Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation, c. 1915

Click to enlarge

One of the great joys of the Goodwill Outlet bins is the over-abundance of books. I never leave the place without a stack of them, most of which I read and then pass on or re-donate. A while back I found an interesting volume, Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story. Of course it went into my cart, because as the subtitle promised, it was full of wonderful illustrations.

There’s no date on this book, but the Leslie-Judge Company published an annual Caricature starting around 1895. Several of the illustrations in this particular book are dated 1915, and so my guess it is from that year, or perhaps a year later.

The sporting life was a popular theme. Maybe it’s because members of the leisured classes were a bit of an easy target for humorists of the day. I’ll admit that the humor is often dated, and would leave many modern readers scratching their heads. But I’m in it for the pictures, not the jokes.

There are lots of illustrations of people swimming, and the bathing suits are incredibly modern for 1915. From what I’ve seen in the many circa 1915 photos I’ve examined, most women at the beach were still in long, woven wool or cotton bathing suits, not the sleek knit ones seen above.

This one is especially skimpy. Do you suppose the man is her father and is getting ready to lock her in the bath house?

Here the young women are still wearing their schoolgirl middy blouses. This was a common look for tennis and golf. Notice that girl with the tennis racket is wearing a headband to control her hair.  As I wrote earlier, this is a look associated with the 1920s, so it seemed a bit early for this style to appear in print. I knew that the look was popularized by tennis star Suzanne Lenglen, and a quick google search found a 1914 article showing Lenglen wearing the famous bandeau.


Just as interesting as the sporting pictures are those showing well-off people at leisure.

Here we have three elegantly dressed promanaders…

and three more (bulldog included) who would rather be, well anywhere but on that boring boardwalk.  But these illustrations show how the fashion silhouette of 1915 was showing big changes over the previous years. The skirts are shorter with considerable fullness. And it seems obvious to me that stripes were very popular for seaside wear.

You do have to look at period illustrations with a questioning eye. Drawings are often exaggerated to make a point, as we see in the skimpy bathing suit drawing above. But look carefully, and you just might learn something, as I did with the tennis headband.



Filed under Curiosities, Currently Reading, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

13 responses to “Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation, c. 1915

  1. I love the variety of headwear in that first bathing suit group! That book is a real find — and it’s always wonderful to come across images that have been unseen for so many years…. Thanks for sharing them.


  2. Amy C.

    What a wonderful find, the illustrations are lovely!


  3. jacq staubs

    MORE GREAT FINDS! Yes as we have seen – the Midi really worked it’s way thru decades! I love the Board Walkers!


  4. Queen of the Goodwill bins! I like the fact that men are satirized as much as women. Don’t you love the rotund fellow in the striped suit who looks like a bumblebee?


  5. Phyl D

    Phyl D
    Wow, such fun illustrations! This has inspired me to take a closer look at old books, and magazines from that era the next time I visit my local antique store. I tend to focus more on mid-Twentieth Century fashion, but this has a charm all of its own…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Phyl D

    Of course, as you probably well know, Lizzie, that post cards, (piano) song books, and other paper ephemera from that era can sometimes offer sartorial clues, too….


  7. Dee

    Wonderful illustrations!

    I always found the association between Lenglen and Patou and the effect on 20s fashion interesting.


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