Category Archives: Vintage Photographs

1930s Rubber Bathing Cap

Almost as soon as women took to the water as bathers, they tried to come up with a reasonable solution to keeping their hair dry.   According to my search of the US Patent Office data base, the first rubber bathing cap was patented in 1887.  Over the next thirty-five years or so, bathing caps looked a lot like a present-day shower cap, with a lot of loose space in the cap to accommodate a women’s long hair.

But as hair styles got shorter in the 1920s, the rubber bathing cap became more fitted to the head.  By the 1930s rubber bathing caps looked very similar to the ones that can be bought today.   For that reason, bathing caps are really hard to accurately date.

The cap above was a very lucky find.  I pulled it out of a bin at the Goodwill outlet – a bin of “hard goods” such as plastic toys, video tapes, cookie tins, and all the other stuff people get rid  of.  It was a small miracle that it survived the last eighty years, but most of all, that it survived the mad scramble of Goodwill shoppers in their quest to find a bit of treasure in the bins.

Inside, the only marks were the numbers, 801232.  I thought that it could possibly be a patent number, but unfortunately it was not.  Also note the rubber bands across the opening.  These were thought to help keep water out.  I found dozens of patents for these “seals,” all just a bit different, all an “improvement” over the others.

I have a 1930s Kleinert’s catalog that is not dated, but it did have an interesting bit of information.  It mentioned that Kleinert’s caps were of the new seamless style.  Two of the caps are shown above, and you can see how similar in style they are to my cap, but my cap has two seams that run front to back.

Here is a similar cap shown in a 1932 fashion illustration in Vogue magazine.  Because it is a drawing, there is no way to tell if it was seamed or not, but it does show that this style was used over the course of several years.

In this rather unfortunate photograph, the woman is wearing an early to mid 1930s style swimsuit along with a similar style cap, but with a strap.

The photo above was taken in the late 1920s as an ad for a summer cap.  You can clearly see the seam in the side of one bathing cap, and it is not as sleek as mine or the ones illustrated that are from the 1930s.

My best guess is that my cap dates from the early 1930s.  The earliest patent for making an unseamed cap  is dated 1932.  I’d never given a seam much thought, but a quick look through my caps showed all of the ones from the 1940s and more recent were all seamless.  It must have been a big improvement.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing, Vintage Photographs

Vintage Miscellany – February 2, 2014

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Snow isn’t meant to be endured; it’s meant to be enjoyed.  At least that’s what you might gather from these two early 1920s sledders.  I love their caps, which are from the WWI era battleship, the USS Pennsylvania.  Presents from sailor boyfriends, perhaps?

*   Many of Elsa Schiaparelli’s personal items were auctioned in January, and you can see the lots and prices realized on the Christie’s website.  One lot, a box of patterns, or toiles, was generating a lot of excitement, but then it was discovered that the box dated from the 1950s, and the patterns were most likely for boutique items.  Still, the price realized was $77,000.

*   Coach has won another battle in the war against counterfeits.  They won a $5.5 million settlement from  a Florida flea market where vendors have been selling fake Coach (and other brands).   The word might be getting out.  On my latest flea market visit I saw no fake bags being sold.

*   Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol is now open at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in London.  I don’t anticipate being in London this spring (darn it) so I’m hoping you UK readers will go and report back about how wonderful this exhibition is.  I’ve read great things about it already.

*   The Paris couture shows have just ended, so it is a good time to look at this video on the making of a dress from Dior’s 2011 spring season.

*   I enjoyed reading this bit of history of Hunter’s of Brora, makers of Scottish estate tweeds.

*   And even more Scotland, there is an interesting video about Made in Scotland goods for the fashion industry.

*   I was lucky enough to stumble across Cooper-Hewitt’s web feature, the Object of the Day.  It’s rather irritating that I had somehow missed this, but on the other hand, now I’ve got hours of great listening while doing mindless sewing.  My favorite so far is A Modern Masters Dress.

*   In 1908 photographer Lewis Hine was in North Carolina, documenting child labor in cotton mills.  His young subjects were largely unidentified, but historian Joe Manning has spent the past five years trying to put names with the images.  Here is one success story in which a young girl in one of his most famous photos is identified.

*  Blogger and historical pattern developer Kass McGann and her husband are planning a walking trip in the UK wearing all vintage reproduction clothing.  Following the development of her wardrobe sounds like fun.

*   New York Times fashion editor Cathy Horyn is retiring due to health problems of her partner.  Her critical eye will be missed.

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Filed under Vintage Miscellany, Vintage Photographs

Dressing for Winter

Snow has started across the Northern Hemisphere, and it looks like I’ll be getting a taste of it later this week.   To celebrate winter, the Weather Channel has a photo essay of winter sportswear from the past.  There are some great photos, even though a few of them are dated incorrectly.

I’m only posting about it so I can show off the mention of The Vintage Traveler in the article and the link back to my blog.  I’m on the fifth page of the article.  Is this my fifteen seconds of fame?

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Filed under Vintage Photographs, Winter Sports

Kodakery, for Amateur Picture Makers

So, how did companies get their message across back in the dark ages before the internet and social media?  Very often they spread the word through printed material in the form of catalogs and booklets containing useful information about the product.  The assumption was that if you gave customers a little booklet or some other thing (with the company name printed on it of course) they would be likely to save it and be reminded of the company.

It must have worked because any good flea market or antique mall has several vendors who have boxes of this old advertising material to rummage through.  And I’m the kind of person who will stand there for what seems like hours, sifting through old maps, recipe booklets, housecleaning hint booklets and hardware catalogs just to find one gem that makes my day.

Usually all it takes is a cover photo like this one on Kodakery, a booklet published by Eastman Kodak from 1913 through 1932, to attract my attention.  I’d never seen nor heard of this little publication, but there is a lot of information online, including several sites that have downloads of complete issues.  If interested, google Kodakery and you’ll see what I mean.

This particular issue had an article on how to take (or “make” as the booklet puts it) good vacation photos.

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There were also features on photographing children (with the offer of another booklet on the topic)  and nature studies.  But my favorite was a photo montage titled “About Dogs – And One Cat!  Companionship stories told by companionable Kodaks”

I’ve read that George Eastman realized early on that his products might better be marketed toward women than toward men.  He saw that it was women who were the keepers of scrapbooks and journals, and who would be interested in recording the history of their families.  That is why in so many of the early Kodak ads, it is a woman who is holding the camera, making the picture, recording the history.

Not that the men were neglected, but the copy of the ad does seem to appeal to “female sensibilities.”

KEEP YOUTH! Keep romance.  Keep all these precious, fleeting moments alive forever…

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Filed under Collecting, Vintage Photographs

Ad Campaign – Kodak Camera, 1923

Winter Calls Your Kodak

There’s a tang to the air and a zest to the occasion that give life and action to the pictures you make.   Winter prints contribute prized pages to your album.  And it’s all easy the Kodak way – and all fun.

By 1923, cameras were becoming a part of life, and people had gone from having their photo taken rarely to having the ability to document the important and fun things in their lives.   Still, it wasn’t like the ever-present digital camera of today.  I imagine she got her group shot, got into the sleigh and thought no more about photos for a while as she was having too much fun to think about the photos she was missing.

A new survey says that Facebook is hurting self-esteem.  Not surprised.

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Thoughts on Snapshots

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I think we were all a little hard on photographs yesterday, so I thought I’d do a post in praise of them.  Not modern photos, of course; I’m going to praise the vintage snapshot.

Last week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art there were some small gallerys filled with old snapshots.  I was delighted to read that they were part of the massive collection of Peter J. Cohan, a collector I’ve read about several times over the past year.  Cohan began looking through and buying vintage snapshots at flea markets in 1990.  He did not look for any particular thing, but instead he just wanted to buy what seemed interesting to him.

Twenty-three years and over 35,000 photos later, museums, including the Met,  are starting to acquire parts of the collection.  The display has the photos arranged in quirky categories: kids with cigarettes, women with guns, women boxing.

Edwardian mooners

Just like Mommy

Two variations on a theme

If it is there, they will climb it

What is it that makes vintage photos so much fun?  Sometimes it is the spontaneity, but all these photos were staged.  Perhaps it is that, unlike today where we can snap and re-snap until we like the result, the photographer of yesteryear knew she or he really had only one or two takes to get it right, and there was no way to know if it was right until the photos were returned by the developer.

Then when the photos came, all the exposures were included, mistakes and all.  Today, many people never even print their photos, and when they do, only the best are picked to become hard copies.  I took over 250 photos in New York, but only had 35 of them printed.  And that was after I’d deleted hundreds more.

I think that most vintage photo collectors are like me, that is they do look for specific things in the old photos they acquire.  I may just follow Cohan’s example and be a little more open to the fun and the oddball.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Museums, Vintage Photographs

Blogging Comments

I want to take the time to thank everyone who has posted comments lately.  Your comments are sometimes the very best part of part of this blog, and I especially love it when you all start sharing those memories.  I don’t intentionally post things that I think will bring out memories, and so I’m always pleased when it happens.

A while back I had an email conversation with Susan, who comments here as Fashion Witness.  It was about the importance of preserving our fashion memories.  As important as these digital conversations are, I do hope that you are also sharing your memories with the younger generation.  When I was teaching I would often tell the kids about life in the 1960s and 70s, and of course that included how we dressed.  One of the best questions I was ever asked by an eleven-year-old was, “Mrs. Bramlett, were the Sixties really groovy?”

I was recently sent a digital review copy of an upcoming book that was written by a very popular fashion blogger.   I’ll not be reviewing the book because reading about how a girl lost her virginity to an ex-boyfriend, and her many mishaps with dealing with her period are not my cup of tea.  But I did check out her blog, and was struck at how different most of her reader comments were from the ones here at The Vintage Traveler.  There was a lot of “OMG you are so cute,” and “I love your purse.  Please check out my blog.”  I’m so grateful to have readers who take the time to leave thought-provoking comments.  Seriously, it makes you less of a reader, and more of a friend.

 

 

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Filed under Summer Sports, Viewpoint, Vintage Photographs