Category Archives: Vintage Photographs

National Park Seminary: A School for Girls

The book I’m sharing today is enough to make me clean house a bit more often.  That’s because I found this one among my husband’s books which are usually in a bit of disarray.  The root of the problem is that we are both book lovers, and we have outgrown the two floor-to-ceiling shelves that cover two entire walls in his office.  We’ve decided to add more shelving, and so we are sorting through books, and that when I turned up A School For Girls.

The National Park Seminary was a private two year program for young women of means.  When this book was published in 1924, the school was being called a junior college, but in reality it was more of a finishing school.  There were several courses that girls could take, all of which were heavy on the arts and on homemaking skills.  There was also a four year high school program.

National Park Seminary, commonly referred to as The Glen School, started life as a hotel.  When the hotel failed in 1894, the property was purchased and converted into the school.   The facility was spread over ninety acres and consisted of around thirty buildings, many of which were connected by covered walkways.

In 1924 the school seemed to be on firm footing, but the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression  took a heavy toll on the school.  It barely remained open, and in 1942 the school was closed when the US Army bought the property.  It was established as part of Walter Reed Army Hospital as a rehabilitation  facility for disabled soldiers returning from WWII.

My husband does not remember where he got the book, but he does know why he bought it.  He was stationed at Walter Reed in the early 1970s.  The research facility in which he worked was located near the old school, and he and his co-workers would regularly go to the cafeteria there.   By that time the facility was severely underfunded by the army, but Tim still remembers the buildings as being quite grand.

The army eventually closed the Forest Glen facility, and it fell into disrepair.  Today it is being restored, and the old school and hospital is now being converted to condos and apartments.  A Google images search shows both the decay and the newly restored buildings, and is quite amazing to look at.

The book seems to a catalog of sort for prospective students.  It outlines the courses, lays out the rules, and brags about the facility and the clientele.  As expected, the school was quite expensive, with a basic charge of $1375 ($19,100 today), but with many additional charges, including up to $100 ($1400 today) per course.  Girls had to have five references in order to be considered for admission.  Any girl who turned out to be a “difficult case” was “…promptly returned to her home.”

The book is full of photographs of the school and of the girls.  After a while the photos, which are obviously staged, start to look alike, and I’m guessing that the same girls were used over and over.

I’m sure that by now you have noticed that all the young women are wearing very similar dress.  While not a true uniform, each girls was instructed to have:

Four dresses cut after the style of the two-piece sailor dresses.

There was a Dress Circular that was supplied to the mothers of applicants that laid out in detail the particulars of dress that was accepted at the school.  In addition to the four middy dresses, my book gives a few general dress requirements:

Three simple dresses to be worn at evening dinner and Sundays at home.

One evening dress for formal parties.

One topcoat or a tailored coat suit for trips to Washington.

All jewelry is forbidden…

Unfortunately, the book does not go into detail about athletic wear, but the pictures pretty much tell the story.

This shows Indian club exercise in the gym.

Several sports teams were pictured, all wearing the identical middy and bloomer combination that we see in use in the gym.

But for riding, the proper attire was a riding jacket and jodhpurs.

Note the covered walkway.

And the middy dress worked well for tennis.

Finally, I want to share one of the courses that was offered in the home economics department – Laundry.  At first I wondered why a girl who could afford to go to an expensive finishing school would need to know how to do the laundry.  Silly me!

An interesting course that ought to be taken by any girl who would intelligently supervise such work in her own home.  Many an expensive article has been ruined because the necessary caution or advice could not be offered by the inexperienced housewife.

 

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Filed under Proper Clothing, 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