Questions people asked before Google

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What do you do when you have a question? You Google it.

Thanks to Google and the internet, information is readily available at our fingertips – but this wasn’t always the case. Librarians were once the Google of today. If you wanted to know how to grow a chest hair or where to get an original gold nugget, you could pick up the phone and call your local library.

The New York Public Library regularly publishes some of the amusing questions that their employees once received. These questions – that date from the 1940s to the 1980s – were found by an NYPL employee in an old recipe box labeled “Interesting Reference Questions.” Some of the questions were pressing (“what percent of all the bathtubs in the world are in the U.S.?”), some were personal (“what does it mean when you dream you're being chased by an elephant?”), and some were extremely challenging (“how many seeds in a watermelon?”).

But no matter what the question is, or whether you type it into a search engine or ask a librarian, the asking is important. Here are some of our favorite pre-Google questions from the NYPL. 

1. A book on how to grow hair on your chest?

Grow Hair On Chest

2. Where in New York can I get an original gold nugget?

Gold Nugget

3. What percent of all the bathtubs in the world are in the U.S.?


4. What does it mean when you dream you're being chased by an elephant?

Elephant Dream

5. How many seeds in a watermelon?

How Many Seed Watermelon

6. Wanted: a list of historical characters who were at the right place at the right time.

List Of Historical Characters

7. Is a black widow spider more harmful dead or alive?

Black Widow Spider

8. Life cycle of an eye-brow hair.

Life Cycle Eyebrow Hair

9. What is the difference between pig and pork?

Dif Btw Pig Pork

10. Pigeon population of New York compared with sparrow population.

Pigeon Population

11. If the Empire State Building is the highest building in the world, what is the smallest?


12. Why is the Pacific Ocean at a different level from the Atlantic?

Pacific Atlantic

13. What kind of an apple did Eve eat?

Apple Eve

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