Why didn't early 20th century houses have window screens?

I’ve heard that early 20th century houses typically weren’t outfitted with window screens, meaning that warm weather found flying and crawling insects entering through open windows.

The manufacture of window screens doesn’t strike me as terribly innovative/challenging and the cost couldn’t have been that prohibitive, in proportion to the cost of a house.

Please explain.

It’s still not typical in Europe, even, from what I’ve experienced.

I’m a little confused by what ‘window screens’ refers to. Do you mean the glass window panes or the door-like wooden screens that go infront of the glass?

Well, my house was built in 1928, and the original screens are up in the attic. (I don’t need 'em, since somebody decided to paint the windows shut, nail the windows shut, and then cut the cords. Those windows aren’t moving.) I assumed they were original to the house, but I guess they could have been made later.

Well, I guess that answers that question with regards to overseas! In the US most windows have screens that you can put on the outside, made of wire mesh. So you can open the windows and bugs don’t come in.

He clearly means wire mesh screens that go over the window openings so bugs don’t fly in.

I suspect (although I’ve done no work on it, and don’t know anything about the economics) that it was cosdt and unavailability of wire mesh screens at that time. People did have small mesh “baskets” they could place over food to keep the flies out, but those were relatively small. Making an entire window’s worth of fine mesh might have been prohibitive until someone tooled up a mechine for doing it.

They could’ve used relayively large open-weave cloth, but I’ve never heard of anyone using this.

It means the woven wire or plastic mesh that goes in a frame on the outside of all outside windows and doors, purpose: to keep out insects.

My understanding of it is that although woven wire cloth was invented in the mid-19th century, and was used for pie safes, sieves, and papermaking, it wasn’t until the big “public health” push of the 1920s, in which the common housefly was characterized as the Evil Spreader Of All Diseases, that folks in America began installing window screening on their homes.

My WAG is that drawing iron or steel into a very fine wire and then weaving it into an extremely close mesh - as opposed to, say, chicken wire - and doing so very cheaply is actually more of a technological achievement than you think.

Screens undoubtedly evolved earlier - cheesecloth or other materials might have been a good substitute for the poor - but as a mass product I’d be surprised to find it in early 20th century houses.

I see what you mean now, I have never seen one in the U.K. so they must at least be rare. I think the reason we don’t use them is that we have no real problem with being invaded by insects. About 8 months a year I need to sleep with my bedroom window wide open like a door to maintain a decent sleeping temperature and bugs have never really been a problem. I’m sure that if there were more winged beasts eager to invade our homes then we would use window screens but there just doesn’t seem to be the need.

The problem with cheescloth is that it keeps breezes from blowing through, which is the main reason you have the window open in the first place. (At least the cheesecloth I’m familiar with would) That’s why I suggested open-weave cloth. I’ve long wondered whether anyone used that, but I’ve come across no references to such a thing. No historical re-enactments ever use it.
But, even not knowing that flies are vfectors for disease, you’d still want to keep them out if you could. Some of the historical villages we visited this summer fairly swarmed with flies. The Continental Congress in Philadelphia was plagued by them because of the stable around the corner (see the opening song in the musical 1776.

They’re not used in Spain at all. I’ve never seen them in Europe, but then, I haven’t been to aaaaaaaall of Europe either!

Roll-up “persianas” (usually made of wood or plastic slats), plus the windowglass, plus a screen… what kind of wall would you need?

We have insects but we also have this burning sun. So, in the summer the schedule would be:
first thing in the morning, raise the blinds just enough to let an itty bit of sunlight in; leave the glass open. My mother’s 7x3m living room is clear enough to see what you’re doing with just 3 lines of light; you need a couple more for reading. You absolutely don’t want more light than strictly necessary: hurts both your eyes and any wood.
Once it heats up, close the glass.
Play with the blinds, opening them more or less, as the sun goes around the house.
Once that Bright Burning Ball in the sky goes down, close the blinds completely and open the glass; it should be done in that order along with a prayer to the God of Starving Mosquitos. Prayers to the God of Starving Mosquitos must be accompanied by watering of well-smelling plants like peppermint, which apparently mosquitos don’t like.

If you have an outside door that you open as part of the scheme to let air circulate, you cover it with a curtain (either heavy cloth or one of those “south seas style” ones) to keep the bugs out.

And they kept the windows closed because of them even though it made the room swelteringly hot.

In the Little House on the Prairie books (set in 1870s/1880s) they will sometimes buy a length of something called “mosquito netting” to put over the door opening. It is described as being pink. I don’t know if it was wire, or an open-weave fabric, or any other details–possibly it was also infused with a chemical that kept mosquitos away (and maybe that’s why it was pink?)

I’ve also never seen window screens in the UK, but I’d disagree about the lack of insects. During hot weather (and July was VERY hot, distant as it may seem now) I have most of the windows open, and if I leave them open after dark, the lights attarct all kinds of bugs into the house. Mostly those annoying little moths, but also plenty of grasshoppers. I guess they’re more irritating than hazardous to health, but I could still do without them.

People also used to put out flypaper, which has the drawback of being icky to look at and not all that sanitary. Plus, unless it’s the poison variety, it’s kind of cruel to flies.

Well, the presence or absence of all sorts of building features follows historical legacy, and the absence of screens predates the use of electric lighting. Plus, I suspect that a house heated by a coal or wood fire also makes for a less hospitable environment for critters than central heating, again helping to explain why we’ve never had them.

Euros, behold the wonders of a window screen!

Insects tend to be most prevalent during warmer months–when coal and wood fires are less desirable. :wink:

Window screens were introduced in the U.S. in the 1880s, and it was some time after that before houses were built with windows you could just snap 'em into.

It was called mosquito bar, and it was a fine mesh fabric. Remember Grace made little Christmas bags out of some scraps. No chemicals needed; it was fine enough to “bar” the bugs.

They made screen doors out of them. Remember the weird guys who went singing down the main street, kicking the screen out of every store door.