In the 19th century, most astronomers adopted an island universe model, in which our galaxy was the only object in an infinite space. They didn't know that the "spiral nebulae" were other galaxies. This model had the advantage of being dynamically stable (unlike Newton's infinite and uniform cosmology), and of avoiding the fact that Poisson's equation doesn't have unique solutions for an infinite and uniform universe. Ca. 1830, the geologist Lyell advocated a theory of uniformitarianism, in which the universe would have had uniform conditions going back infinitely far in time. There was some debate between Lyell and physicists such as Kelvin, who objected that the sun would have run out of energy, the earth would have lost its internal heat, and so on, but this was inconclusive because they didn't know enough thermodynamics and didn't know about the atomic nucleus.
But by 1850, the second law of thermodynamics had been formulated, and this would seem to have been solid proof that the universe could not possibly have existed for an infinite time in the past. (This level of understanding of thermodynamics would also, I'd imagine, allow them to show that stars would gradually evaporate out of the galaxy, since the velocity distribution would have a high-velocity tail.) Kelvin did attack Lyell with the second law, but it doesn't sound like people at the time appreciated that this was a decisive argument.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that it was decisive, and from 1850 to 1905, people should have been considering only cosmological models that used Newtonian mechanics and that stretched back a finite time into the past. Are such models possible?
For example, I suppose you could make a Newtonian big bang, in which, as many students today imagine, there was an explosion at a specific point in otherwise empty space. Extrapolating the motion of all particles back in time using the laws of physics, one would find their trajectories all converging on a point, then diverging from it again on the other side, i.e., it would look like a big crunch/big bang "singularity," -- it would be a singularity of the matter density, temperature, etc. Thermodynamically, it would look like an extreme thermodynamic fluctuation, which is no worse than the thermodynamic implausibility of the low-entropy big bang in modern GR-based theories. There would be an upper bound on ages of objects in today's universe, because everything was destroyed in the singularity.
Another possibility I can imagine is that you could start off with a universe containing an infinite amount of matter and an infinite amount of energy thermodynamically available to do work. After an infinite time, you would have expended an infinite amount of energy to do work, but you would still have an infinite amount left. The modern counterpart of this kind of thinking would be calculations of whether you can do an infinite calculation in various cosmological models (Dyson 1979, Krauss 1999).
Dyson, Time without end: Physics and biology in an open universe, Reviews of Modern Physics 51 (1979), pp. 447–460, doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.51.447; described in http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/end.html
Krauss and Starkman, 1999, Life, The Universe, and Nothing: Life and Death in an Ever-Expanding Universe, http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9902189