The 1900s was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1900, and ended on December 31, 1909. The term "nineteen-hundreds" is often also used to mean the entire century of years from 1900 to 1999 (see 1900s). The Edwardian era (1901–1910) covers a similar span of time.
The decade saw the widespread application of the internal combustion engine including mass production of the automobile, as well as the introduction of the typewriter. The Wright Flyer performed the first recorded controlled, powered, sustained heavier than air flight on December 17, 1903. Reginald Fessenden of East Bolton, Quebec, Canada made what appear to be the first audio radio broadcasts of entertainment and music ever made to a general audience.
There are several main varieties of how individual years of the decade are pronounced. Using 1906 as an example, they are "nineteen-oh-six", "nineteen-six", and "nineteen-aught-six". Which variety is most prominent depends somewhat on global region and generation. "Nineteen-oh-six" is the most common; "nineteen-six" is less common. In American English, "nineteen-aught-six" is also recognized but not much used.
June 30, 1900 – Hoboken Docks Fire: The German passenger ships Saale, Main, Bremen, and Kaiser William der Grosse, all owned by the North German Lloyd Steamship line, catch fire at the docks in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA . The fire began on a wharf and spread to the adjacent piers, warehouses, and smaller craft, killing 326 people.
September 27, 1905 – Annus Mirabilis papers – Albert Einstein submits his paper "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?", in which he develops an argument for the famous equation E = mc2.
Wide popularity of home phonograph. "The market for home machines was created through technological innovation and pricing: Phonographs, gramophones, and graphophones were cleverly adapted to run by spring-motors (you wound them up), rather than by messy batteries or treadle mechanisms, while the musical records were adapted to reproduce loudly through a horn attachment. The cheap home machines sold as the $10 Eagle graphophone and the $40 (later $30) Home phonograph in 1896, the $20 Zon-o-phone in 1898, the $3 Victor Toy in 1900, and so on. Records sold because their fidelity improved, mass production processes were soon developed, advertising worked, and prices dropped from one and two dollars to around 35 cents.". In 1907, a Victor Records recording of Enrico Caruso singing Ruggero Leoncavallo's "Vesti la giubba" becomes the first to sell a million copies.
Gustave Whitehead and his 1901 monoplane taken near Whitehead's Pine Street shop. His infant daughter, Rose, sits on her father's lap, and the engine that powers the front landing-gear wheels is on the ground in front of the others.
1901 – The first radio receiver (successfully received a radio transmission). This receiver was developed by Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi established a wireless transmitting station at Marconi House, Rosslare Strand, County Wexford, Ireland in 1901 to act as a link between Poldhu in Cornwall and Clifden in County Galway. He soon made the announcement that on 12 December 1901, using a 152.4-meter (500 ft) kite-supported antenna for reception, the message was received at Signal Hill in St John's, Newfoundland (now part of Canada), signals transmitted by the company's new high-power station at Poldhu, Cornwall. The distance between the two points was about 3,500 kilometers (2,200 mi). Heralded as a great scientific advance, there was—and continues to be—some skepticism about this claim, partly because the signals had been heard faintly and sporadically. There was no independent confirmation of the reported reception, and the transmissions, consisting of the Morse code letter S sent repeatedly, were difficult to distinguish from atmospheric noise. (A detailed technical review of Marconi's early transatlantic work appears in John S. Belrose's work of 1995.) The Poldhu transmitter was a two-stage circuit. The first stage operated at a lower voltage and provided the energy for the second stage to spark at a higher voltage.
1902 – Willis Carrier of Angola, New York, invented the first indoor air conditioning. "He designed his spray driven air conditioning system which controlled both temperature and humidity using a nozzle originally designed to spray insecticide. He built his "Apparatus for Treating Air" (U.S. Pat. #808897) which was patented in 1906 and using chilled coils which not only controlled heat but could lower the humidity to as low as 55%. The device was even able to adjust the humidity level to the desired setting creating what would become the framework for the modern air conditioner. By adjusting the air movement and temperature level to the refrigeration coils he was able to determine the size and capacity of the unit to match the need of his customers. While Carrier was not the first to design a system like this his was much more stable, successful and safer than other versions and took air conditioning out of the Dark Ages and into the realm of science."
1902/1906/1908 – Sir James Mackenzie of Scone, Scotland invented an early lie detector or polygraph. MacKenzie's polygraph "could be used to monitor the cardiovascular responses of his patients by taking their pulse and blood pressure. He had developed an early version of his device in the 1890s, but had Sebastian Shaw, a Lancashire watchmaker, improve it further. "This instrument used a clockwork mechanism for the paper-rolling and time-marker movements and it produced ink recordings of physiological functions that were easier to acquire and to interpret. It has been written that the modern polygraph is really a modification of Dr. Mackenzie's clinical ink polygraph." A more modern and effective polygraph machine would be invented by John Larson in 1921.
1902 – Georges Claude invented the neon lamp. He applied an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas, resulting in a red glow. Claudes started working on neon tubes which could be put to use as ordinary light bulbs. His first public display of a neon lamp took place on December 11, 1910, in Paris. In 1912, Claude's associate began selling neon discharge tubes as advertising signs. They were introduced to U.S. in 1923 when two large neon signs were bought by a Los Angeles Packard car dealership. The glow and arresting red color made neon advertising completely different from the competition.
1902 – Gustave Whitehead claimed two spectacular flights on January 17, 1902, in his improved Number 22. As with his earlier claims, most aviation historians do not believe these flights took place.
1902 – Teasmade, a device for making tea automatically, is patented on 7 April 1902 by gunsmith Frank Clarke of Birmingham, England. He called it "An Apparatus Whereby a Cup of Tea or Coffee is Automatically Made" and it was later marketed as "A Clock That Makes Tea!". However, his original machine and all rights to it had been purchased from its actual inventor Albert E. Richardson, a clockmaker from Ashton-under-Lyne. The device was commercially available by 1904.
Gilmore's second, larger plane
1902 – Lyman Gilmore of Washington, United States is awarded a patent for a steam engine, intended for use in aerial vehicles. At the time he was living in Red Bluff, California. At a later date, Gilmore claimed to have incorporated his engine in "a monoplane with a 32 foot wingspan". Performing his debut flight in May 1902. While occasionally credited with the first powered flight in aviation history, there is no supporting evidence for his account. While Gilmore was probably working on aeronautical experiments since the late 1890s and reportedly had correspondence with Samuel Pierpont Langley, there exists no photo of his creations earlier than 1908.
1902 – The Wright brothers of Ohio, United States create the 1902 version of the Wright Glider. It was the third free-flight glider built by them and tested at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This was the first of the brothers' gliders to incorporate yaw control, and its design led directly to the 1903 Wright Flyer. The brothers designed the 1902 glider during the winter of 1901–1902 at their home in Dayton, Ohio. They designed the wing based on data from extensive airfoil tests conducted on a homemade wind tunnel. They built many of the components of the glider in Dayton, but they completed assembly at their Kitty Hawk camp in September 1902. They began testing on September 19. Over the next five weeks, they made between 700 and 1000 glide flights (as estimated by the brothers, who did not keep detailed records of these tests). The longest of these was 622.5 ft (189.7 m) in 26 seconds. "In its final form, the 1902 Wright glider was the world's first fully controllable aircraft."
1903 – Richard Pearse of New Zealand supposedly successfully flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903 Verifiable eyewitnesses describe Pearse crashing into a hedge on two separate occasions during 1903. His monoplane must have risen to a height of at least three metres on each occasion. Good evidence exists that on 31 March 1903 Pearse achieved a powered, though poorly controlled, flight of several hundred metres. Pearse himself said that he had made a powered takeoff, "but at too low a speed for [his] controls to work". However, he remained airborne until he crashed into the hedge at the end of the field.
1903 – Karl Jatho of Germany performs a series of flights at Vahrenwalder Heide, near Hanover, between August and November, 1903. Using first a pusher triplane, then a biplane. "His longest flight, however, was only 60 meters at 3–4 meters altitude." He then quit his efforts, noting his motor was too weak to make longer or higher flights. The plane was equipped with a single-cylinder 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) Buchet engine driving a two-bladed pusher propeller and made hops of up to 200 ft (60 m), flying up to 10 ft (3 m) high. In comparison, Orville Wright's first controlled flight four months later was of 36 m (120 ft) in 12 seconds although Wilbur flew 59 seconds and 852 ft (260 m) later that same day. Either way Jatho managed to fly a powered heavier-than-air machine earlier than his American counterparts.
1903 – Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers. In November 1903 Anderson was granted her first patent for an automatic car window cleaning device controlled inside the car, called the windshield wiper. Her device consisted of a lever and a swinging arm with a rubber blade. The lever could be operated from inside a vehicle to cause the spring-loaded arm to move back and forth across the windshield. Similar devices had been made earlier, but Anderson's was the first to be effective.
1903 – The Wright brothers fly at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their airplane, the Wright Flyer, performed the first recorded controlled, powered, sustained heavier than air flight on December 17, 1903. In the day's fourth flight, Wilbur Wright flew 279 meters (852 ft) in 59 seconds. First three flights were approximately 120, 175, and 200 ft (61 m), respectively. The Wrights laid particular stress on fully and accurately describing all the requirements for controlled, powered flight and put them into use in an aircraft which took off from a level launching rail, with the aid of a headwind to achieve sufficient airspeed before reaching the end of the rail. It is one of the various candidates regarded as the First flying machine.
1904 – The Welte-Mignonreproducing piano is created by Edwin Welte and Karl Bockisch. Both employed by the "Michael Welte und Söhne" firm of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. "It automatically replayed the tempo, phrasing, dynamics and pedalling of a particular performance, and not just the notes of the music, as was the case with other player pianos of the time." In September, 1904, the Mignon was demonstrated in the Leipzig Trade Fair. In March, 1905 it became better known when showcased "at the showrooms of Hugo Popper, a manufacturer of roll-operated orchestrions". By 1906, the Mignon was also exported to the United States, installed to pianos by the firms Feurich and Steinway & Sons.
1905 – John Joseph Montgomery of California, United States designs tandem-wing gliders. His pilot Daniel Maloney performs a number of public exhibitions of high altitude flights in March and April 1905 in the Santa Clara, California, area. These flights received national media attention and demonstrated superior control of the design, with launches as high as 4,000 feet (1,200 m) and landings made at predetermined locations. The gliders were launched from balloons.
1905 – The Wright Brothers introduce their Wright Flyer III. On October 5, 1905, Wilbur flew 24 miles (39 km) in 39 minutes 23 seconds, longer than the total duration of all the flights of 1903 and 1904. Ending with a safe landing when the fuel ran out. The flight was seen by a number of people, including several invited friends, their father Milton, and neighboring farmers. Four days later, they wrote to the United States Secretary of WarWilliam Howard Taft, offering to sell the world's first practical fixed-wing aircraft.
1906 – The Gabel Automatic Entertainer, an early jukebox-like machine, is invented by John Gabel. It is the first such device to play a series of gramophone records. "The Automatic Entertainer with 24 selections, was produced and patented by the John Gabel owned company in Chicago. The first model (constructed in 1905) was produced in 1906 with an exposed 40 inch horn (102 cm) on top, and it is today often considered the real father of the modern multi-selection disc-playing phonographs. John Gabel and his company did in fact receive a special prize at the Pan-Pacific Exposition for the Automatic Entertainer."
Alberto Santos-Dumont realizes the first official flight, 23 October 1906, Bagatelle field.
1906 – Sound radio broadcasting was invented by Reginald Fessenden and Lee De Forest. Fessenden and Ernst Alexanderson developed a high-frequency alternator-transmitters, an improvement on an already existing device. The improved model operated at a transmitting frequency of approximately 50 kHz, although with far less power than Fessenden's rotary-spark transmitters. The alternator-transmitter achieved the goal of transmitting quality audio signals, but the lack of any way to amplify the signals meant they were somewhat weak. On December 21, 1906, Fessenden made an extensive demonstration of the new alternator-transmitter at Brant Rock, showing its utility for point-to-point wireless telephony, including interconnecting his stations to the wire telephone network. A detailed review of this demonstration appeared in The American Telephone Journal. Meanwhile, De Forest had developed the Audion tube an electronic amplifier device. He received a patent in January, 1907. "DeForest's audion vacuum tube was the key component of all radio, telephone, radar, television, and computer systems before the invention of the transistor in 1947."
1906 – Reginald Fessenden of East Bolton, Quebec, Canada made what appear to be the first audio radio broadcasts of entertainment and music ever made to a general audience. (Beginning in 1904, the United States Navy had broadcast daily time signals and weather reports, but these employed spark-gap transmitters, transmitting in Morse code). On the evening of December 24, 1906 (Christmas Eve), Fessenden used the alternator-transmitter to send out a short program from Brant Rock, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. It included a phonograph record of Ombra mai fù (Largo) by George Frideric Handel, followed by Fessenden himself playing the song O Holy Night on the violin. Finishing with reading a passage from the Bible: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will' (Gospel of Luke 2:14). On December 31, New Year's Eve, a second short program was broadcast. The main audience for both these transmissions was an unknown number of shipboard radio operators along the East Coast of the United States. Fessenden claimed that the Christmas Eve broadcast had been heard "as far down" as Norfolk, Virginia, while the New Year Eve's broadcast had reached places in the Caribbean. Although now seen as a landmark, these two broadcasts were barely noticed at the time and soon forgotten— the only first-hand account appears to be a letter Fessenden wrote on January 29, 1932, to his former associate, Samuel M. Kinter.
1907 – The Photostat machine begins the modern era of document imaging. The Photostat machine was invented in Kansas City, Kansas, United States by Oscar Gregory in 1907, and the Photostat Corporation was incorporated in Rhode Island in 1911. "Rectigraph and Photostat machines (Plates 40–42) combined a large camera and a developing machine and used sensitized paper furnished in 350-foot rolls. "The prints are made direct on sensitized paper, no negative, plate or film intervening. The usual exposure is ten seconds. After the exposure has been made the paper is cut off and carried underneath the exposure chamber to the developing bath, where it remains for 35 seconds, and is then drawn into a fixing bath. While one print is being developed or fixed, another exposure can be made. When the copies are removed from the fixing bath, they are allowed to dry by exposure to the air, or may be run through a drying machine. The first print taken from the original is a 'black' print; the whites in the original are black and the blacks, white. (Plate 43) A white 'positive' print of the original is made by rephotographing the black print. As many positives as required may be made by continuing to photograph the black print." (The American Digest of Business Machines, 1924.) Du Pont Co. files include black prints of graphs dating from 1909, and the company acquired a Photostat machine in 1912. ... A 1914 Rectigraph ad stated that the U.S. government had been using Rectigraphs for four years and stated that the machines were being used by insurance companies and abstract and title companies. ... In 1911, a Photostat machine was $500."
Ford Model T set 1908 as the historic year that the automobile came into popular usage as it is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile.
1908 – Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company introduces the Ford Model T. The first production Model T was built on September 27, 1908, at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that "put America on wheels"; some of this was because of Ford's innovations, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting, as well as the concept of paying the workers a wage proportionate to the cost of the car, so that they would provide a ready made market.
^"The most thorough account of the history of the phonograph is still Oliver Read and Walter L. Welch, Tin Foil to Stereo: Evolution of the Phonograph, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis, IN: Howard W. Sams & Co., 1976). For a recent version of the story see Leonard DeGraaf, "Thomas Edison and the Origins of the Entertainment Phonograph" NARAS Journal 8 (Winter/Spring 1997/8) 43–69, as well as William Howland Kenney's recent and welcome Recorded Music in American Life: The Phonograph and Popular Memory, 1890–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). Much of the technocentric focus of literature on the phonograph (a focus Kenney's cultural history finally shifts) may derive from the interests of collectors, for whom I have the utmost respect. In the interest of simplicity, I am going to use the eventual American generic, "phonograph," for the graphophone and gramophone as well as the phonograph. Of course in Britain and much of the postcolonial world, the generic is "gramophone.""
^Dayton Metro LibraryArchived 2009-09-05 at the Wayback Machine Note: Dayton Metro Library has a document showing durations, distances and a list of witnesses to the long flights in late September-early October 1905. Retrieved: May 23, 2007.
^The life of John Gabel (1872–1955) and the history of his company is described in detail in an article well written by Rick Crandall. The article entitled "Diary Disclosures of John Gabel: A Pioneer in Automatic Music", based on an unpublished diary, was published in the autumn, 1984, newsletter of The Musical Box Society International (Vol. XXX, No. 2), and contains a lot of interesting historic information. Another story about John Gabel and his Automatic Entertainer appeared in the newsletter "Antique Phonograph Monthly" (Vol. VII, No. 8) published by Allen Koenigsberg in the summer, 1984.