1868 was a leap year. Queen Victoria was on the throne and Benjamin Disraeli was the Prime Minister. Britain and the world were a very different place then:

There were no cars.  The only vehicles were steam driven and the law required  self-propelled vehicles on public roads to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag and blowing a horn.  The first true car was developed by Carl Benz in 1885/1886.

It was only  38 years after the first public railway which used steam locomotives, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, was built in 1830.  The remaining transport was horse drawn or shipping.  There were trains but still horse drawn coaches and omnibuses.  It was 3 years before the first trams in Edinburgh which were horse-drawn and operated by the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company.  This replaced an earlier horse-drawn coach system. The inaugural service (Haymarket to Bernard Street) ran on 6 November 1871.

Portobello and Leith were not part of the City.  The population of the City of Edinburgh was less than a third of its polulation today.  The New Town was still relatively new.  Electricity hadn’t been invented and there were no telephones. The boneshaker bicycle didn’t appear till a year later in 1869.

Education for children was limited. It was only in 1870 that a law was passed saying that children aged between 5 and 10 had to attend weekday school. The leaving age was raised to 11 in 1893. Even so, many children were kept away from school by parents and employers who would rather have them earning money.

Radio for communications were a long way off and Morse code was used across telegraph wires.  In 1866 Brunel’s huge ship, the Great Eastern, laid a durable telegraph cable across the Atlantic.  Signalling at sea was done by flags and semaphore.  The idea of flashing dots and dashes from a lantern was first put into practice by Captain, later Vice Admiral, Philip Colomb, of the British Royal Navy, in 1867. His original code, which the Navy used for seven years, was not identical with Morse’s, but Morse code was eventually adopted with the addition of several special signals.

The lifeboat service was founded in 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, the RNLI was granted a Royal Charter in 1860. During the 18th century,  volunteers had to manually row their boats when launching to rescue in stormy seas. When the first lifejacket design was created for the RNLI, it was made of cork  to be flexible enough to move with the men as they rowed.  At the time of our foundation the nearest lifeboat was probably Anstruther, which was first commissioned in 1865.

We are very familiar with the heads on our little boats but the “water-closet” wasn’t invented till around 1870, two years after our founding. 

It was ten years after the Great Stink of London when the River Thames was a great open sewer and the stink that year, 1858, was exacerbated by exceptionally warm weather.  A huge network of sewers was built under London which was completed in 1866, just before our creation.

Shipping was still mostly sail powered and they were still building fully square-rigged ships.  However steam power was starting to come into production and HMS Hercules was launched in 1868  both sail and steam powered.

It was just three years after the end of the American Civil War.

So we can see that our initial members lived in a very different time and environment.  Probably our only link with those members is the propulsion of our boats – wind driven sails.

HMS Monarch 1868:

So what was happening in Britain and the world in that same year of 1868:

Benjamin Disraeli succeeds the Earl of Derby as Prime Minister following Derby’s resignation due to ill-health.

British Expedition to Abyssinia: Robert Napier leads an expedition to free captive British officials and missionaries

Penal transportation from Britain to Australia ends, with arrival of the convict ship Hougoumont in Western Australia, after an 89-day voyage from England.

HMS Repulse, the last wooden battleship constructed for the Royal Navy, is launched as an ironclad (with auxiliary steam propulsion) at Woolwich Dockyard.

Parliament passes the Capital Punishment Amendment Act, thus ending public hanging. Continues as non public hanging until

Thomas Edison applies for his first patent, the electric vote recorder.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish architect (d. 1928) born

Scott Joplin, African American ragtime composer and pianist (d. 1917) born

Benjamin Disraeli Prime Minister till the general election, the first under the extended franchise of the Reform Act 1867: which enfranchised many male householders, thus greatly increasing the number of men who could vote in elections in the United Kingdom. It was the first election held in the United Kingdom in which more than a million votes were cast; nearly triple the number of votes were cast compared to the previous election. The result saw the Liberals, led by William Ewart Gladstone, increase their large majority over Benjamin Disraeli’s Conservatives to more than 100 seats. This was the last election at which all the seats were taken by only the two leading parties

The world’s first traffic lights are installed in Parliament Square in London

The outlaw Jesse James in action robbing banks

US President Andrew Johnson avoids impeachment by 1 vote

The Tape Measure is patented

In the United States the14th Amendment grants citizenship to ex-slaves

Battle at Washita River, Oklahoma. General George Custer attacks group of Native American Indians, their chief Black Kettle dies in the attack. This was 8 years before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand, in the Plains Indian War.

For images from 1868 see: 1868 Images

Also more locally (at approximately about that time):