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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/103

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THE PROLONGATION OF HUMAN LIFE.

to me that if accurate statistics could be collected about one thousand men and women, over eighty years of age, living in New England to-day, such information would form the basis of some very interesting and very valuable conclusions. In my position as associate editor of the "Boston Globe" I found this a comparatively easy task. I had five thousand blanks printed, asking for the following information in relation to men and women over eighty:

Name, residence, age, nationality; whether married or single; general description, including size, weight, complexion, etc.; children, how many, ages, state of health, etc.; habits, hours of rising, retiring, meals, exercise, etc.; occupations, past and present; food and drink, quantity, kind, etc.; attacks of sickness if any, and at what ages, nature of disease, etc.; condition of teeth, hair, beard, skin, etc., at time when seen by the correspondent; age at which father and mother died, and of grandfather and grandmother, whenever possible.

These blanks were sent to the representatives of the paper in all parts of New England, accompanied by a letter of explanation which cautioned them to be accurate rather than enterprising. More than three thousand five hundred of these blanks were filled out and returned in the course of two months, and the story that they tell I will try to give in outline.

Every county in Massachusetts, and nearly every county in the whole of New England, is represented in these returned blanks. Some of these old people live on the sea-coast, some on the lowlands of the Connecticut and its tributaries, some among the Berkshire Hills, White and Green Mountains, some upon the sands of Cape Cod, some among the pine-woods of Maine, and others in the manufacturing cities and towns. The canvass has not, of course, been complete, but it has been as complete in the cities as in the towns and on the farms, as complete in one section as in another, as complete among one class as among another. If these three thousand five hundred instances prove anything—and I think no one will dispute that they do—many of the commonly accepted theories would be overturned, and strange facts take their places.

In looking through these blanks, the first thing noticeable is that few of New England's old people have remained unmarried throughout life, the total being less than five per cent. The ratio of unmarried women to unmarried men is about three to one, and, taking married and single together, the women exceed the men by 251. In Massachusetts the list shows that the women exceed the men by 450; in the other States the men exceed the women. The great majority of both men and women have been married only once, usually in early life. The average number of children as a