Category Archives: Curiosities

My New Favorite Martex Design

Look familiar?  If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a month, then you’ll recognize this Martex design from a earlier post where I showed a modern dress that used a modified version of a Mid Century Martex print found on a linen towel.  I was delighted to get the same towel, but in blue in the mail the other day.

It was a gift from Mod Betty of Retro Roadmap, who had found the dress that sparked my original post.  Sometimes I think I ought to put Mod Betty (along with a few others who are always sending great leads my way) on the payroll.  But then I remember that there is no payroll, so MB ends up getting paid the same as I do.

I find the current obsession with mid 20th century design to be interesting, and a bit amusing.  Being born in 1955, I was surrounded with “modern” design.  When a generation that had not been as exposed to this design rediscovered it ten or fifteen years ago, I thought it a bit odd.  What was so commonplace to me looked fresh and exciting to their eyes.  And I can see that they were right.

I can’t see myself living in a house surrounded by the artifacts of my childhood, but I look at the Mid Century houses of so many of my online friends and I can easily see the appeal of the style.  I realize that I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by good design.  Well, except for the lamps, and I’m sorry, but the Fifties and Sixties saw the birth of some mighty ugly lamps.

I bet there is a black version of this one.

 

When  it comes to textile design, I really think that the designers of the 1940s through 60s were at the top of the game.  The simplicity of these Martex towels say “Cocktail Time” without the overly cutesy-ness of similar designs being made today.

Thanks so much, Beth!

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints

Outdoor Sports and Pastimes, Peck & Snyder, 1886

I’ve tried limiting my collecting to 1914 and later, but I can’t turn down an opportunity to learn about older sportswear, and to occasionally to buy a piece.  I recently ran across an 1886 catalog by sporting goods company Peck & Snyder.  I didn’t know a thing about the company, but thanks to the internet I can tell you that  Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder opened their business in New York City shortly after the end of the American Civil War.  Their claim to fame is the introduction of the baseball card, which they first mass produced in 1869.

The catalog is quite large, and includes both sporting goods and  other amusements like magic lanterns and costumes for fancy dress balls.  Most of the products are geared toward men, and while there are things for women, one has to look for them.  What is most interesting is how women are portrayed in the catalog.  The illustration above is typical in that women engaged in leisure activities, even more active ones than lying in a hammock chair, are dressed as they would be for other, more formal activities.

I guess a lady never lifts her feet onto the hammock.  I’m just wondering how she kept from sliding out of it!

But it wasn’t just women who were wearing regular attire while exercising.  Note that the man on the bicycle movement machine is wearing a vest.  At least he is not having to wear a corset.

It might seem odd that there were exercise machines available for home use in 1886.  I imagine these were purchased by the very affluent.  I know that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville (built by one of the Vanderbilts) has a gym with all kinds of equipment.  That house was built in the 1890s.

The Biltmore House also has a two lane bowling alley.  Peck & Snyder sold balls and pins, though the Biltmore ones came from the Brunswick bowling company. Again, note the clothing, especially of the woman who is getting ready to roll her ball.

The catalog does have illustrations of women wearing proper gym attire.  Ironically, they do not sell it, though there are quite a few pages of men’s athletic clothing for sale.

Those shirts might look like the form of a woman, but they are men’s “quarter sleeve worsted shirts” meaning they were made from worsted wool.

Some of the shoes are unisex.  Here is a selection of tennis shoes.

Peck & Snyder included quite a few pages of skates, both roller and ice.  The bicycle craze was just getting started, so there were only two models, both with the big front wheel.

There were pages of wool, silk, and cotton stockings and tights, which seem to be for men.  I found this interesting because I recently found a very old pair of striped wool stockings that I felt had to have been a sports piece.

Women’s gym outfits like the one above are very hard to find, but there is one in the up-coming Karen Augusta sale.  I wonder how one did jumping jacks with all those layers?

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear

Aunt Hannah’s Knit Stockings

I love surprises, especially when they concern a vintage item I’ve bought.  An example is this pair of vintage cotton hand knit stockings.  They came from the same estate as the gym shirt I wrote about last week. and they appear to have never been worn.

I was examining these, getting ready to research the style and such when I felt something crunch inside one of the stockings.  I gently put my hand in it and pulled out a scrap of paper.

“Aunt Hannah knit these.”  Usually when I buy a piece of vintage I have no information at all about who was the maker or the wearer.  And while the note gives only a name and relationship, it does at least somewhat humanize the stockings.  Someone cared enough about Aunt Hannah to document her work, though I’d have loved a last name and date to go along with it.

It is my guess that these were made in that short period of time, the 1910s, when skirts were slowly inching upward and women were wanting nicer stockings since they could be seen.  But since the pattern stops at mid-calf, the skirts that was to be worn with these could not have been more than five or six inches from the floor. The top of the stocking comes to just below the knee, and would have been held up with garters.

They look short, but the size of the foot indicates that they were not made for a child.  Perhaps they were made for a young woman or teen whose skirts were short, but not too short for the era.

Such skill!  Knitters always make it look so easy, but Aunt Hannah had to have had a very fine hand and very tiny needles.

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1920s Spalding Ted Shirt

Last week I got to take in the big Liberty, NC Antiques Fair.  Actually it is more like a big flea market where most of the stuff is old.  It’s usually not the best place to find clothes because it is outside and some dealers don’t like to exhibit clothing out in the weather, but I have found some fabulous things there over the years.

The first booth I came to had the dealers still pulling bins of textiles off their truck.  There must have been over a dozen big plastic binds full of clothing and linens from the past 125 years.  According to the seller they cleaned out the clothing from an estate and this was everything in the house.  There was no rhyme or reason to the packing of the bins.  You might have one with Victorian underwear and 1940s kids’ clothes together.

So I settled in to go through all the bins, and I was rewarded with some really interesting items.  One was this shirt from sportswear maker, A.G. Spalding.  It looks a bit odd, kind of like a shirt with legs.  I knew I’d seen a similar one in an ad in a 1929 EveryGirl’s magazine.

As you can see, in this ad from Man O’ War, it was called a ted shirt, which I assume is a cross between a teddy and a shirt.  Even though it is shown without a bottom in the ad, I assume it would be worn with bloomers.

I think this ted shirt is also from the late 1920s, with the popular round collar that is also seen on dresses from this era.  Also, the label is very similar to another Spalding suit from the late Twenties that I have in my collection.

Note how the top of the opening is shaped like a V and fastens beneath the collar.

As in the ad, there are curved shirt tails.

It looks like the purpose of the ted shirt was to keep the tails of it neatly tucked inside the bloomers, rather like the bodysuit of the 1970s.

Click to enlarge

Here’s the entire ad.

I’ll be sharing some of the other great sportswear I got from this dealer in the coming days.

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Filed under Curiosities, Sportswear

1920s, 1930s Parkside Hat

This hat serves as a lesson that not every piece of historical clothing fits the rules of what defines an era. These photos were sent to me by Mary Jane of Poppy’s Vintage Clothing because she thought I’d love the label.

And she was so right!  Even though this was not a hat for golf, Parkside was using the image of a golfing woman in what was a popular way to promote products in the 1920s.  Susan at Witness2Fashion wrote a post several months ago about how the image of a golfing woman was commonly used in the 1920s as a symbol of the modern woman.

Which leads us to the problem of dating this hat.  The style of the hat seems to be very early 1930s, but the label and the way the hat is constructed on the inside seem to say 1920s.

Until the 1930s, hats were generally fully lined.  The label was usually a large woven piece that matched the rest of the lining.  Such is the case in this hat.  As the cloche began to shrink in the early 1930s, hats were generally not lined, and had a small woven ribbon label sew in.

The image of the woman golfer also looks to be 1920s.  She is wearing a cloche and knickers.

This hat is sort of a cloche, but the back looks to be a bit short.  It is possible that it was meant to be worn more on the back of the head, as the last 1920s brought about a slow trend toward showing a bit of the forehead.

I looked in all my sources to see if there were any hats like this one shown for the mid 1920s or later, but I pretty much did not find any examples.  As the 1920s came to a close, hats were almost helmet-like, with tiny or no brims at all.  This helmet cloche did not disappear on the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1930.  Even in 1931 it was still occasionally seen in fashion magazines.

So when exactly was this hat made?  I’m not enough of a hat expert to say, but my best guess is late 1920s or early 30s.  I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

The Eveready Sportsman’s Hand Book, Circa 1914

Never judge a booklet by its cover, I say.  Attracted by the woman in her middy dress, I opened this up to find some great illustrations of sportswomen, not men.

Eveready traces their roots to 1896, but the company was not called Eveready until 1914.  They had obtained the patent for the flashlight which they produced along with the batteries to power them.

Click to enlarge

This little promotional booklet really does have hints for the sportsperson, but the best parts are the illustrations along with poems that describe each scenario.  The “girl” in each is holding and using her Eveready to help her in her quest for sport and health.  Note that the Sight-Seeing Girl seems to be in charge of the tour of the ancient ruins.

 

The Motor Boat Girl needs no headlamp as long as she has her Eveready handy.

The Hunting Girl is not afraid because she is fully equipped with her flashlight. Of course toting a firearm might add to the secure feeling as well.

Night fishing, anyone?

And of course The Camping Girl is in charge of the cooking pot.

The Motoring Girl is most useful when holding the Eveready for the man who can fix her motorcar. And note the hint of Motoring Girl’s reckless driving!

 

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1960s Surfer Shorty Cap from Kleinert’s

Occasionally a find will come along that defies all you thought you knew about a subject.  In this case the object is the Surfer Shorty Cap.  For decades the purpose of the bathing cap was to keep the hair dry, but there is no pretense that this cap will even cover the head, much less keep water out of the hair.

 

What it does do is keep the hair in place, plus it ties with a sporty under-the-chin bow.

There is no date on the package, but from the illustration and the name of the product, this is surely from the early to mid 1960s .  In the early 1960s, possibly starting with the movie Gidget in 1959, there was somewhat of a surfing craze.  The Beach Boys formed in 1961, singing about “Surfin’ USA,” and “Surfer Girl” and Jan and Dean came along in 1963 with “Surf City.”  The Beach Party movie franchise with Frankie and Annette started in 1963.

The people at Kleinert’s must have looked on in horror as Sandra Dee hopped on her surfboard bareheaded, with just a ponytail to keep her locks in place.  Some how the idea of  a surfer’s cap materialized, even though the impetuous surfer girl would not have inclinations toward such a thing.

So the Surfer Shorty Cap was a new one on me.  I’ve not found any advertising for it, and I’ve not seen anything like it in my 1960s fashion magazines.  Anyone with memories of the 1960s recall this one?

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Summer Sports