Category Archives: Camping and Hiking

Mammoth Cave Costume

Unidentified Mammoth Cave Costume, Library Special Collections, Western Kentucky University

Another presentation that focused on the history of southwestern Kentucky was given by Donna Parker, recently retired from the Western Kentucky University Library. Like most Americans, I knew of the great Mammoth Cave system, but it was a real surprise to learn that for close to a century, women visitors to the cave wore a special costume provided by the owners of the cave.

The cave was well-known by the 1840s. It was just one of many natural wonder destinations that well-off tourists traveled to experience, along with Niagara Falls, the Natural Bridge of Virginia, the Hudson River Valley, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Early on it must have been obvious that fashionable dress was dangerous in the cave. The owners developed a woman’s costume, consisting of a shortened dress with bloomers or trousers worn beneath.

The wearing of these costumes is well-documented in photographs, diaries, letters, and personal travel accounts. Many women expressed embarrassment at being forced to wear trousers, others saw it as just part of the experience.

Jennie Ray Younglove at Mammoth Cave

The Kentucky Museum has an exhibition on Mammoth Cave, and in it they included this photograph of a woman visitor. You can barely see the trousers beneath her skirt. One of the best sources of information were the photos taken of visitors to the cave. The WKU Library Special Collections has a nice selection of these, dating from the 1850s to the 1930s when the practice of providing costumes ended.

Kentucky Museum and Library Digital Collection

This photo is from the digital collection of the Kentucky Museum. Though undated, this photo is from around 1905, and maybe as late as 1912 or so. It’s interesting in how the costume has changed. The skirt was abandoned, the bloomers shortened. It could be that these women were accustomed to wearing bathing suits, were at that time were very similar to the cave costume.

Unfortunately, the museum has not been able to locate any extant cave costumes. It’s possible that as things changed and women became more accustomed to wearing bloomers, the oldest costumes were remade into the more abbreviated versions seen above. At any rate, there was a fire in 1916 at the Mammoth Cave Hotel, and it is possible the remaining costumes were destroyed then.

I like to think that somewhere, in an obscure collection, a Mammoth Cave costume still exists. The problem is one of identification. How would one distinguish the cave costume seen in the first photograph from a bloomer outfit worn by a dress reformer? How could the bloomers in the third photograph be distinguished from a 1905 gymnasium suit? I’m not sure it could be done.

I can only hope that somewhere one rests in a box with a note attached, confirming the garment as the elusive cave costume.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Curiosities, Museums, Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs, Women in Pants

1930s Roadhome Pullman Coach Catalog

I have always loved vintage travel trailers, and even considered searching out one in which to store my collection. Had I had more time, I might have actually pursued that option. As it turns out, I did add a trailer related object to my collection, this mid to late 1930s catalog for Roadhome Pullman Coaches.

There’ no date in the catalog, so I had to go by the dates to figure out when it was published. The models of the cars are probably the best clues, but I know little about vintage cars. So I went with the clothing the people are wearing. The lengths of the dresses and the hair styles sure look 1935 – 1936 to me. If you are a vintage car know-it-all, feel free to enlighten me.

Travel trailers had been around for a while in the 1930s. People had been using their autos for camping since the early days of the automobile. There were specially made tents that attached to the car, with the auto itself being used for sleeping. But as more people were hitting the ever-improving American highways, camping setups became more luxurious.

Why rough it and spend hours setting up camp when one could have a fully stocked cabin on wheels? There’d be more time for relaxing.

Campfires were optional when one had a fully-functioning kitchen.

That refrigerator is actually an icebox, though you could upgrade to gas or electrical. Power was limited, and so was conserved when possible.

At night the sofa became a bed. The walls were made of mahogany, a feature I’ve noticed in other trailers of that era.

These floor plans make the Roadhome look nice and spacious. If you have noticed the lack of a bathroom, the bathtub is hidden beneath a seat, and the toilet is contained in a closet.

What’s interesting is how the basic fundaments of a travel trailer have not changed much since the 1930s. They still have tiny kitchens and toilets concealed in closets. Furniture still serves double-duty when possible. But somehow the vintage ones are just more charming. Maybe I should find one for myself anyway.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Catalogs, Travel, Vintage Travel

The Call of the Wild from the Hettrick Mfg, Company

Working non-stop to clean out two houses left me with only enough energy in the evenings to search eBay for treasures. Good sporting sources are getting harder to find, but I am good at spotting them. Take this 1920s catalog, for instance. At first its little eBay thumbnail photo didn’t look too promising, and then I noticed the auto tent.

I’m not at all interested in truck covers and tarps, but auto tents always attract my attention.

The catalog is just full of mid 1920s camping supplies. The Hettrick Company started out as a maker of canvas goods, making items for the late 19th century farmers such as horse and wagon covers. They were evidently willing to change with the times, as the 1920s brought cars and more leisure hours. Hettrick turned to canvas car covers and tents.

Today we might look on Instagram to see the ideal camping setup. In the pre-internet days, catalogs sold the perfect camping experience.

In the 1940s and 50s Hettrick turned from canvas items to metal outdoor furniture. Those metal gliders and chairs we all enjoyed as kids could have been made by Hettrick.

The caption for this great drawing could have been written in 2021 as millions of Americans flooded our national parks looking for some soothing nature.

Hettrick also made striped canvas awnings, tents, yard swings, umbrellas, and other accessories for the modern backyard. In the 20s they also began making clothing for outdoorsmen.

I have two of these wonderful old reclining chairs. It’s time to replace the canvas.

This catalog still has a small selection of wagon covers and horse coats, but as America moved from farms to the cities and suburbs, Hettrick was able to transition to a leisure hours supplier. Funny how the cover focused on their past as a maker of farm supplies instead of what the catalog actually was focused on.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Catalogs, Summer Sports, Travel, Vintage Travel

A Mountain Goat?

This photo was a gift from Janey who writes The Atomic Redhead. There was just enough information written on the back of the photo to piece together a bit of a history. It reads, “A mountain goat? Jackie Moore (later Husen)” Quite remarkably, I found two more photos of Jackie, one on Pinterest; the other on Flickr. It appears that whoever had these photos of Jackie had the good habit of labeling them.

An internet search brought up a Jackie Husen Park in Portland, Oregon. I posted all this info with the photo on Instagram, where @truevtgfashion recognized the park as being near her home. She found that, “Jackie Husen Park, named for a long-time local resident whose husband made the property available to the district.”

Another Instagram user, @k.stone.707, found Jackie on Ancestry.com. She was Jacqueline Adelle Moore, who married Carl Calvin Husen in 1946. She was born in 1926, and died in 2000. She was listed on Findagrave.com, where I learned that Carl died in 2006.

Okay, so I have no details about who Jackie was as a person, but looking at this photos of her, taken when she was probably between 18 and 20, we can see that she had an adventurous side. She knew how to put together a great casual outfit. And she had a lovely smile.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Vintage Photographs, Women in Pants

What a Long, Strange Year It’s Been

I’ve been thinking back to how naïve we all were a year ago. I was pretty irritated because I had to cancel a trip for my 65th birthday, and then another trip with my longtime girl gang. I can remember thinking that at least things would be better by the end of April so we could go to my beloved Liberty Antiques Festival. But then that was cancelled, and so it was the thought of going to the Hillsville, Virginia Flea Market and the Liberty show in September that got me through the summer. But then those were cancelled, along with a clothing history symposium I was planning on in October.

In a way, it seems like the longest year ever, but at the same time, it’s almost as if the year didn’t happen. Being retired I was spared the whole work from home thing, but at this stage of my life my main pleasure is getting out in the world, visiting museums and historic sites, and just learning. For most of the past year that was just not going to happen. And even when things began to open up, the world just did not feel like a safe place.

I’m fortunate to live in the Southern Appalachians with National Parks and National Forests. I hiked a lesser known trail in the Great Smokies (not Clingman’s Dome; the parking lot was always full, which means the trail was too crowded) and I visited waterfalls and swam in the cold mountain streams. I slid down Sliding Rock, overcoming a childhood fear of the deep pool at the bottom. I visited local historic sites. And I spent many glorious summer afternoons in my own backyard, enjoying a cold beer, or two.

But still, I have really missed the feeling of freedom to come and go about the world. I feel, and I’ve heard other older people say the same, that I’ve lost a year of my life. Yes, I have gotten things done and have tried new activities. I’ve read – a lot. And I’ve taken advantage of places that allow for distancing.

I’ve often wondered how I’d would react if faced with a real emergency. Well, now I know. I’ve listened to the advice of trained professionals. Mask wearing is now second nature. I’ve had both doses of the covid vaccine. I’ve stayed home for the better part of the year, and I at least have the satisfaction of knowing I have done all I can to stop the spread of this horrible disease.

Even as spring break is causing insanity across the country, there does seem to be light at the end of the corona virus tunnel. As people are looking forward to a more “normal” world, let’s not forget that we all need to be more respectful of others. If we haven’t learned anything from the past year, it’s that it takes all of us to overcome not just covid, but also the social ills that continue to plague us.

I want to go to the beach, but not this beach!

A camping trailer would solve so many of the problems associated with hotels, but it just looks like so much work.

But not as much work as this setup.

Staying in a cabin in the woods might seem heavenly to city dwellers, but this is too similar to my real life.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, North Carolina, Viewpoint, Vintage Photographs

Mitzi’s 1920s Photo Album

I’m calling this new-to-me 1920s photo album Mitzi’s Album, because Mitzi the Boston Terrier is the only person identified in the entire book.  Mitzi’s owner, above, is scattered throughout the album, along with several faces that became familiar while taking a deep look at this great book.

Like so many photo albums I’ve studied over the years, this one appears to have started out as a memento of a specific trip – in this case a stay at a fishing camp sometime between 1922 and 1924. But after the vacation photos were all glued in, Mitzi’s owner decided to add some earlier photos, and then some from around 1926. I know this, of course, because of the women’s clothing.

There are lots of photos of the vacationers holding the catch of the day.  I believe these came from an estate in Wisconsin, so that might explain all the warm looking clothes in what appears to be summer or fall. I hope you can see her shoes. They look like Mary Janes to me. Women were just turning to pants for leisure, and the idea of appropriate footwear had not quite caught up with the more “mannish” attire. I see this over and over in 1920s photos.

Here’s the photo album owner again. She is standing in front of what looks to me to be a summer cabin. The middle class had really taken to the idea of a summer place, and many built cabins or cottages on little plots of land on a lake front, beach, or river bank. There are still many of these still existing across the US, especially in the East and Midwest.

I guess we would call her dress a housedress. Can you see why so many women found dressing in the 1920s to be a challenge? Not all women were John Held-ish flappers.

Women were just beginning to boldly wear knickers without a skirt over top of them. The woman on the left looks like she put together an ensemble of knickers and a sweater, but the girl on the right is wearing a matching ensemble that looks to be made of velvet or another piled fabric.

I can see why the girl in the dress from the previous photo opted out of this one. I would refuse to get that close to a snapping turtle myself. And I find myself wondering what’s in the bottle.

If she can wear the pants, he can wear the dress. There were several photos of this mock proposal and courtship.

I’m pretty sure this is the same woman as in the photo above. I want that bathing suit. Badly. Note how the cap has the white stripe trim as well.

Another great bathing suit is worn by the woman who captured the turtle.

What is it about a striped skirt on holiday? These must have been very popular, as I have photos of quite a few women from around 1905 to 1925 wearing them.  And the woman on the right (recognize her as the female suitor?) shows what it took for a woman to look fantastic in the 1920s. One needed to be slim, and have a sense of what worked on her body.

Back in town, we see Mitzi’s owner and the male bride again. I can’t figure out who the young woman on the left is, but her outfit is really nice.

Mitzi’s owner must have had some old photos she didn’t know what to do with, so into the album they went. This one was taken in the 1910s.

After that, things get really random. Again, here’s an excellent illustration of how 1920s fashion favored the slim, and also the tall. See how skirts were creeping toward the knee?

I can’t tell that these two women have any relation to any of the other photos. So, were slacks so unusual that one would ask two women wearing them to pose for a photo?

And finally, I just love this photo of a woman taking a ride in an aeroplane. Her first, perhaps?

I got this from Circantiques, my new favorite etsy store.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting, Proper Clothing

1917, Von Lengerke & Antoine Sporting Goods Exclusively

I know that blogging has now been replaced with Instagram and whatever the social media platform of the week happens to be, but I can tell you that having a more permanent place on the internet can really pay off. The biggest advantage seems to me to be that having a site that is searchable by google brings the blogger into contact with  all sorts of people.

My favorite type of such people is the one who is searching an item she has in her possession, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Through the miracle of Goggle this person finds me, and by the end of our email exchanges, the item is on its way to me. In this case, my new best friend, Joanna, had an old catalog from Von Lengerke & Antoine, a Chicago sporting goods store that was bought by Abercrombie & Fitch in 1928.

This catalog predated the acquisition, and looked to be about 1920 to me. There was no date on the catalog, but using the No. 53 designation on the cover and the fact they released about two catalogs a year put date at 1918 or 1919. Whatever; I was thrilled when Joanne offered to send it to me.

 

There was no date on the cover, nor in any of the pages that give all the information about the catalog, but here in the description of the bathing suit we learn that the 1917 line of bathing suits make up all the latest fashions. The most striking thing about the bathing suit above is the price of it. $50 was a very high price for a swimsuit in 1917. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, That 1917 $50 would buy $1075 worth of goods today.

The other styles were more reasonably priced, but even $20 was a big expense for an item that was not truly necessary. Von Lengerke was not for the bargain hunter.

The bathing caps are really interesting, with the two plain styles being for men. The sad thing for collectors is that few of these seem to have survived.

Another must-have item for the 1917 bather was a pair of bathing slippers. These were made of sateen cotton or canvas, and so survive in greater numbers. It’s interesting that these have leather and linoleum soles. All the ones in my collection have canvas soles.

This may be a 1917 catalog, but the Von Lengerke people did not spring for a new illustration for their outing shirts. This one dates to the previous decade, but since the style didn’t change much, why change the illustration?

But here’s where I really get a bad case of antique catalog envy. I’ll take either of these outing hats, please.

The last item is not clothing, but it is such a great example of how technology was changing the way people thought about camping that I had to include it. The auto was taking people places they’d never imagined, but it took a while for the accommodations industry to catch up. In the meantime, auto camping was a good solution to the question of where to spend the night.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear