The Old-Timey Quiz


By: Isadora Teich

6 Min Quiz

Image: RetroAtelier/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Are you an old soul who would rather take out the gramophone than download an MP3? Are you tired of the fast-paced and hyper-connected attitudes and habits of most people? Take this quiz for a spin and see how much you really know about life in the olden days. From politics to fashion to science to crazes that swept society, how much do you really know about life back then? This quiz tackles the struggles, quirks and fun aspects that came with living in the world of yesterday.  

Things have changed a lot over the centuries, and even on a decade-by-decade basis, how people interact, what is popular and what is and is not socially acceptable can change drastically. Human history is full of big, exciting innovations that changed the world forever, from the early days of the sciences to the introduction of the iPod. There's a lot to cover and so many important things that shaped the past and led to our current present. 

If you are a vintage soul with a love of all things that have that rich and storied old-world look and feel, see if you can gaze back into the past with this antique old-timey quiz! 

Which of these was not one of the original 13 colonies in America?

The original 13 colonies were New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Georgia. Texas would not become a U.S. state until 1845, long after the U.S. became an independent country.


What did people use to light their homes before electricity?

Life before electricity was often inconvenient and involved a lot more menial labor. People spent a lot more time in the dark. While these various sources did provide light, one 60-watt light bulb gives you the same light as about 100 candles.


What was the Silk Road?

The Silk Road was an intercontinental ancient network of trade routes that connected the areas known as "The Old World." It enabled cultural interaction and exchange between Europeans, Asians and Africans for centuries.


Where did many ancient civilizations start?

Water is key to human life, which is why many ancient civilizations and cities thrived along rivers, lakes or in coastal areas. For example, one of the most famous civilizations is that of Ancient Egypt. They thrived for centuries along the Nile River.


What did peasants eat most of the time in the Middle Ages?

There was not a lot of variety in the diets of peasants during the Middle Ages. They ate mostly bread and vegetable stews flavored with meat scraps and bones. The nobility ate a wider variety of foods.


In colonial America, what did most people do for work?

Most early colonial Americans worked in some capacity as farmers by necessity. They needed to grow their own food to feed their families and communities. While this would later change due to urbanization and other factors, farming was what most people did in the early days.


In Victorian England, what did the young boys of wealthy families wear?

In Victorian England, young boys and girls both wore white, frilly dresses as status symbols. The richer the family, the frillier the dress. Boys would wear these until they reached school age.


Which country gave a lot of aid to America during its revolution?

The French offered a lot of help to America during its Revolutionary War. This was largely to get back at Britain, who had been a historic rival of France for centuries. This decision is considered to be a big part of why America gained independence from Britain.


When did Johnny Appleseed begin his fabled apple-seed adventures?

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was an eccentric businessman who is remembered for bringing apple trees to American settlers as they pushed westward. However, the type of apples he offered were mostly used to make alcoholic cider.


What does "The Old World" refer to?

The Old World is used to refer to Africa, Asia and Europe, which had knowledge of each other and centuries of interaction before they discovered the Americas and Oceania. These places were in contact roughly from the Bronze Age onward and influenced the way each of them built civilizations.


What was chocolate milk originally sold as?

An Irishman named Hans Sloane invented chocolate milk in the 1680s, based on a Jamaican drink made of cocoa and water. He brought the recipe to England, where it was sold as medicine by pharmacists.


Lewis and _________ went on a famous expedition to map out the Northwestern U.S.

In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark went on an expedition to explore and map out the Northwestern U.S. They were tasked with this by President Thomas Jefferson, who had acquired the lands in the Louisiana Purchase.


What disease swept Europe before the Renaissance?

The Black Death swept Europe in the 14th century. It is estimated that about 1/3 of Europe's people, about 25 million, were killed. However, this pandemic paved the way for the Renaissance by allowing for less rigid social hierarchy and the chance for upward mobility within the reduced population.


Medusa belongs to which ancient mythology?

Medusa is a monster of Ancient Greek mythology. How she is described varies, but she is almost always a woman with living snakes for hair. It's said that if you look her in the eye, you will turn to stone.


In 1800, how many U.S. states were there?

According to the 1800 census, there were only 16 states: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and several territories.


Before electricity and refrigeration, how did people keep meat edible for longer periods of time?

Fresh meat would spoil quickly in the days before accessible electricity and refrigeration. People would keep meat in meat, safes, cool pantries and the coolest and darkest parts of their homes to keep it fresh. People would also dry, smoke and salt food to preserve it.


What did most children do in colonial America?

In many rural areas of early America, there was no schooling, and many people could not read or write. Most kids were put to work on family farms as soon as they were old enough to be useful.


In the Victorian era, why did women often get stuck in doorways?

Victorian fashion is famous for its ornateness and impracticality, especially when it came to women's fashion. In the 1860s, dresses with massively wide skirts were in fashion. This led to the wearers getting stuck in doorways.


While most people think of the Renaissance as a golden era of progress, which problem was still very present in Europe?

While a lot of important discoveries and innovations were made during the Renaissance, it was still a difficult time for many people. For example, as great minds like Galileo and da Vinci were changing the arts and sciences, massive witch hunts were also sweeping Europe.


Back in the day, why was getting quality food in big cities tricky?

Back in the day, people had a limited understanding of health and food safety, leading to food and drink often carrying disease. Also, before there were legal repercussions for doing so, traders would disguise rotten meat, bread and other foods with deadly chemicals in order to sell them.


Where was the ancient city of Babylon?

Babylon was an ancient and powerful city that existed in Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia existed in the Middle East between and around the crescent-shaped Tigris and Euphrates rivers. A large chunk of Mesopotamia was in the modern-day country of Iraq.


In which city was the famous Medici family known for their power?

The Medici family rose to wealth and power in Florence, Italy in the 1300s. They were a very important family and one of the richest and most powerful in Europe from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Various popes, leaders and royals came from their family line.


In the Middle Ages, what did sumptuary laws dictate?

During the Middle Ages, peasants largely wore wool and nobles wore finer fabrics, like silk. In order to cement who was upper class and who was lower class, sumptuary laws dictated what materials you could wear based on your class.


The Renaissance is always associated with Italy, but which other European countries had their own renaissances?

While the Italian art of their Renaissance is world famous, the spirit of innovation and discovery did not stop there. While it was very focused on visual art in places like The Netherlands and Spain, England had a literary renaissance, of which Shakespeare is the leading figure.


Who painted the "Mona Lisa?"

The "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the most famous painting in the entire world. Almost everyone knows about her famous enigmatic smile. However, not as many people know that it took him over 20 years to complete the painting.


What did New York City originate as?

The land that would eventually become New York City was given to the Duke of York by his father in 1664 as an 18th birthday present. This territory was originally called New Amsterdam.


Why did powdered wigs become popular in Europe?

For almost 200 years, powdered wigs, or perukes, were hugely popular among European high society. They fell into fashion because syphilis, which can cause baldness and scarring when untreated, was sweeping Europe, and lush hair was an important status symbol.


Which famous company was founded in 1618?

Zildjian is a name that you definitely know if you know instruments. However, not many people know that this company was founded by an Armenian alchemist in the 17th century, who discovered a blend of metals that led to an exquisite sound while trying to make gold. He made cymbals instead.


In 1800, how much of the world's population lived in cities?

While today, over half of the world's population lives in cities, they are actually pretty new in terms of human history. In 1800, less than 10% of the world's total population lived in urban areas.


Did the famous Thanksgiving meal eaten by the Pilgrims resemble modern Thanksgiving meals?

Pilgrims lacked the sugar we have in abundance, so that means that things like cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie were out. Their meal was likely full of all sorts of different fowl and seafood, unlike what most Americans eat on Thanksgiving.


Before electric heating, what did people heat their homes with?

Before electricity, people relied on fire to cook, boil water and heat their homes. On a cold winter night, throwing on another blanket and coming closer to the fire were really your only options for warmth in the old days.


In Ancient Egypt, who wore makeup?

While beauty products are heavily gendered in modern Western society, this was not the case in many of the societies of the past. Ancient Egyptians wore makeup for beautification, for religious reasons and to protect their skin from the sun.


Who invented the Olympics?

The Ancient Greeks invented the Olympics. They took it so seriously that even though the city-states of Ancient Greece were at war most of the time, they would call truces before the Olympics so everyone could travel to the event safely.


What came before the Victorian era?

The Georgian Era preceded the Victorian Era, and it lasted from about 1714-1837. It contained the reigns of King George I-IV, and sometimes includes the short reign of King William IV. Usually, the word Georgian is used to describe historic events or architecture.


Who is credited with bringing mac and cheese to the U.S.?

While Thomas Jefferson did not personally invent macaroni or macaroni and cheese, he is credited with making it popular in America by serving it to dinner guests when he was president.


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