Things Don’t Seem Wonderful If You’ve Seen Them All Your Life (1912)

"Things Don’t Seem Wonderful If You’ve Seen Them All Your Life" is a cartoon from 1912 by John T. McCutcheon. (Via Laughing Squid)


  1. This is how I feel about my nephew’s blase attitude toward playing games on my iphone. IT’S A MINIATURE TV IN YOUR HAND KIDDO!!! LOOK AMAZED!

  2. So great to see this recognized at such an early date. I long ago read someone’s insight that as new technology replaces old, the formerly mundane gets romanticized and elevated. Thus, light bulbs replaced candles and oil lamps, which now only get lighted on special occasions. Letters that are handwritten, or even typewritten, are now an artisanal hobby. At first, only the rich could afford cars; now they buy horses. Everyone travels by airplane, and ship and train travel have themselves become travel destinations.

  3. Reminds me of a passage from Robertson Davies’ “The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks” wherein he describes a child being amazed by a handkerchief:
    “Look, mama,” the moppet cried. “Cloth kleenex!”

  4. I really like the line work. What kind of graphics tablet is McCutcheon using? It actually looks like ink. ;)

  5. Willie in the cartoon looks about 4. 
    He probably died in the 1980’s.

    Think of the changes in technology he saw for the rest of his life.

  6. I love stuff like this.

    Not long ago, I was relating a story to a friend about my dad, my uncle, and a very angry sow pig. Whereas I – one generation away from agricultural life – was amused by the thought of my dad being catapulted by a sow, my friend – much more urban in her background – was intrigued by “a real sow!”

    1. Between which generation of the story did the hearer become shocked and offended by two men using an animal for sexual gratification?

  7. I’d forgotten the Great Dogs and Other-Children Shortage of 1907–1912. That poor child, having to make do with films and the company of adults, how horrible!

    It seems important and instructive that this comic was drawn by an adult, and displays quite a good deal of romanticizing of childhood.

    I seriously hope there are more than a few tots LOLWHUTing at this on their mobiles…. Deliver us from ourselves, little ones!

  8. I was at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center yesterday to see the Shuttle Enterprise rolled out and Discovery rolled in. Next to me, with Discovery looming magnificently in front of us, were two little boys about 3 or 4, entranced by the crawling bugs that emerged from a rotting log they had shifted.

    1. Yep – and the bugs will still be here long after we and our fancy space junk are long, long gone!

  9. Yeah, maybe this was a clever insight back in 1912, but it’s a little stale and trite to my eyes. This is basically the message behind every “kids these days!” comedy punchline for the last century.

    Still and all, I’m glad this got posted. Did you guys catch that goat hitched to that wagon in the last panel?! I was all like WTF is that a goat? That goat is totally like O HAI! I HAZ A WAGGON! rofl

    1.  With 100 years of hindsight, it does seem a bit trite. But it’s easy to forget that for hundreds of thousands of years, little or nothing would change for the average person in a typical lifetime.

      1. Exactly. My grandfather was born in 1898 and died in 1985. When I first thought about the change he would have witnessed in  his lifetime, it absolutely blew my mind. The world went from being largely still horse-driven and lit by whale oil/kerosene – as it had been for hundreds of years – to putting people on the moon! Photography had barely been invented, for heaven’s sake, and then – presto! – movies, television, Elvis, Madonna!

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