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10 Crazy Ways People Amused Themselves Before Television

6. Mummy unwrappings

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The fascination with mummies has been going on for centuries. Egypt was a popular tourist destination and back then, you could even own your own mummy!  At one point, the owners became curious about what was underneath all of that garb and decided that they wanted to find out for themselves.  They invited family and friends to witness the unraveling of these antique bodies and even served food and drinks. Some did not go over very well and these bodies and wrappings were discarded afterwards. Hundreds of mummies were lost in this manner.

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Also, mummies were very rare in America and for that reason, their unwrappings were popular events and even advertised in papers to mostly male audiences. One unwrapped mummy included an Egyptian princess and people flocked to see this royalty uncovered. The crowd for this event was 2,000 people and they were shocked when the princess was shown to have a mummified penis.

7. Public executions

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Public executions were the most popular events in history.  Every county engaged in this activity and all sorts of people from children to royalty came to watch. It was especially popular if the one to be hanged was infamous at the time. For example, 40,000 gathered to see the hanging of a Protestant pastor in Paris.  Also, in 1849, a dual hanging of a man and woman in London accused of killing a man brought in 50,000 people. The last to be hung was a forger in England in 1824 and this crowd was an astonishing 100,000 people!  The largest crowd yet and it took place in the UK.

These hangings were meant to discourage others from doing bad things however, they ended up being the highest form of entertainment. People paid huge amounts of money to get close to the kill while musical ballads and short stories about the history of the person’s crime were sold to the crowds. The event was often covered in the papers and high society ladies were quick to discuss the outfits chosen by the condemned women upon their deaths.

These events were usually about an hour long from start to finish. The condemned were often driven in a cart through town were everyone else could witness them as if they were on parade until their ultimate demise.

8. Military battles

During battles of war, many people often had a picnic in the fields near these battles to witness this as entertainment because the weapon range was short and so there was no threat of being shot. These war picnics occurred during the Battle of Bosworth, during various battles of the English Civil War and, of course, The American Civil War.

One battle that drew in 10,000 onlookers was The Battle of Memphis and it only 90 minutes long. The people perched themselves on the cliffs that overlooked the Mississippi to watch the battle ships below. However, during the First Battle of Bull Run, many elite people in Washington expected an easy victory, including numerous congressmen but when the Union army retreated the panicked onlookers fled in droves and blocked the streets of Washington.

9. Taking X-rays

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X-rays became possible in the 1890’s and people went mad for this technology.  They were anxious to see inside of themselves!  Also, it was a cheap and easy set-up so that many people could gain access to one near them. Many “Bone Portrait” studios were established to give people an insight on their bodies. They were popular with newly engaged couples and X-ray slot machines were set up in major tourist areas so that people can take a minute long peek at the inside of their hand.

10. Selfies

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Apparently, taking photos of ourselves has been around for a long time. The first photo booths were created in the late 1800’s but they didn’t produce great results. The modern photo booth was created by a Russian immigrant named Anatol Josepho. He was first trained as a photographer in Europe before learning the mechanics of cameras in Hollywood.  Afterwards, he went to New York City and borrowed $11,000 to make his first photo booth. The pictures were much clearer and it was completely self contained. His studio opened on Broadway in 1925 and all he had to do was sit back and watch the money roll in.

An attendant at the booth took a mere 25 cents and then directed the patron to” look to the right and to the left and then at the camera”.

Afterwards, the booth spit out eight photos in only 10 minutes. This instant gratification was all that the customers seemed to want. The popularity grew and soon, the line to this studio was around the block with up to 7,500 anxiously people waiting each day. All in all, more than 280,000 people visited this booth in the first six months alone, including the Governor of New York and at least one Senator.

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