These Were The Last Living People Born In The 1800s

In the year 1899, the word "automobile" first appeared in The New York Times, aspirin was patented, and Mt. Rainier National Park was founded, according to On This Day. It's easy to think that 1899 was a completely different world, but it was also the most popular birth year for the oldest living humans on this list.

What does it take to become a supercentenarian, a person older than 110? It probably helps to be a woman. Eleven out of 12 supercentenarians on this list are female. In 2015, 95% of the world's oldest people were women, according to Stanford Researchers (via Yahoo News). They found that estrogen helped regenerate stem cells in the brain, and other researchers found that iron deficiency during menstruation prevented aging.

In addition, three out of this list are from Japan and were born a few years after the first Sino-Japanese War. Japan has one of the world's highest life expectancies, and on Japan's infamous island of youth, Okinawa, one village had 15 centenarians, according to a 2020 article in National Geographic.

Whatever might be the cause behind extreme longevity, lets take a look at 12 of these supercentenarians who held the last vestiges of a long-departed century. 

Evelyn Kozak

Once the oldest-living Jewish person in the world, Evelyn Kozak was born on August 14, 1899, in New York City. The child of immigrants, her parents fled Russia to escape anti-Semitism, according to The Times of Israel, moving to Manhattan's Lower East Side. Kozak herself married twice and had five children, 10 grandchildren, many great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

She spent most of her adult life in Miami and ran a boarding house there until she was 90. Her hobbies included reading and playing Scrabble, which she quit when she turned 95. She relocated again to Brooklyn in her later years and lived with her granddaughter, to whom Kozak asked for matchmaking help. At 111, Kozak wanted to remarry, but when proposed the idea of dating a 115-year-old man living in Israel, Kozak reportedly said he was too old. "I don't want to be alone in my old age," she reportedly said, according to The New York Times.

In 2009, Pittsburgh City Council President Doug Shields named August 5 in Pittsburgh as "Evelyn Kozak Day" in honor of her 110 birthday, making her the oldest Pittsburgh resident at the time, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

She died of a heart attack on June 11, 2013. She was the world's seventh oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group (via The Times of Israel).

Jiroemon Kimura

When Jiroemon Kimura passed away in 2013 at the age of 116, the Guinness World Records recognized him as the oldest man to have ever lived in recorded history, according to BBC News. He had seven children, 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

He was born on April 19, 1897, in Kyoto prefecture of west Japan. He started working at his local post office at the age of 14 and retired from the same job at 65. For the rest of his life, until he was 90, he helped his son with farm work, according to The Guardian.

He became the world's oldest person in 2012 but only lived to enjoy the accomplishment for six months, according to the Irish Times. Kimura credited his longevity to sunlight and the outdoors. "Maybe it's all thanks to the sun above me. I am always looking up towards the sky, that is how I am," he said (via BBC News). According to The Guardian, he also credited his old age to waking up early and reading newspapers. His personal motto was "eat light to live long" (via Guinness World Records).

Mitsue Nagasaki

At 113-years-old, Mitsue Nagasaki became the oldest in Hiroshima prefecture, according to the Hiroshima based paper Chugoku Shimbun. She held the title since August 2011. She was born in Kumamoto in 1899 and later moved to Kure, where she got married and had two children. She was outlived by two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun

Her early life encompassed the Taisho era (1912-1926), which The Japan Times call Japan's "jazz age." It was a time of democratization and modernization, and Nagasaki would have experienced changing norms for Japanese women, including the introduction of the "moga," the Japanese version of a flapper. But as the Taisho era came to a close, the 1925 Universal Law of Male Suffrage prevented women from voting, and Japan would later embrace militarism and a totalitarian state, according to the University of Colorado.

Like other high-achieving centenarians, she walked every day and made sure to have three meals every day. She passed away on June 17, 2013.

Soledad Mexia

Soledad Mexia was both the oldest person born in Mexico and California's oldest resident when she died in 2013 at the age of 114, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

She was born on August 13, 1899, in Sinaloa, Mexico. She was orphaned and raised by her sister. Mexia loved to sleep, sing, and watch "novelas," as reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune, and spent most of her life as a homemaker. As one would expect, Mexia followed a healthy diet and didn't have any long-standing health problems. Her granddaughter said that "she never took one pill for anything" (via The Philadelphia Inquirer).

Mexia kept her memories of a bygone world alive by recounting them with family. These included the Mexican Revolution, which she witnessed when she was around 10-years-old. She talked fondly about the rations her people were forced to eat after the government closed its borders, saying it was the best food she had ever eaten (via The San Diego Union-Tribune).

She had dreams of becoming an opera singer, but they weren't approved by her family. When she married her husband, a carpenter who constructed theater sets, she was able to watch opera performances for free. Her husband died in 1955. She received her United States citizenship at the age of 100. Mexia didn't credit anything specific for her longevity. "It's just God's will. God wants me to be this age. He just wants me here," she reportedly said.

Naomi Conner

Naomi Conner was the oldest living Texan before she died at the age of 114 in 2013 near Waco, according to Kera News. She was born in August 1899, which means she would have just missed the Great Blizzard of 1899 that brought about the coldest temperatures in Texan history, according to the National Weather Service. Spry into her old age, Conner folded laundry until she was 113 and diligently attended church up until her death, according to the Waco Tribune Herald.

Having worked in the fields when she was younger, Conner kept an active lifestyle. She was known as a tough lady who raised her own livestock and could knock a bull out by hitting him between the eyes, according to her granddaughter Bennie Henderson (via the Waco Tribune Herald). Conner's favorite saying was, "If a task is once begun, never leave until it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all."

Conner's family encompasses six generations, and she's remembered by family and friends as a social butterfly who would greet everyone with a smile, according to Henderson. Just after her 114th birthday, she was honored by State Representative Charles Anderson with a plaque, naming her the oldest living Texan.

Grace Adelaide Jones

Grace Adelaide Jones was Great Britain's oldest living person before she passed away at 112 in 2019, according to BBC News. Jones had been a fixture of British media and was interviewed numerous times and once recollected her vivid memories of Armistice Day after the end of World War I. During an interview with BBC News, she described being taken by her eldest sister to the streets where people wearing union jacks danced in celebration, and open tram cars rode by with singing passengers, heralding the end of war. "It was lovely!" Jones said about that monumental day in history. Her brother, Tom, died fighting during the Gallipoli campaign.

The daughter of a vicar, Jones married an engineer in 1933. Her husband died in 1986 at the age of 79. They had one daughter. In an interview with The Daily Mail UK, Jones said her best memory was on her wedding day.

Her secret to longevity was a single malt whiskey with water every night. "I've been having it every night for the last 60 years, and I certainly have no intention of stopping now," she said to the Daily Mail.

Bernice Madigan

Bernice Madigan was the oldest Massachusetts resident when she died in 2015 at the age of 115. She was also the fifth oldest person in the world. When asked about her ranking, she joked, "Well, there are few ahead ... they have to die off," according to local paper iBerkshires.

She was born on July 24, 1899, in Massachusetts and graduated high school in 1918. She attended the inauguration of Warren G. Harding, a memory she liked to recall during her later years, according to the Berkshire Eagle. Madigan moved to Washington, D.C. during World War I to work as a federal government secretary in the U.S. Treasury Department, after President Woodrow Wilson called for women to get involved, according to National Geographic. She retired in 1941. Madigan was a lifelong Republican and considered Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower her favorite presidents. When the 19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote, Madigan said she remembered being "tickled pink," according to iBerkshires. But since she was a D.C. resident, Madigan had to wait an extra 17 years to vote.

Her genome was mapped out by scientists with the Archon Genomics X Prize Competition in 2012 in an effort to find causes behind longevity. Madigan said at the time that she didn't feel any older than she did at 100, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

Misao Okawa

Misao Okawa inherited the title of oldest living person when Jiroemon Kimura died in 2013 (via BBC News) and was already considered the oldest living woman at the time, according to The Guardian. She lived to be 117 and died on April 1, 2015, according to Reuters, making her the third oldest Japanese person ever, according to Reuters.

Okawa was born on March 5, 1898, and was the daughter of a kimono maker, according to CBS News. Okawa was born the same year that the U.S. annexed the Hawaiian Islands, according to Reuters. When asked how it felt living for 117 years, Okawa said, "It seemed rather short," according to The Guardian.

She got married in 1919 and had two daughters and a son. At the time of her death, she had four grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Her husband died in 1931. Instead of crediting her longevity to a good diet — as most would assume — she said she ate what she "feels like eating" (via The Guardian), which included pickled mackerel sushi.

Gertrude Weaver

In April 2015, Gertrude Weaver became the oldest woman alive, inheriting Misao Okawa's title. Only five days after accomplishing this feat, Weaver passed away at the age of 116, according to NPR. Weaver was born to sharecroppers in Arkansas in 1898. She celebrated her birthday on the Fourth of July, although her actual birthday may have been in April, making her only a month younger than Okawa, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Weaver worked as a maid and lived much of her life in Arkansas. She credited her longevity to "treating everybody good," and eating her own cooking, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Robert Young, an administrator for the Gerontology Research Group and a consultant for Guinness World Records, verified her age with the 1900 U.S. Census Records, which means she was 2-years-old when it was taken. This also means she was only 3-years-old when President William McKinley was assassinated.

At the time of her last birthday, Weaver said her greatest wish was to shake President Barack Obama's hand. 

Jerulean Talley

Jerulean Talley was born on May 23, 1899, in Georgia and became the world's oldest person in April 2015, according to the Detroit Free Press. The same year of Talley's birth, trailblazing journalist Ida B. Wells published "Lynch Law in Georgia" to raise awareness about racism in Georgia and throughout the South, according to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Talley lived by the Golden Rule of treating others as you want to be treated, according to the Detroit Free Press. A deeply religious person and a member of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, she credited God for her long life, saying about her longevity, "There's nothing I can do about it."

She was born in Montrose, Georgia, and moved to Michigan in the 1930s. Her husband passed away in 1988. Talley's hobbies included fishing, gardening, and mowing, which she did late into her life. She also enjoyed bowling until she was 104, and she lived alone until she was 109, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Susannah Mushatt Jones

Susannah Mushatt Jones died on May 12, 2016, at the age of 116 and was once the oldest person alive, reports the New York Times. Born on July 6, 1899, Jones was raised in Lowndes County, Alabama. She graduated high school in 1922, in which one of her school subjects was "Negro Music in France," according to Time. Jones' dreams of becoming a teacher fell short because of finances, but she would later help establish a college scholarship for Black students called The Calhoun Club. Instead, Jones established a career in child care when she moved to New York City, and she didn't have any children herself, 

Jones didn't have a secret to longevity and even refused extensive healthcare, including colonoscopies and mammograms. On the other hand, she never smoked or drank and slept at least 10 hours a night. She credited her long life to her belief in God, according to Time. Her diet may have not been the cause of her longevity, either; her favorite breakfast was a hearty all-American one, consisting of bacon, scrambled eggs, and grits. In fact, she sometimes stored a piece of cooked bacon in a napkin for later. Her personality didn't wither away with time; Jones continued to invest in quality lingerie her niece told Time. During electrocardiography tests, Jones' doctors were surprised to find her wearing expensive undergarments.

Jones was the last American born in the 19th century.

Emma Morano

Emma Morano was the last living person to have been born in the 1800s, according to BBC News. She was born on November 29, 1899, in Civiasco, Italy, and later moved to Verbania. Although Italy had seen its fair share of upheaval during Morano's lifetime, she didn't spend time recalling political memories. Instead, she preferred relating memories of her family, according to The New York Times.

For someone as special as Morano, her secret to longevity must equally be so: three raw eggs consumed a day, a routine she's kept since she was a teenager. The New York Times estimates that she has had 100,000 eggs in her 117 years. Morano also credits her long life to the divorce she had in 1938 to end an unhappy marriage. According to her personal doctor in an interview with AP (via NPR), Morano married during Italy's fascist era, when men were encouraged to be domineering, and women were expected to subject. Morano was content as a single woman ever since. Her longevity must have also been a genetic one; one sister of hers lived to 102 and another nearly reached 100, according to The New York Times.

When she was 115, Morano's doctor boasted about her perfect health. Like Susannah Mushatt Jones, Morano seemed resistant to extensive healthcare and refused to visit hospitals. When Jones died, Morano inherited the title of the world's oldest living person, according to NPR.