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JAMA 100 Years Ago
October 27, 1999

NATIONAL EXPANSION.

Author Affiliations
 

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 1999;282(16):1502L. doi:10.1001/jama.282.16.1502

It is said that the average American is increasing in girth, and that the typical Uncle Sam with his lank body in its swallow-tail and striped trousers is more than ever before a gross caricature of the national type. A New York paper claims that figures collected from clothing dealers show that while the average American of 1889 was easily fitted with a waistband of forty-six inches, which it was then thought would never be exceeded, in 1899 he requires one of forty-seven and a half inches. It goes on to make the calculation that, at this rate of increase, he will reach in 1909, a circumference of forty-nine or fifty inches, and that in A. D. 2899 the American girth will be sixteen feet. The above facts, not the deductions quoted, are credited to one of the scientific government bureaus, and it is stated that the increased consumption of farinaceous and fat-producing foods is alleged as a possible cause. The dairy lunch counters that have sprung up so numerously within the past few years are credited in part with this result. The editor adds his own theories, that the labor-saving inventions, the elevators, telephones, and other contrivances supposed to make people indolent and fat, have their part in producing this result. Whether these are anything more than guesses is doubtful; the real reason of the fact, so far as it is such, is probably yet to be given. There are probably many factors co-operating, not the least of which is the improved physical surroundings of the present generation. The ideal Yankee still exists, but it is a long time since he fairly represented the average American citizen. It will probably be a still longer time, however, before we take trouble to change our comic national personification.

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