively the same. There has been only a 5% increase of height in the last 100 years.
  • In the 1800s, North Americans were the tallest people in the world. Since then, the average has been falling due to deficient diets (eating out too much and the obesity epidemic which causes people to be shorter). 
  • Today, the tallest people in the world on average are from the Netherlands. Studies show that people from the Netherlands have a high consumption of milk, which leads to increased height. That could explain why Dutch people think I am one of them when they look at me. They speak in Dutch; I respond in English and we are all confused!

In a separate study, I read that tall people tend to make more money, be happier, and MAY even be more intelligent. Tall women, in particular, command more respect than short women. I enjoy being tall now even if it took me a while to reach that conclusion.

I welcome ALL readers to this blog and it makes no difference if you are short or tall! I wish you all happiness and long life. Thank you for continuing to read my ramblings.

~Becky Weiser, Curator