December 20, 2013

A 1920s Lesson on Christmas Candy

An excerpt from Foods and Cookery and the Care of the House: First Lessons for Elementary Schools, 1921:


Home-made candy, packed attractively in pretty boxes or baskets, makes a good Christmas gift.

Small children are better without candy, but it may be used by older persons if it is eaten in reasonable amounts. Candy is more easily digested at the end of a meal than between meals. Candy contains a large proportion of sugar, and sugar when eaten alone is irritating to the digestive organs. A great deal of sugar is found in some dried fruits, such as raisins, dates and figs, and in this form sugar is better for the small child than in candy.

Loaf, granulated and powdered are the forms in which sugar is sold. Sugar is made either from sugar cane or sugar beets. The juice which is extracted goes through many processes before the sugar is ready for the market.

When making candies that are to be of a creamy consistency, it is better to use part glucose instead of all granulated sugar. Commercial glucose is a syrup that does not crystallize, and therefore helps to keep the candy smooth and creamy. Commercial glucose is manufactured by boiling cornstarch with an acid, and is usually sold in tin containers.

By boiling candy mixtures to different temperatures, different types of syrup may be made. It is always best to use a candy thermometer in order to know when the syrup is cooked enough but not too much. When making fudge, panocha and fondant, the candy should be cooked until it reaches the "soft-ball stage", 236 F.; for chocolate caramels, cook to the "hard-ball stage", 254 F.; for butterscotch, popcorn balls and molasses taffy, cook to the "crack stage ", 270 F.

Caramelized sugar is sugar that has been heated without moisture until it melts and becomes a brown syrup. When this is poured over peanuts it is known as " peanut brittle." Caramelized sugar is used also for flavoring custards and cake icings, and in sauces.

Other materials that may be used in cookery to take the place of sugar are honey, maple sugar and syrups of different kinds.

December 12, 2013

Vintage Video: Ballroom Dancing 20s Style

Here's another one of those delightful instructional videos from the 1920s.  Dancers Teddy Royce and Wyn Clare show the dos and don'ts of ballroom dancing in this clip from 1926.



December 4, 2013

Illustrations of Jazz Age Home Interiors

A lot of the historical research I do for any era inevitably leads to art, dance, fashion, politics, and so on.  But somewhere in all this I start to wonder about the truly ordinary things about daily life.  What did the stores look like?  What did a cloche hat actually feel like to wear?  What did the houses look like?  There are a lot of exterior images of the buildings that were constructed in the 1920s, but it's been a bit harder to find images of the interiors of homes.  Which is why paintings and illustrations from the era are so helpful.


A Spare Room, Château d'Auppegard by Ethel Sands, 1925.

Vintage ad for kitchen cabinets, ca. 1920s.

Watercolor - Edith Holman Hunt's Drawing Room by William Holman Hunt.  The painting was likely to have been their home at 18 Melbury Road, Kensington, London, 1925-1928.

Frigidaire ad for electric refrigerator, 1928.

Interior with a Blue Sofa by Patrick William Adam, 1929.

Ad for Williams Ice-O-Matic Refrigeration, 1929.  

Sunlit Interior by Édouard Vuillard.  The painting is of Madame Vuillard's Room at La Closerie des Genets, ca. 1920-1922.

Vintage ad for Keramic tiles, 1929.

A Blue Room in Kensington by James Durden, ca. 1928.

Sketch for master bathroom of a typical U.S. home, ca. 1927.

Madame Vuillard Lighting the Stove by Édouard Vuillard, 1924.



Other good places to find images of home interiors are Antique Home Style, Flickr, and the National Trust's page for Mr. Straw's House - a 1920s semi-detached suburban house frozen in time, with its original interior decorations.   

If you have more sources you'd like to share, feel free to leave a comment.

November 28, 2013

The Tale of the Forty Thieves: Alice Diamond and the All-Girl Gang that Terrorized London

In the 1920s, an organized crime ring of female bandits, extortionists, and blackmailers, terrorized London’s West End. The Forty Elephants was affiliated with the male Elephant and Castle Gang, and had existed from about 1865 as a shoplifting outfit.

The Forty Elephants (also known as the Forty Thieves) specialized in robbery, blackmail, shoplifting, and break-ins. The gang’s blackmailing outfit frequented West End hotels and night clubs searching for aristocrats to blackmail. But shoplifting was the gang’s bread and butter.

They made headlines in the tabloids. One newspaper described the Forty Elephants as “amazons.” Others declared that thirty of the Forty Elephants were “big handsome women about six feet tall” of “giant physique” while the others – scouts and lookouts - were “much smaller” and of the “doll variety.” Members were reportedly chosen for “either beauty or brawn.” They dressed stylishly; some were reported to have even worn the jewelry that they stole. Gang members had special clothes made with secret pockets to hide their loot. The crooks got bold enough to make off with fur coats and entire rolls of silk. They could go through high end shops and society soirées without raising any suspicion. Many of the women even got hired to work in mansions to practice stealing or to get their hands on floor plans for future burglaries. Their stolen income went into wild parties and living well.

Some of the criminals kept razors hidden to protect themselves. Gang members were arrested regularly, but the Forty Elephants could always afford the money to bail them out.

One member, Doris Stewart is known to have given away her stolen wealth instead of spending it all on herself. She was a factory girl from the age of fourteen until she was eighteen in the town of Salford. At eighteen, to escape her life in Salford, she told John Peters, the factory foreman that her father physically abused her and stole her wages. It was all a lie, but John Peters wanted to marry her to rescue her. She wanted to be married in London, and after he gave her half of his savings they decided she would go one day ahead of him to avoid suspicion. Of course, she had no intention of going to London so she went to Manchester with his savings. It was in Manchester that Doris met Alice Diamond who taught her how to make even more money. Doris earned the nickname “Daredevil Dolly”. After her first arrest for pinching her date’s wallet, she finally made it to London in about 1919. She was reportedly thrown into Holloway Prison for six months for stealing a man’s watch. She had lived a double life as pickpocket, jewel thief, and con artist, and then as a rural gentlewoman – living on a rented estate in a village near Sutherland as the aristocratic and refined Mrs. Hamilton. There she supervised charity committees and give her stolen money to the poor by handing out Christmas baskets, food, clothes, and toys. She cared for the sick and even hired a local girl as a maid after townspeople tried to shun her for an indiscretion. To continue making money she took the train to London every fortnight, telling the townspeople that she was visiting her husband to try and reform him. In reality, she hung around elite stores - jewelry stores in particular – pilfering pocketbooks and watches. On her final journey to London she made off with a man’s pocketbook and watch, but he was on to her and soon the police chased her down. When asked why she turned to a life of crime, she said, “Because I love danger for its own sake.” When asked why she was so charitable she replied, “Because I love to do that too.”

Alice Diamond

Born in about 1886 (or 1896 depending on the source), the main leader of the gang was Alice Diamond - also called Diamond Alice, Diamond Annie, the Diamond Queen, or the Queen of the Forty Thieves in the press. Before becoming the leader of the Forty Elephants in 1918, she ran with a male confidence gang. She was described as being the tallest woman criminal in London and having “terrific strength.” As leader, she kept tabs on the police. Her crimes were shoplifting and general instances of hooliganism – she was known to assault her victims with the steel blackjack she armed herself with. Alice Diamond also oversaw the muscle of the gang – all the women who were armed and ready to handle any of the “rough stuff.” This faction of enforcers, who violently settled disputes with male counterparts of the criminal underworld, was able to take control of the area between Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Road. One unfortunate young gangster was reportedly beaten by 6 women after falling foul of them.


Margaret Hughes

Her co-leader and first lieutenant, Mrs. Margaret Hughes (also called “Baby-Faced Maggie”), helped plot the gang’s activities. She was in the courts over twenty times for theft, shoplifting, and attempted murder. Her coy manner, and angelic appearance got her slaps on the wrist or outright release. Baby-Faced Maggie handled the slightly less violent activities of the gang, including blackmail. According to the police, rich married men would go out with a pretty member of the gang, and the girls expected payment to keep his indiscretion a secret. Or the pretty members would hand the men over to the rough members, who took the men’s valuables.

It was Maggie’s husband, notorious London criminal, Alfred Hughes, who brought her in to the criminal underworld when she was young. The two married in 1912 while they were both out on bail pending trial. She eventually tired of her husband’s freeloading and she found another sweetheart. The couple fought often, and it all ended when Maggie took out the razor from her stocking, injured her husband, and sent him to the hospital. Feeling guilty, Maggie compensated him with money, but she wanted out of the marriage. From there she decided to only make money with women, and joined the Forty Elephants.

The gang didn’t have any actual male members, but it was reported to have had about 6 London gunmen on hand. They were kept in the same way that an all male gang keeps pretty female accomplices. They took care of the activities that the women couldn’t do. Other newspapers however, swore that some of the women dressed up as men, and could work without male accomplices. Some of the women argued over men in general, but Diamond Alice and Baby-faced Maggie were against any romances with outsiders. All it would take to destroy their plans was one handsome detective and a lovestruck member of the gang. Diamond Alice and Baby-faced Maggie were right, of course, because it was romance that eventually ruined their crime spree.

One member, Marie Britten, who reportedly came from a good family, fell in love with an outsider named Jackson. Marie knew what kind of trouble she was in for so she finally asked her father in late 1925 to escort her to speak with “Queen Alice”. There was a struggle as Alice attacked her, while Maggie went after Marie’s father with her razor. Marie and her father, Bill Britten managed to flee. The gang swore vengeance. Marie married Jackson immediately. Two days after the incident the Forty Elephants assembled and attacked the Britten residence. They hurled stones and bottles, smashing all the windows. Then they rushed in, shoving their way through the windows. They made their way to Mr. Britten’s room, but only found his wife and her baby. Mr. Britten had run off to protect his daughter in another room. The hoodlums dragged Mr. Britten’s wife out of bed, blankets and baby tossed to the floor in the gang’s effort to flip over the bed and find Mr. Britten. The gang then began to through the rest of the home until they found Mr. Britten and his son at the bottom of the stairs, armed with clubs. The women were armed as well, and fought the pair up the stairs until Mr. Britten went down. Meanwhile, the police arrived and came after the women, fighting them until several members were arrested. Mr. Britten and his son were taken to the hospital, where Mr. Britten was given at least 20 stitches. The police then caught the remaining members of the gang. What followed was the described as the most sensational trial that London had in years. For a while it seemed that the gang’s famous blackmailing victims would be revealed, but the trial ended up centering on the invasion of the Britten home.

Alice Diamond and Baby-faced Maggie were both found guilty and given lengthy sentences of hard labor. Alice Diamond reportedly barely responded to the sentence, but Maggie screamed frantically to the court; “I’ll be a proper villain when I come out!”

At the time Scotland Yard called Alice Diamond and Baby-Faced Maggie the “most expert shoplifters in the world.” Alice Diamond’s last conviction was probably in 1929, and she died in the 1950s.

The gang was  mostly broken up in about 1926, but ex members still lived a life of crime and the gang existed in a less organized form until the 50s. Months after the break up a “bobbed hair bandit” robbed flats in the West End of everything from a fur coat to a leather dressing case. Police believed that the Forty Elephants was Britain’s first violent gang of its size to be made up of women and girls.

I think this will be the first post in a series on women and crime in the 1920s.  Stay tuned.


Sources 
"40 Large Women in Strange Gang Terrorize London."  The News 5 Oct. 1925
"Amazing Double Life of England's Female Robin Hood."  The Spokesman-Review 7 Oct. 1927
"Bobbew Burglar is Terror of London."  The Milwaukee Sentinel 25 Aug. 1926
"London Female Crooks Baffle Scotland Yard."  The Evening Independent 26 Oct. 1925
"Police on Trail of London Girl Bandit."  Lewiston Evening Journal 1 Oct. 1926
"The Amazing Rampage of London's 'Forty Elephants'."  St. Petersburg Times 16 May 1926
"Wily Bobbed Hair Bandit Despair of Scotland Yard."  The Evening Independent 3 Sept. 1926

November 20, 2013

Goldfish Eating, Pole Sitting - the Fads of a Carefree Decade

In this mini documentary, courtesy of Vanity Fair, director Lee Hirsch examines the fad of pole-sitting and cultural trends of the era.



November 12, 2013

Shopping with a Queen

In 1926, Queen Marie of Romania was invited to the United States by businessman Samuel Hill.  Queen Marie was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II, and married to King Ferdinand of Romania.  She was quite famous and well-liked in the 20s due to her time as a Red Cross nurse during World War I and her diplomatic work for Romania at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.  Naturally, the Queen's visit to America was covered extensively in the press.



 Queen Marie visiting West Point

She came to New York on October 18, 1926 with her son Prince Nicolas and her daughter Princess Ileana.  They were welcomed by a parade and thousands of New Yorkers.  From there they traveled by train to Washington D.C. to have dinner with President Calvin Coolidge and then on to various cities and towns across the United States and Canada.  She was greeted by crowds and dressed in Paris couture, Romanian costume, or the fur coats, jewels, and diamond tiaras of a queen knowing that her trip was the first time many Americans would ever see a queen.  Of America she said,


"In no monarchy have I been more royally and more solemnly received nor had more colossal receptions as in America, in every single place.

 I thank you, great America, for the love you showed me, for the eagerness with which you received me, took me up in your hearts from one side of your country to the other."

She was accompanied by her American hostess, Constance Lily Morris for the journey and the following is from Morris' memoirs.

Tuesday, November 16

Today is to be "The Queen's own day" as she said she wanted one day to do as she pleased in Chicago. She started off by having what she termed as "a very, necessary shampoo," and at 9.30 we dashed off to the Woman s Athletic Club, concerning which I had spoken to them on the train when I promised them a swim. The Queen, Princess Ileana and I started from the hotel unaccompanied by any of the suite except "Craggie" yipping and yowling over what he felt was something fine. The lynx-eyed Kenyon was up with the Queen s Roumanian chauffeur in the Palace uniform. The Queen had a mistaken impression that she could travel incognito for one day at least, that unaccompanied by the motor-cycle police we could follow the crowd along Chicago s boulevards. She even labored under the illusion that she could go shopping unnoticed in Marshall Field's. Never was she more mistaken. I had been skeptical from the beginning but I pampered her in this whim, knowing what one such day would mean to her. Of course it could not be. Some of those energetic reporters saw us leave the hotel, and that was enough. Until we entered the doors of the Athletic Club they were right with us, but there they were balked. Being a woman s in stitution, they could not get beyond the doors. We felt like those criminals of old who have fled to Sanctuary, and, breathless with relief, we went to the top floor where the fine pool is. In a moment the Queen reappeared from the dressing-room in a dark blue knitted suit that set off beautifully her splendid proportions. She told us that she devoted at least one month of the year to her health, taking baths and treatments so as to keep herself in the best possible trim for such arduous exertions as fall to her lot. She plunged from the springboard like a girl. The Princess was a picture too, of youthful athletic beauty in a suit of gray. The swimming mistress wore one of white woolen tricot which the Queen admired so much she ordered one for herself straightway. We had a race to the end of the pool, the Queen, Craggie and I. I forget who won but it might have been Craggie, having the day of a dog s life. As we rested, we sat about smoking and munching caviar sandwiches before girding our selves up to go shopping. I had an idea of what we would face downstairs, although the Queen dressed as inconspicuously as possible and, in spite of all precautions, photographers, who had been patiently waiting, greeted us with exploding flash lights and fuses. Poor Craggie, utterly demented, dashed out into the street while we waited in agony to see him killed in the melee of wheels. The Queen could not bear it and sprang out herself after him. She boxed his ears for him and called him "a silly dog" while he ducked his cowardly head.

"Now," said the Queen, "let's do our shopping." Confidently imagining ourselves unescorted, we surreptitiously stole down the avenue and selected a quiet entrance to Marshall Field's store. How could we have been so ridiculous as to imagine that the tireless reporters of Chicago would let us "get away" with our project? In less than two minutes after our entrance they were after us with their "Look this way, Queen." . . . "Head a little higher!" Throughout the store there went a cry, "The Queen! The Queen!" and a mob pressed us into a jelly.  It was impossible to move past the first counter. Even Secret Serviceman Kenyon be came alarmed and with the assistance of an employee forced his way through the crowd. The Queen, nothing daunted by the jam, was not going to miss anything. Her eagle eye spied a lovely jade-green dressing-case in the distance and nothing would do but that she must examine this, and have it sent out to the hotel. Then she caught sight of a pleasing cloisonne carafe and tray which she also commandeered. By this time it was impossible to move. Half distraught I suggested to Kenyon that we take an elevator to the top floor as an escape. The door was closed on the crowd and we mounted to a floor which few people frequent at eleven o'clock in the morning. But word had got ahead of us and we met a mob as great when we got out. Kenyon suggested that we take the back stairs while some one held the door closed, but two stories lower it was the same performance, only the mob was denser. I looked for a place of refuge and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a high iron fence and a wall barricading the fur department. That was the very place to go. The doors were closed and the Queen examined at leisure the display of furs which were so much finer than any we had been able to see in the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company in Winnipeg or Vancouver. She selected a lovely gray lamb coat with a beautiful silver fox collar, for the Princess to try on. As we wanted to do some Christmas shopping, we thought next of seeking a jeweler. This was easier thought of than done. The mob that followed us down the street was so dense that State Street was practically closed. I was nervous and frightened, for I considered the venture dangerous, considering the various stories I had heard but which evidently had not come to Her Majesty s ears, about the antagonistic attitude of many of the city's inhabitants. As we all know, Chicago is the place where the melting in the pot of America comes to a boil. Here the bitter outcast, the conscientious objector, the open fanatic, the discontented representative of mankind, have collected for a few generations. In the midst of this seething mass of humanity, one cannot but fear for the safety of so outstanding a person as the Queen of Roumania. I am sure Mr. Kenyon and I realized the situation on that morning as we never had before, and I felt chills run down my backbone as we pushed through the crowd on our way to a State Street jewelry shop where the Queen admired a jade cigarette box which the manager gallantly presented to her. So far we were unmolested. But upon emerging a more thrilling climax awaited us. Bedlam had broken loose. Having no police to con trol matters, the mob had surrounded the car, were hanging over the top and on the running board.

They were by no means unfriendly, all we could hear was, "Gee, ain't she great !" . . . "She's prettier than the pictures!" . . . etc., etc., but this did not allay my fear. It takes only one madman to inflict an injury, and when the chauffeur could not possibly force a way through the crowd so dense that it filled State Street from one side to the other I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all I could only put my head out of the car window and shout, "Send for a policeman!" It was only after Kenyon procured a few husky Irish policemen to beat the crowd about that we finally managed to get free. I asked the calm Queen if she knew what fear was, and she simply smiled at me and said, "I am in a measure a fatalist, and I believe that nothing will happen to me until my hour comes. I have never been afraid of the physical attack of any human being."

On Tour with Queen Marie, 1927

November 4, 2013

The 1920s in Dazzling Color

I disappeared for a while because I've been working on some writing projects.  I have however, been quite active on social media, so there are regular updates on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.  Even if my updates on the Jazz Age Follies blog slow down, I am on the social networks, so I hope to see you there!

Clifton Royal Adams was a National Geographic photographer between 1920 and 1934.  He took photographs across America, Central America and Europe.  Autochrome was patented by the Lumière brothers in 1903, and the process was used to take color photos until the 1930s.  I've posted about Autochrome color photographs in the early 20th century, so I thought I'd share some from the 20s.



Women buying ice cream from a vendor's car.  Near St. Austel, Cornwall, England


 Hikers on Skelwith Bridge, between Westmoreland and Lancashire, England. 


Girls sending a letter in Belfast, Ireland.  


 Students on the terrace at Cornell University.


A woman in Newport.


Mexican girls in Nogales.

As National Geographic's first foreign correspondent, Maynard Owen Williams was another photographer who took color photos during the 20s.  He famously reported on the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb in May 1923.  

 French woman in the early evening at Tete d'Or Park, Lyons, Rhone, France.

Raleigh Vintage has a lovely collection of photos from the 1920s that you can see here, here, and here.  Corbis also has a gallery of Maynard Owen Williams' vintage color photos.

July 18, 2013

Vintage video: instructions on making handbags

This instructional video from the 1920s is from the British Pathe's series Eve's Review - released for female audiences.


July 12, 2013

Doing laundry in the 1920s

The following is an excerpt from Christine Frederick's pamphlet You and Your Laundry. The pamphlet educated women on washing clothes, which took fifteen different steps.




CHAPTER IV
The Right Way to Do Machine Washing

DO YOU soak the clothes when you use a machine?" "Is it necessary to boil them after washing?" "How long do you let the washer operate?" These are only a few of the many questions which women ask me about washing clothes the machine- way. Or every once in a while I still find a housekeeper saying: "I don't believe in washers, I just know they won't work, and the old way is good enough for me." Or perhaps again, "If you have to wash the flannels and colored things by hand, I don't think a machine is worth buying just for the white clothes."

All of these remarks prove that the women asking them are not fully informed as to the right way to machine-wash, and that they do not see the wonderful results guaranteed by such a cylinder washer as the THOR. But before answering all such questions and giving the clear, plain rules for successful machine washing in every case, I wish to "tackle" this point of the woman who is convinced that such and such a device or labor-saver "won't work."

Whenever I hear this negative comment so forcibly expressed, I am reminded of a friend who once bought a fireless cooker. She knew I had used a fireless successfully for many years, so she told me she was going to buy that identical make. I did not see her until several months later, when naturally I asked her how she liked the cooker she had purchased. To my amazement she replied that she had returned it to the manufacturer.

"What was the matter with it?" I questioned.

"Oh, it was defective," she assured me; "I put the cereal in at night and when I took the pot out in the morning it was cold and the oatmeal still raw. No one can make me believe you can cook in that cold box ! So I sent it right back to the manufacturer in three days."

Now my friend thought (and probably still thinks) that she bought a "defective" cooker, but I know that she had not learned to use that cooker right. And so whenever I hear a woman say that a certain well-tested device "won't work," I am certain that the device will work if the woman only understands and operates it intelligently. Over and over again I have found that all such "come- backs" about equipment arise because the worker buying it has not studied the mechanism, tested it, used a little patience and followed well-worked-out rules for its operation.

I am quite sure that when somebody told your grandmother that finer, and more even, and perfect stitches could be taken in cloth with a needle set in a strange machine operated by a wheel and belt, than she could make by hand, that she too, said that this new sewing machine ''wont work" — and it probably took some time for her to be convinced.

But you to-day know the perfection of sewing machine work, and even if you cannot obtain the smoothest results the first time you place your foot on the treadle, will you foolishly condemn so wonder- ful a labor-saver as a sewing machine and say that it "won't work?" Yet why do you repeat similar doubts about a washing machine, especially when you may not have used it the right way? 

Before you pass judgment on the THOR washer or exclaim that you "don't believe it will wash clean," or "can't see how it will wash without rubbing," etc., I have just one advice — give the THOR a fair trial, and operate it after well- tested directions. If thousands and thousands of other women have proved that the THOR gives perfect, satisfactory results over years of service, will the THOR not also wash your family's clothes successfully?

In the past years during which I have been a professional Household Efficiency Engineer, I have studied hundreds of tasks both in the factory and the home. From these experiments I have come to believe that there is always one best, one shortest, one easiest way to follow for any given piece of work. I like to call such a one best, shortest, easiest method a "standard practice." This means the set of directions, or practice of doing a task which is so good or perfect that it may really form a standard, and be followed over and over with the same perfect results. Just as we must follow a cooking recipe with its exact amounts, way of beating, tempera- ture and time in the oven to bake a perfect cake, so too, we must follow the exact instructions as to amount of soap solution, tem- perature of water, and time of operation of the washer, to secure perfect washing results. What a recipe is in cooking, a ''standard practice" is in the handling of a tuachine, or process of work. 

What, then, is this "standard practice," or right way to machine- wash clothes with a THOR washer?

Standard Practice for THOR Washer 

(THOR Washer, Two Wash Tubs, One Basket) 

1 — Look over clothing and remove spots and stains, sort and put to soak. (If the clothes are soaked over night, have the water as hot as you wish, but if the clothes are not soaked over night, do not have the water any hotter than you can bear your hand in. It is advisable to at least soak the clothes a few minutes before putting them in the machine.)

2 — Water can be heated in an ordi- nary wash boiler, if you have no hot water plant.

3 — Prepare soap solution to be used.

4 — Wring pieces for first load (table linen, etc.), from soak tub, putting into the machine only enough pieces to come to the level of the lifters (C-D) in the cylinder. Do not pack the clothes in tight. If the cvlinder is full, there will not be enough of a "drop." Put in hot water to just come below the two lifters (C-D).

Water must not come above "water line." Fasten both catches on the cylinder cover securely. Start the machine. Pour in soap solution as cylinder revolves. This will start the suds immediately. Close the cover of the machine in order to maintain heat of the water. This first cylinderful of clothes should run about 15 minutes.

5 — While the machine is washing the first load, wring the rest of the soaking clothes into a basket or to the top of the machine.

6 — Drain stationary tubs and fill with clean, fresh, warm water for rinsing. The rinsing of the clothes is very important, as all soap must be removed from the clothes.

7 — Prepare blue water (no directions can be given for preparing blue water, as bluing comes in so many degrees of strength). Use care that bluing is thoroughly mixed with water to prevent streaking of clothes.

 8 — Wring the washed clothes from the machine directly into boiler, if you are going to boil them; otherwise into the rinse tub. In wringing, always spread the clothes out so that the wear on the rolls will be uniform. Don't have rolls too tight. When usinp a power wringer, the tendency is to keep the rolls too tight, particularly in wringing linens. This should not be done as extreme pressure might injure the fabric and make it difficult for ironing. For large extra pieces, such as bed-spreads, blankets, etc., the tension on the rolls should always be greatly lightened.

9 — Put in the second lot of clothes and add enough soap solution to equal 1/4 cake or one tablespoon Hurley Soap.

10 — Prepare starch and put up lines.

11 — Proceed with second and third load same as first. (In the average family three loads will take care of the white clothes.)

12 — After the third cylinderful has been washed and wrung, draw out about one-fourth of the water, thus removing the sediment that has accumulated in the bottom of the machine. Add enough hot water to replace that drawn out and sufficient soap solution to make a good suds.

13 — The flannel load follows the last white load Water should be lukewarm, not too hot, or it is apt to shrink woolens. Wring loosely. Rinse in water of same temperature as wash water. Re-wring, pull into shape and dry in warm temperature, never cold or freezing.

14 — Colored load follows the flannel load and may be washed in the same water. Wring from washer into clear, clean water. Wring back to top of machine or into well-strained starch. Colored garments should be shaken out well, so that colors will not be likely to run into one another.

15 — If there are many black stockings, they may form a separate load. Always use clear, fresh, soapy water. Do not wash stockings in water from a white load, otherwise the lint from the white pieces will make stockings gray. Turn all stockings inside out before washing. Brown pairs, which often "bleed", or colored socks should be done by themselves. In washing white stockings, be careful that water is not hot. Hot water yellows white silk. Rinse all stockings particularly well, and hang up by the feet.

How to Arrange Your Washing 

Load 1 (White) — Tablecloths, napkins, doilies, dresser scarfs, aprons.

Load 2 (White) — Sheets, cases, face towels, shirt waists, brassieres, cambric night or underwear, children's dresses, white petticoats, handkerchiefs.

 Load 3 (White) — Cotton or mixed underwear, bath towels, kitchen towels, bed- spreads, covers, night wear, cotton crepes, all coarse meshed goods.

Load 4 (Flannel) — Night garments or underwear of flannel or outing flannel, petticoats, shirts, small quilts, children's woolen articles, blankets, all flannel finish or partly wool goods.

Load 5 (Colored) — Housedresses, men's shirts, rompers, children's dresses, aprons, all colored or partly colored goods of gingham, chambray, linen, etc.

I wish every woman to know also how successful is the THOR machine-way of washing those many articles which are included in our home furnishings, but which cannot be classed as ordinary washing. For instance, I had for years been in the habit of sending my bath mats and the small rugs used so commonly in sum- mer, to the commercial laundry. The charge at first was about 25 cents each, but gradually it mounted until it was a heavy item of expense. Also, the rugs were faded badly. The laundress refused to handle them, because the lifting and work were so heavy.

But when I bought my THOR washer, I tried to wash one of the small rag rugs just for experiment. What was my surprise to see it go thru the wringer as pretty and clean as the day it was new! Ever since I have included the washing of all mats, cotton rugs, etc., with no extra effort at all.

You and Your Laundry by Christine Frederic, 1922

July 6, 2013

The Southern Syncopated Orchestra remembered

Over the last couple of months, there have been tributes to the Southern Syncopated Orchestra which contributed to British jazz in the early 1920s.  In May, the first Blue Heritage Plaque, recognizing a member of the orchestra was revealed at the former London home of Barbadian tenor Frank Bates.  In June, the 23rd Annual Jamaica International Ocho Rios Jazz Festival also honored the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.

Several members of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra died after the S.S. Rowan sank on its way from Glasgow to Dublin on October 9, 1921.  After midnight, the Rowan had collided with the American steamer West Camak in heavy fog off Corsewall Point.  The passengers were below during the first collision, and after coming out on deck, the crew thought they could arrive in Dublin safely.  The West Camak sent out a distress call and fifteen minutes later, the nearly 6,000 ton Clan liner, Malcolm answered the call.  But in the fog, it collided with the Rowan, which “crumpled like matchwood” according to a survivor, and sank. It took about one minute for the S.S. Rowan to sink into the sea.  Around 35 passengers died - 8 or 9 of them were members of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.  Some of the bodies were never recovered, including the body of Frank Bates who died in the disaster.  The tragedy made headlines in Britain and around the world, in part because the orchestra - which was well known in some music circles – had been on its way to continue a tour.  But within a year the orchestra broke up and Southern Syncopated Orchestra eventually faded from memory.

Footage of SS Rowan survivors, 1921:  "The men and women pose for the camera and laugh, many of them are from ethnic minorities. The camera pans across them all, they wave and smile."  [Watch video here]

Three other Blue Heritage Plaques honoring members will be unveiled in the future.  The members include trumpeter Joe Smith from Jamaica, flautist Bertin Salnave from Haiti, and Cyril and George Blake from Trinidad, pianist Mope Desmond (Caleb Quaye) from Ghana, and drummer Pete Robinson from America. Robinson also died in the disaster, and his body was recovered.  Mope Desmond died in a rail accident in 1922 and his funeral was attended by Haitian flautist and saxophonist Bertin Depestre Salnave.

Before the tour in Europe the orchestra was originally called the New York Syncopated Orchestra and the American Syncopated Orchestra after that. In March 1919, British promoter André Charlot organized for the SSO to perform in London.  About 24 instrumentalists and 12 vocalists arrived in June 1919.  The orchestra was signed on to perform two two-hour acts every day at the Philharmonic Hall, Great Portland Street, London from July 4 to December 6 1919.

The SSO became a part of the London club scene, though they weren’t popular in London at first.  Crowds reportedly numbered at twenty people or less.  The Southern Syncopated Orchestra eventually performed across Britain – its musicians smartly dressed in black tie.  Legendary jazz musician, Sidney Bechet came to Britain with the orchestra, helping to bring some publicity.  The Prince of Wales (later King Edward III) invited the orchestra to perform at Buckingham Palace on August 19, 1919 for around 100 guests.  They were a source of entertainment during the gloomy post-war years, and to commemorate the first anniversary of the armistice, the Victory Ball was hosted at the Royal Albert Hall on November 11, 1919.  The SSO was the headline act. While the SSO performed in Britain, Sunday observance laws made “entertainments” illegal, but “concerts” legal.  They typically performed in a concert arrangement, and since most spots were closed on Sundays, musicians usually tried to book “concerts” at other locations on Sundays.  This meant that London musicians could take the train to resorts on the southern and eastern coasts of Britain.  According to Bertin Salnave, the orchestra performed “on the piers every Sunday.”

Created by American composer Will Marion Cook in 1918, the orchestra had scores of members, with numbers between 36 and 46 at any given time.  There were at least three female members (Evelyn (Mary) Luke, and sisters Angelina De Caillaux and Santos “Santita” Rivera) and the musicians were from all over the world, including Africa, America, the Caribbean, and Britain.  Caribbean and African contributions to early 20th century music are a little less documented so I wanted to include the places some of those members were from or had ties to – Antigua, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone, South Africa, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Trinidad.  There was also a member, bassist Pedro Vargas, who was either from the Dominican Republic or Dominica depending on the record. The full list of musicians who played with the orchestra between 1919 and 1922 is likely to number over 110 members.  More names might be found when Britain’s 1921 census is released in 2022. Members also changed frequently, especially after squabbles began in 1920 between Will Marion Cook and George William Lattimore over who owned the SSO.

Other members who died at sea included Sierra Leonian vocalist, pianist, and organist Frank Lacton.  His body was found on shore on October 18, 1921.  There were also European members of the orchestra, like trombonist John (Herbert) Greer who was born in Ireland and died in the Rowan disaster.  Banjoist Charles (Henry) Macdonald who had South African and English ancestry also died.

Members like Cyril Blake and his brother George (Lionel) “Happy” Blake who were born in Trinidad survived the Rowan disaster and appeared in the October 14 Survivors Sacred Concert.  Other survivors who appeared at the concert included Jamaican trumpeter Joe (Joseph I.) Smith, and Sierra Leonian born, Jamaican raised trumpeter and conductor Egbert Emmanuel Thompson.  Violinist Frank Essien, who had Ghanian and Polish ancestry and Rupert Gaskin also survived and took part in the Survivors sacred concert, but they both died from tuberculosis in 1923 and 1926 respectively.  Tympanist Frank (Obediah) Kennedy, who was born in Sierra Leone and Ghanian member William Martin Ofori were both injured, but survived and made an appearance at the concert as well.  Evelyn (Mary) Luke, née Evelyn Dove was another survivor of the tragedy and she was listed as Miss E. Winchester for her appearance at the concert. She would eventually substitute for Josephine Baker at the Casino de Paris.


 Evelyn Dove

The earliest major review in Europe came from the conductor of L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet.  According to him the SSO played arrangements that were, “Extremely difficult, they are equally admirable for their richness of invention, force of accent, and daring in novelty and the unexpected.”  While the orchestra is remembered as a jazz band, a lot of the music they played wasn’t jazz, but Tin Pan Alley blues and St Louis Blues, spirituals, classical music, minstrelsy, ragtime, and plantation songs.

The history of the orchestra (and other black musicians who came even before the Jazz Age) pre-dates what is usually taught about Black British history by decades.  There were Black Britons in London before the S.S. Windrush landed in 1948.  Members and the children they had in Britain had to face prejudices other black immigrants would endure years later.

It’s believed that the Southern Syncopated Orchestra never recorded any music, which in addition to the tragedy, is why the orchestra faded from memory.  As the SSO slowly broke up, the musicians who left looked for work in Britain and the rest of Europe, joining and forming other bands.  Many of the members continued to tour and perform around the world, and some settled down in Europe as either citizens or residents.

If you want to have a look at passport photos of jazz musicians, including some members of the SSO, you can look at them here and here on Flickr.

Further Reading
Chronology of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra: 1919-1922
The Evolution of Jazz in Britain: 1880-1935 by Catherine Parsonage
Excerpt from Bechet and Jazz Visit Europe, 1919, by Ernest-Alexandre Ansermet
The First Real Critical Discussion of Jazz by Ernest Ansermet
"S.S. Rowan - Apportioning Blame for Sinking - Judgement of Lord Anderson."  The Glasgow Herald 20 Apr. 1922
Southern Syncopated Orchestra: The Roster

June 21, 2013

A drive through 20s New York

While this isn't exactly documentary footage, the following video will give you an idea of what driving through New York might have been like.  The footage looks like it's from a 1928 silent film called Speedy, starring Harold Lloyd.  If you ever wanted to know what the interior of a car from the 20s looked like, watch below:



June 15, 2013

American women and the right to vote, in pictures

Before she became First Lady of the United States, Lou Henry Hoover gave an address at Bryn Mawr College on April 10, 1920.  "At the time of this speech, the 19th amendment was in the process of being ratified by the states."  The amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.  Part of Hoover's speech:

"That we have the vote means nothing. That we use it in the right way means everything. Our political work has only begun when we have the ballot. And that work should be carried out exactly as our college work is, - as any good work which we undertake is, - it must be thoughtful, idealistic, clean, effective." 

Most of these photos are from the early 1920s, before and after the 19th Amendment was passed in August 1920.  And since I was curious, and this gets asked pretty often - the Amendment made it legal for women of all races to vote, but many African American women in the South for example, were disenfranchised until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

 The 19th Amendment was passed on June 4, 1919 and ratified in August, 1920.

Governor Edwin P. Morrow sign Kentucky's ratification of the Anthony Amendment, Jan. 6, 1920.  The women are wearing "Votes for Women" banners.  [Via]

Senator Joseph S. Freylinghuysen congratulates Betty Gram on New Jersey's ratification, Feb. 1920.  [Via]

 Mary Church Terrell, ca. 1920.  Suffragette, co-founder of the National Association of Colored Women, and president of the Women's Republican League during Warren G. Harding's 1920 presidential campaign.  [Via]

 Anti-suffrage cartoon, 1920.  "The Sifter" sorts Pro-suffrage and Anti-suffrage politicians through the sieve of the 19th Amendment.  The Pro-suffrage politicians like former President William Howard Taft, President Woodrow Wilson, and future President Warren G. Harding fall through to political extinction.  [Via]


 Suffragettes, circa 1920 [Via]

Suffrage flyer, circa 1920 [Via]

The first African American women to vote in Ettrick, Virginia, 1920.  They were all members of the Virginia State University Faculty.  [Via]


Ruth Hanna McCormick, US Representative from Illinois from 1929-1931.  She was the first woman on the cover of Time Magazine, April 23, 1928.  [Via]

Liberty by Leslie Thrasher, November 10, 1928.  [Via]

June 11, 2013

The Etiquette of Engagements and Weddings - a parody

The following in an excerpt from Donald Ogden Stewart's 1922 etiquette book, Perfect Behavior, A Guide for Ladies and Gentlemen in All Social Crises.  It was supposed to be a parody of etiquette books of the era.  Stewart was a member of the Algonquin Round Table and would eventually win an Academy Award for screenwriting for The Philadelphia Story.





The Bride-to-Be

Before the public announcement of the engagement it is customary for the bride-to-be to write personal letters to all other young men to whom she happens to be engaged at the time. These notes should be kindly, sympathetic and tactful. The same note can be written to all, provided there is no chance of their comparing notes. The following is suggested:

"Dear Bob--

 Bob, I want you to be the very first to know that I am engaged to Richard Roe. I want you to like him, Bob, because he is a fine fellow and I would rather have you like him than any one I know. I feel that he and I shall be very happy together, and I want you to be the first to know about it. Your friendship will always remain one of the brightest things in my life, Bob, but, of course, I probably won't be able to go to the Aiken dance with you now. Please don't tell anybody about it yet. I shall never forget the happy times you and I had together, Bob, and will you please return those silly letters of mine. I am sending you yours."

...Selecting the Bridal Party 

As soon as the engagement has been announced it is the duty of the prospective bride to select a maid-of-honor and eight or ten bridesmaids, while the groom must choose his best man and ushers. In making these selections it should be carefully borne in mind that no wedding party is complete without the following:

1 bridesmaid who danced twice with the Prince of Wales.
2 Bridesmaids who never danced more than once with anybody. 1 bridesmaid who doesn't "Pet."
1 bridesmaid who was expelled from Miss Spence's.
1 bridesmaid who talks "Southern."
1 bridesmaid who met Douglas Fairbanks once.
1 bridesmaid who rowed on the crew at Wellesley.
1 usher who doesn't drink anything.
9 ushers who drink anything.

In some localities, following the announcement, it is customary for the bride's friends, to give for her a number of "showers." These are for the purpose of providing her with various necessities for her wedded household life. These affairs should be informal and only her dearest or wealthiest friends should be invited. A clever bride will generally arrange secretly for several of these "showers" by promising a certain percentage (usually 15% of the gross up to $500.00 and 25% bonus on all over that amount) to the friend who gives the party. Some of the more customary "showers" of common household articles for the new bride are toothpaste, milk of magnesia, screen doors, copies of Service's poems, Cape Cod lighters, pictures of "Age of Innocence" and back numbers of the "Atlantic Monthly."

Invitations and Wedding Presents

The proper time to send out invitations to a wedding is between two and three weeks before the day set for the ceremony, although the out-of-town invitations should be mailed in plenty of time to allow the recipient to purchase and forward a suitable present. As the gifts are received, a check mark should be placed after the name of the donor, together with a short description of the present and an estimate as to its probable cost. This list is to be used later, at the wedding reception, in determining the manner in which the bride is to greet the various guests. It has been found helpful by many brides to devise some sort of memory system whereby certain names immediately suggest certain responses, thus:

"Mr. Snodgrass--copy of 'Highways and Byways in Old France'"--c. $6.50--"how do you do, Mr. Snodgrass, have you met my mother?"

"Mr. Brackett--Solid silver candlesticks--$68.50"--"hello, Bob, you old peach. How about a kiss?"

The real festivities of a wedding start about three days before the ceremony, with the arrival of the "wedding party," in which party the most responsible position is that of best man. Let us suppose that you are to be the best man at the Roe-Doe nuptials. What are your duties?

In the first place, you must prepare yourself for the wedding by a course of training extending for over a month or more prior to the actual event. It should be your aim to work yourself into such a condition that you can go for three nights without sleep, talk for hours to the most impossibly stupid of young women, and consume an unending amount of alcohol. You are then prepared for the bachelor dinner, the bridal dinner, the bridesmaids, the wedding, and the wedding reception.

...The Bachelor Dinner and After 

That evening the groom gives for the best man and the ushers what is known as a "bachelor dinner." It is his farewell to his men friends as he passes out of the state of bachelorhood. The formal passing out generally occurs toward the end of the dinner, and is a quaint ceremony participated in by most of those present.

It is customary for the best man to wake up about noon of the following day. You will not have the slightest idea as to where you are or how you got there. You will be wearing your dress trousers, your stiff or pleated bosom dress shirt, black socks and pumps, and the coat of your pajamas. In one hand you will be clutching a chrysanthemum. After a few minutes there will come a low moan from the next bed. That is usually the groom, also in evening dress with the exception that he has tried to put on the trousers of your pajamas over his dress trousers. You then say, "What happened?" to which he replies, "Oh, Judas." You wait several minutes. In the next room you hear the sound of a shower bath and some one whistling. The bath stops; the whistling continues. The door then opens and there enters one of the ushers. He is the usher who always "feels great" the next day after the bachelor dinner. He says to you, "Well, boys, you look all in." You do not reply. He continues, "Gosh, I feel fine." You make no response. He then begins to chuckle, "I don't suppose you remember," he says, "what you said to the bride's mother when I brought you home last night." You sit quickly up in bed. "What did I say?" you ask. "Was I tight?" "Were you tight?" he replies, still chuckling. "Don't you remember what you said? And don't you remember trying to get the bride's father to slide down the banisters with you? Were you tight--Oh, my gosh!" He then exits, chuckling. Statistics of several important life insurance companies show that that type of man generally dies a violent death before the age of thirty.

June 4, 2013

The Chrysler Building's tribute to the automobile

Construction of the Chrysler Building began in Manhattan in 1928 and finished in 1930.  William P. Chrysler, who created Chrysler Corporation in 1925, bankrolled the construction himself.  He wanted the building to be the corporation's headquarters.  It was a tribute to the machine age, and was supposed to be a symbol of modernity.  In 1928, the Milam Building in San Antonio, Texas became the first air-conditioned office building in America, and Chrysler wanted a more efficient system for his building.  With the work of Chrysler's engineers, it became the first fully air conditioned skyscraper in America.  There were reportedly no deaths during construction which was uncommon in the 1920s and 1930s.  Though the tower was reportedly not entirely modern (the brick was actually traditional), the decorations, ornaments, and furnishings however, were ultramodern.


 William P. Chrysler and the first Plymouth that was built in 1928.  [Via]

The building and its embellishments were designed to be a tribute to Chrysler's automobiles.  Architect William Van Alen included ornaments on different floors.  Enormous winged ornaments, were placed on the tower and designed to look like the Chrysler Plymouth's 1929 radiator caps.  Above them, at each corner of the tower were stainless steel eagle gargoyles, crafted by Chesley Bonestell and William Straton to look like Chrysler hood ornaments.  Van Alen also included a mosaic of race cars on the building.  Edward Trumball's marble fresco on the ceiling, called "Transport and Human Endeavor" illustrated "scenes from the Chrysler assembly line."  The first floor even had a Chrysler showroom in the early years.



The Chrysler family eventually sold the building and in 1976, the building became a National Historic Landmark.

May 30, 2013

Joseph Moncure March and The Wild Party

Joseph Moncure March's poem, The Wild Part was relatively obscure after its first publication.  March had been The New Yorker's first managing editor, but he quit in 1926 to write the poem.

It was published with illustrations by March's classmate Reginald Marsh in 1928.  Only 750 copies were published, but that didn't stop cities like Boston from banning it. The Wild Party did get something of a cult following and typewritten copies were distributed.  But, it was out of both legal and illegal print before the end of the 1930s. More recently, the poem has been re-issued, but usually as a censored version without "certain racial and sexual references."  However, writer and illustrator Art Spiegelman found an uncensored copy in a used bookstore and illustrated the entire text for a 1994 reprint.


The epic poem is about (what else?) a wild party told in rhyming couplets. 

The poem begins like this:

Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still,
And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.
Grey eyes.
Lips like coals aglow.
Her face was a tinted mask of snow.
What hips—
What shoulders—
What a back she had!
Her legs were built to drive men mad.
And she did.
She would skid.
But sooner or later they bored her:
Sixteen a year was her order.

 The main character, Queenie lives with her lover, a vaudevillian clown named Burrs.  They fight and to get over it, they decide to to invite their colorful friends and throw a party.  Before the night is over Queenie ends up carrying on with someone else which leads to disaster.

Oh, yes—Burrs was a charming fellow:
Brutal with women, and proportionately yellow.
Once he had been forced into a marriage.
Unlucky girl!
She had a miscarriage
Two days later. Possibly due
To the fact that Burrs beat her
With the heel of a shoe
Till her lips went blue.

March went to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter in 1929 and rewrote silent film, Hell's Angels into a talkie.  He wrote Hollywood screenplays until 1940.

May 25, 2013

Musings on The Great Gatsby

With the new Gatsby movie now out, I've been thinking about the adaptations that came before it.  1974’s Great Gatsby is the most remembered adaptation. The 1949 one isn’t remembered as much, and it’s too early to know how long Baz Luhrmann’s version will last in the public’s consciousness. The very first Gatsby adaptation however, is a lost film. It was a 1926 silent Paramount and the critics weren’t impressed. It starred Lois Wilson, Warner Baxter, Neil Hamilton, and the great William Powell. All that’s left of the film is the trailer. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reportedly hated it, and didn’t even watch until the end. Zelda wrote to their daughter Scottie: “We saw ‘The Great Gatsby’ in the movies. It’s ROTTEN and awful and terrible and we left.”



Though Fitzgerald would eventually try in vain to make it as a screenwriter, he didn’t write Gatsby’s screenplay. The silent film was based on the stage play written by Owen Davis. And considering The Great Gatsby’s transition from book to stage to screen, I consider adaptations and interpretations. I wonder how the play with all its dialogue translated to in a silent film. Nick Carraway’s narration, and the dialogue is so important. I can’t imagine Gatsby being boiled down to title cards, but apparently the film was criticized for having too many title cards.

The trouble with adapting Gatsby for the big screen is that there’s barely a plot. It was never intended to be performed. But then, Fitzgerald reportedly ‘wrote for the ear.’ He read each line out loud, so maybe, on a subconscious level he did sort of imagine it being performed. And it wasn’t that he didn’t have any experience with writing for performance. Fitzgerald had directed plays during his time at Princeton. He wrote a failed play, The Vegetable in 1923. But it seems he never could make a success out of that sort of writing.


There’s a sort of parallel to Gatsby’s early failure to translate on the screen, and Fitzgerald’s failure to become a successful screenwriter. His first foray into screenwriting in 1927 was a disaster. During that time in Hollywood, he worked on the screenplay of a flapper film called Lipstick that never got made. He reportedly had a difficult time trying to channel his talent into writing useable screenplays. Producer Joseph Mankiewicz would later say that Fitzgerald wrote literary novelistic dialogue “that lacked all the qualities required for screen dialogue.” Screenwriting was essentially an assembly line – several writers tinkered on the same script. And Fitzgerald never could accept that screenplays had nothing to do with what he wanted.

When it was originally published in 1925, The Great Gatsby failed. And though writers like T.S. Eliot and Edith Wharton praised his work, Fitzgerald never saw the book’s success in his lifetime. It only became popular in the early 1950s. Today, Gatsby sells hundreds of thousands of copies a year. And with the new film, it will probably end up being one of the top-selling books of the year in the United States.

Further Reading
"Slow Fade: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood" The New Yorker 16 Nov. 2009 by Arthur Krystal

May 22, 2013

President Coolidge's speech commemorating Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic

On June 11, 1927, President Calvin Coolidge awarded Charles Lindbergh the first Distinguished Flying Cross Medal for his transatlantic flight. Before his flight on May, 20, 1927, six pilots had died trying to cross the Atlantic to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize.  He left New York in the Spirit of St. Louis and the 3,600 mile flight lasted 33 hours and 30 minutes.  When he arrived in Paris, he became the first pilot to fly solo nonstop from New York to Paris. You can listen to the president and Lindbergh speak below.


Further reading
Lindbergh Flies the Atlantic, 1927
May 21, 1927 | Charles Lindbergh Flies Solo Across the Atlantic

May 8, 2013

Vintage Video: The Buffer Belt

The buffer belt was a Paris novelty that women tied around their waists.  It was designed to keep men and women apart while dancing.  I have to say, it's kind of a weird contraption, and based on the title card ("Every day in every way Continental dances get closer and closer, so the Paris Eves have just started "Buffer States" of their own") seemed to be more of a chastity belt substitute than a device that improved dancing.  This clip was filmed in about 1925 or 1926.


May 4, 2013

Kentucky Derby Day

Since today is the 139th Kentucky Derby I thought I’d write a little about some of the Derby’s history.

In some ways, things haven’t changed much. Tens of thousands of people would go to the track at Churchill Downs. The crowd started to appear early in the week in their cars or on trains. Special trains came in from cities like New York and Cincinnati. Hotels were usually fully booked. The Brown Hotel, which opened in 1923, was popular with visitors. The Derby was a fashion parade where some women went to show off their style. A single dressmaker could have orders of up to 1,500 dresses. Women wore dresses or, if they were more fashion forward - a suit with a jacket. Hat and gloves were also fashionable.



 Clubhouse view at the 1926 Derby.  [Via]

Some traditions actually started in the 20s. The playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” at each Derby was first recorded in the Louisville Courier Journal in May 8, 1921. Though the exact year the song was first played isn’t certain, a Kentucky owned horse, Behave Yourself, won that year and according to the Courier-Journal,

“To the strains of 'My Old Kentucky Home,' Kentuckians gave vent their delight. For Kentucky triumphed in the Derby.” 

 In 1929, the song was reported to have played repeatedly during the day and was probably first played as the horses gather on the track in 1930. In 1930 to the Philadelphia Public Ledger reported,

"When the horses began to leave the paddock and the song 'My Old Kentucky Home' was coming from the radio, the cheering started." 

A trophy wasn’t introduced until 1922 when the Ben Block, the owner of the champion, Morvich, was given a six-piece gold buffet service. In 1923, the owners of the winning horse Zev, where given an actual trophy. 1924’s winner, Black Gold was given a golden trophy to commemorate the 50th running of the Derby with a Golden Jubilee. The trophy is now thought to be the only solid gold trophy annually presented at a sporting event in America.

Here's some footage of the 1920 and 1929 races, respectively:  




April 30, 2013

Photos of librarians in the 1920s

Flavorwire has a collection of vintage photos of librarians inspired by My Daguerreotype Librarian ("A tumblr dedicated to literally or figuratively hunky and babely librarians from the past.").  A couple of the photos are from the 20s so I thought I'd share some photos of libraries and librarians. 

Paul Brockett, librarian at the Smithsonian National Academy of Science, July 1924.  [Via]


Student Edith Wilson in the library science study hall at the University of Michigan, 1928.  [Via]


Brig. Gen. R.E. Noble, librarian of the Army Medical Library, November 1924.  [Via]


LA Public Library's bookmobile for the sick, 1928.  [Via]


Woman reading on top of a ladder, circa 1920.  [Via]


Library card used in 1928-29.  [Via]

April 25, 2013

A behind the scenes look at the costumes from The Great Gatsby

I came across a couple of videos about the costumes that Catherine Martin designed for the movie.  She talks a little bit about the hosiery and the vintage jewelry from Tiffany's that inspired her designs.