JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
Where was the One Percent of 1916? Luckily, I found it at the end of this simple bar graph for The American Correspondence School advertisement in Illustrated World for January 1916, right at the end of the other 99% WWI was about at the half-way point, America still wasn't in the war, and there was little attention paid in the magazine to that fantastically bad Thing happening overseas. In any event, the ad tried to attract the 79% of the population making $1000/year or less through not-described correspondence school means, and at the same time flagging the top one-percent earners in the U.S. as though making $10,000+ per year.
This doesn't seem much like a high figure, except that the average person was making about $650/year, and the average house cost about ten times that amount. Today's 1% income/year folks take in about $400,000 (or about 25 times the average yearly salary of the 99%, and three times the cost of the average house). And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that $10k/year is equal in buying power to about $212,000 yearly in 2013, so that odd-looking ten grand figure might be about right, even if it was probably all quickly made up in some composing room in Chicago 97 years ago.
If you were to look at this figure through comparative baseball eyes, it is particularly astonishing, given that in this decade or so there have been 65 players with $100,000,000 contracts, which makes for many dozens of players with 10 million/year salaries. But these are different times, and the baseball players of 1916 (the year of the first super market opening) were paid hardly anything at all relative to the income of the team owners, though baseball as a business at this point represented almost nothing of what it would become.
I don't mean to pick on baseball--it's just that it is the beginning of the World Series and the game is on my mind. And it doesn't work so well to pick out the one percenters in, say, physics, where Albert Einstein--who had a terrific year in 1916--was probably being paid in the 3% club region in spite of his rather exalted fractional 1% status.
In any even I was surprised to see "1%" appear in this graphic.