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Anachronism Stew / Little House on the Prairie

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Set in the 1870s, Little House on the Prairie had its share:

  • In the episode "Meet Me at the Fair," a modern hot air balloon is shown, complete with FAA-regulated numbers (N4011A), a system that didn't come into play until the 1940s.
  • In the final scene from "Wave of the Future", Harriet refuses an offer to buy what was implied to be a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise from Colonel Sanders, who was born in 1890, established Sanders Court and Cafe in 1930 and founded the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in 1952. This was most likely just for laughs, however.
  • The liberated attitudes of the women in the show, and the casual acceptance of these attitudes by the men.
    • Somewhat justified however, as Almanzo's sister Eliza was a teacher and homesteader in her own right, who wanted women to vote.
  • In "Dearest Albert, I'll Miss You", a girl says she was the captain of the girls' basketball team in her school. This is 20 years before the sport was invented (1891).
  • "To See the Light, Part II" has Charles tell Mary he has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that she ate them when she was little. Peanut butter wasn't to be invented for another 20 years. This got a mention in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
  • One character talks about having a Waldorf salad. This was 10 years or more before the Waldorf salad was invented.
  • Catalogues seen in the general store didn't come into use for 20 years after the events of the show were supposed to have taken place.
  • In "Fagin", when the episode's titular bull is first seen fully grown, a modern cattle tag is visible on Fagin's ear.
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  • On a trip to San Francisco to see the ocean in "The Odyssey", Charles gets a ride from a man who is supposed to be William Randolph Hearst. He was born in 1863 and would have been a boy at the time the scene took place.
  • Commercial wrapping paper is seen in many episodes, but was not available until 1917.
  • Mrs. Oleson's job as a switchboard operator in the sixth season. The telephone was invented in 1877, so the setting of the series works, however it's unlikely most people in small-town Minnesota would have been able to afford a phone, let alone have the infrastructure in place to support a switchboard.
  • The season 8 episode "Fight, Team, Fight", is centered around a former college football star who becomes Walnut Grove's new youth football coach. The episode is set in 1881, yet the coach is in his mid-40s, and football was not yet invented at the time he would have been in college.
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  • Michael Landon's famously thick curls and the longish, elaborately feathered hair on several of the other male characters (Albert and Almanzo in particular) are clearly characteristic of the 1970's, not a hundred years earlier. Real frontier men of the era generally kept their hair cropped very short, and often wore elaborate facial hair; in fact the real Charles Ingalls had a long full beard. You could get away with long hair if you were a really flamboyantly masculine character—think General Custer—but the show is supposed to be spotlighting very ordinary, conservative character types. Landon outright refused to hide his face under a beard (save a Beard of Sorrow in "He Was Only Twelve"), and also chose to rock his 70's perm until the final season, where he stopped dyeing his hair black to help exemplify how a harsh winter had aged his character and the curls gave way to the feathery look mentioned previously.


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