I tend to romanticize the past, particularly the turn of the last century. I love the clothes, the art, and the things people used to do. On occasion, however, I come across information or images that make me question whether it was really worth it to have those things, in place of modern conveniences. This time I came across four photographs that opened up all kinds of questions.

The first photograph is from 1906. First, for context, many (most?) autos didn’t provide much protection from the elements, so you would probably have to bundle up on days when the weather was harsh.

1905 auto

 

Bundling up is one thing. However, the picture depicts a woman named Blanche Ring, sporting a “driving outfit”. So what is a driving outfit? This poor woman is outfitted with an overcoat, thick gloves, and a chauffeur-style hat. The whole idea of needing separate clothes for driving gives me anxiety.

Blanche Ring, 1877-1961. Full length, standing by window, facing right; in driving outfit. Nov 2 1906. (LOC)

 

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Like everyone who will see this, I was born long after the Gilded Age ended. So how is it possible that I feel so nostalgic for these days of beauty and grace? I think I must be a ghost.

Today, I have for you pictures of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City at the turn of the century. There are also a few photos from the 1910s from a Senate inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic that was held at the hotel, and a couple of photos of women with their dogs from the first meeting of the American Pomeranian Club.

All photos courtesy the Library of Congress, except where marked.

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In my recent foray into the federal archives, I began to notice that the reference info on many of the most interesting photos indicated they came from San Francisco. Many of these San Francisco images were tagged “glamour photographs”: an irresistible combination!

I’m excited to share my findings here, but first I need to issue a warning that you may need to adjust your ideas around what glamour is. In some cases, what qualified as glamorous and exciting in 1900, may not be enough to land you in the next issue of Vogue in 2019. Also, Victorian San Francisco was a little less sensitive to language, as evidenced by some of the photograph titles.

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