Preparing For the Future By Learning From the Past

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As preppers we are always trying to figure out the perfect combination of living simply, while taking advantage of today’s technology. There is quite a bit we can learn from how people lived a century ago. If an EMP, CME or something else took down the power grid, we could easily find ourselves in that type of situation.

In the early 1900’s, unless you lived in the big city, or had big money, you probably didn’t have refrigeration (1930’s), electricity, running water, automobiles, or grocery stores. While we try to become more self-reliant just in case, back then it wasn’t a choice…it was a necessity.

Life was simpler in the early 1900’s. The population was smaller, there was less technology, and nearly half the population were farmers. The typical family size (or household) was bigger out of necessity, their diets were different, and transportation was walking, horses and a few cars.

Because of all this, most people were a lot less dependent on others for their survival. In today’s society, people have become dependent on technology, and others for their survival. This is why if the power grid went down, 90% of the population would not exist.

 Preparing For the Future By Learning From the Past

In order to give ourselves the best chance possible to live through a larger grid down event, or even just get through a smaller power outage, we need to learn how they did it 100 years ago. We don’t necessarily need to live like they did 100 years ago, or go back to the old west, but we need to learn how they did.

In today’s show Lisa and I talked all this, and how there are a number of scenarios that could take out the power grid, and how as a society, we are completely dependent on technology.

Lessons We Can Learn

Preparedness is about marrying the new with the old. We have the technology to harness solar power and communicate (ham radio) so why not use it. What we don’t want to do is be dependent on water coming from the faucet, food being at the grocery store, and the light coming on at the flip of a switch.

The basics of preparedness are pretty simple. The gadgets and trinkets are great, but won’t save your life. When it comes to any sort of disaster or SHTF scenario, life will be different, like it or not. We all try to do things today that will make life easier then, but we need to learn to live differently, and learning from the past is a good way to do that.

The 6 areas of preparedness

In the show this week Lisa and I broke this down into the 6 areas of preparedness, and how we can prepare in each of those categories. By taking the knowledge and supplies we have today, and coupling them with how they lived in the past, we can make life much easier when and if something goes down.

Were are a few topics we covered in the show…


Liberty Gardens: Most people in the early 1900’s gardened to one extent or the other. During WW1 people began to plant Liberty Gardens. This was to help feed the soldiers, and also because most of the farmers were sent off to war.

Cooking From Scratch: Cooking from scratch was a necessity. There was no pancake mix, hamburger helper or Campbell’s soup. If people wanted beef stew, they had to make it from scratch.

Ranching: Just like gardening, a lot of people owned livestock in the 1900’s. This may not been a full fledged “Ranch”, but quite a few people had cows, chickens and goats.

Hunting/Trapping: Hunting was a little easier back then because there were more animals, but just about everyone who didn’t live in the big city knew how to hunt at an early age.

Food Preservation: Because you had to grow your own crops, and hunt your own meat, preserving your food was also important. canning, smoking, dehydrating and root cellars were widely used.


Water Safety: Cholera and Typhoid are nearly non existent in the United States today, but that wasn’t the case 100 years ago. Today we have much more knowledge about clean drinking water, and this is one of the most important parts of preparedness.

Wells: If you lived in the city you might have indoor plumbing, but in the outskirts you were on your own. This meant people needed to dig wells, live close to a water source, and bring it into the house manually.

No Indoor Plumbing: If you lived in an Urban area, you might have had indoor plumbing. If you didn’t, you would have used used chamber pots or outhouses. This would be a huge culture shock to most people if the indoor plumbing didn’t work.


No Handymen: While everything back then was a lot simpler (easier to fix), DIY projects weren’t projects…they were necessity. There was no “Angie’s List” back then, and if you wanted something done, you did it yourself.

Clothing: We think of shelter as a roof over our head, but clothing is also shelter. Most people back then didn’t have a closet full of clothes like we do. A lot of people has Sunday Clothes, and Work Cloths. There were no clothing stores like we think of them, so if you wanted something new, you made it, or waited for it.

Houses: If you drive through an older town you will notice that the houses are much smaller, even the “Mansions” back then are smaller than some suburban homes these days. Smaller homes are easier to heat, easier to build, and the average household occupancy was larger back then.


Police: They didn’t have the police force that we have today, and the police couldn’t communicate like they do today. This meant that is something were to happen, you were probably on your own.

Culture: People had a different mentality back then. People we more self reliant, and didn’t like to depend on someone else for their livelihood or survival. These days it’s almost the exact opposite, most people expect (and feel entitled to) help from others.

Crime: The population was about a third of what it is today, and less population meant less crime. Because the society and culture were so different than it is today, you didn’t see some of the things we see today. Everyone pretty much knew everyone in smaller town, and sometimes criminals didn’t “get their day in court” if you know what I mean.


Supplies: Back then people didn’t have vacuums (or even carpet), air filters, or Swiffer Sweepers. The mops and brooms they used were very basic, and sometimes homemade.

Cleaning: Today it seems like we have never ending choices about what cleaning supplies we can buy, back than that was not the case. Cleaning supplies are a sometimes overlooked prepping supply, but are very important in preventing sickness and infection.

Indoor Plumbing: As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people did not have indoor plumbing, and this is what lead to many of the common diseases back then. It’s important that we learn about how they did things back then, and not make the same mistakes.

Trash Removal: People back then didn’t generate the amount of trash that we do today, but trash can also lead to health issues. In a SHTF scenario I doubt that the trash man will be coming around, so we need to figure out a solution.

First Aid (Medical)

Technology: The advancements we have made in science and technology would seem like magic to people in the 1900’s. If you’ve ever seen some of the equipment they used back then, you know what I mean. Medical professionals not only have better equipment, but better knowledge as well.

Medicine: Advancements is medicine have also come a long way in the last 100 years. With the advent of antibiotics, diseases and infections that would be fatal then, can be treated today. We have written a few articles about antibiotics for preppers.

Medical Help: Back then there weren’t hospitals like we think of then today, no flight for life, and no ambulances. Most towns had a town doctor with his doctor bag, and which probably had some Opium, snake oil and Heroin in it.

Incorporating Today’s Tools With Yesterday’s Skills

If we learn how people lived 100 years ago we can better prepare for any sort of grid down event, or SHTF event. We have much more knowledge and technology today than they had beck then, but some of that technology may not be available.

By looking at all the topics covered above, and trying to figure out a solution for each, we can give ourselves a little better chance for survival, or at the very least, a little normalcy in a tough situation.

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 and 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 Coloradoand 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

SPP 112 Learning From the Poineers

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.

old west toolsHow 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.

Medicine and skullThey 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.

medical supplies old westThe 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.

Stocking up on prescription medication (if possible) and even stocking fish antibiotics might be a good idea, as well as making sure you have a good supply of first aid supplies on hand.

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.

old west tools and stoveThe 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.

general store goodsA 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.

Books can be your best pre-collapse investment.

Old Time Wisdom ( Timeless Bits of Wisdom on How to Grow Everything Organically, from the Good Old Days When Everyone Did  you can prepare yourself for war by moving to the countryside and building a farm, but you must take guns with you, as the hordes of starving will be roaming. Also, even though the elite will have their safe havens and specialist shelters, they must be just as careful during the war as the ordinary civilians, because their shelters can still be compromised.”)

The Lost Ways (Learn the long forgotten secrets that helped our forefathers survive famines,wars,economic crisis and anything else life threw at them)

LOST WAYS 2 ( Word of the day: Prepare! And do it the old fashion way, like our fore-fathers did it and succeed long before us, because what lies ahead of us will require all the help we can get. Watch this video and learn the 3 skills that ensured our ancestors survival in hard times of famine and war.)



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