Category Archives: Irregular Lives

Posed in Wings–and a Bit of Gauze: 1903

Bagnères-de-Luchon statue vallée du Lys Lily of the Valley statue

The Newest Fashionable Folly

POSING FOR NUDE STATUES—THE MARBLE FAD GROWING IN FAVOR AMONG REPRESENTATIVES OF FRENCH SOCIETY.

[Copyrighted, 1903, by W.R. Hearst.]

Paris, Dec. 20. The marble fad is a new fashion set by women who are beautiful, titled, cultured. Those who have assisted them to make the fashion successful are sculptors of note. They present their subjects in white marble exquisitely—a Venus rising from the sea, a lily of the valley against the green of mountains, an angel with head bent in thought.

The rounded limbs, the unhidden curves, the undraped lines of Mme. La Duchesse d’Aosta, of Mme. La Duchess d’Uzes, of Mme. La Comtesse Bela Zichy are being discussed from end to end of Paris. At first everyone gasped. What! the Duchess d’Uzes, wife of the premier Duke of France, whose family has been of uninterrupted prominence since the days of the Crusades, daughter-in-law of the famous Dowager Duchess who was born in De Mortemart, daughter of the De Luynes, a family only second in antiquity to the Uzes? What!

They blinked their eyes only to be dazzled by the marble form of the Duchess d’Aosta, formerly the Princess Helene of Orleans, a Bourbon, daughter of the Count of Paris and sister of the Duke of Orleans, chief pretender of the throne of France. She, the wife of one of the royal princes of Rome, oldest cousin of the King of Italy and his heir should Victor Emmanuel have no sons—she to pose as a Venus—A Venus rising, untrammeled by draperies, out of the sea!

They gazed in amazement next to behold the American Countess Zichy, she who was once the wife of Fernando Yznaga, a sister-in-law of the Dowager Duchess of Manchester, and before that Mabel Wright—the famously beautiful Mabel Wright, of Ward McAllister’s Four Hundred. She is now the wife of Count Bela Zichy of Hungary. She is a beauty of renown, blond as the angel for which she has posed in wings—and a bit of gauze.

She is lovely, but Paris gasps all the same at the exhibit.

Conventionality At A Discount.

One of the sculptors who have assisted in the modeling of much aristocratic loveliness was asked to explain this latest fad. He though deeply for a moment. Then he said: “It is quite comprehensible, even commendable when you consider the strict conventions of our absurd fashions. Among aristocrats, women of race and pedigree, we find the finest limbs, the most tapering extremities, the purest outlines. All praise to those among them who defy the decrees that command them to keep such charms hidden. A woman who has beautiful feet, for instance, has no opportunity to show them in their natural beauty, not even when she bathes in the ocean, for the dullard fashion has decreed that the hideous stocking should cover them. She may have such ankles as an artist dreams of—they may be her only beauty, and one may only have a glimpse of them. Ah, it is enough to drive a woman to suicide—or to marble.”

The Duchess d’Uzes, the Duchess d’Aosta, the Countess Zichy have defied conventions, as Pauline Borghese, the sister of Napoleon I, did nigh upon a century ago. She commanded the assistance of Canova, the great Italy sculptor, and you may see her today in the Borghese collection perpetuated in all her natural loveliness as a marble Venus. When she condescended to give an excuse, she said, with all the insolence for which her family was famous: “I am a Bonaparte—I may do as I please.”

Asked if she were not uncomfortable, she replied nonchalantly: “No, there was a stove in the room.”

It is the excuse that our modern duchesses and countesses may give. Nevertheless, the people gasp, and nevertheless, as people will the world over, they gaze and gaze and gaze to the full satisfaction of the aristocrats who have said “Bah” to the conventions.

The original of the statue called the “lily of the Valley” was unveiled last summer at Bagneres-de-Luchon in the Pyrenees. The Duchess d’Uzes was sojourning there, apparently with no purpose but to drink of the warm suphur springs for which the watering place is celebrated. A number of other guests, all more or less fashionable, were there, too, walking, drinking, gossiping, passing their hours as people do who are taking a cure for no very serious ill.

The event of the summer proved to be the unveiling of the “Lily of the Valley.” Cast in whitest marble, it was set before a background of green trees and dark rocks.

The Summer’s Sensation.

The effect was startling. More so was the resemblance.

“What?” “No!” “Impossible! And yet”—

The spectators declared they couldn’t believe their eyes. Day after day they studied intently the Duchess d’Uzes. Between drinks they made mental notes of her lines. During their walks they discussed the striking similarities of figure, of pose, of feature between the lovely, draped duchess and the lovely, undraped statue of the “Lily of the Valley.”
Could it be possible?

Day after day the young Duchess passed them driving, looking the picture of modesty. Day after day she cantered by on one of the horses which she rides so famously. They observed her lies and recalled her reputation for fearlessness. It was she who set the fashion of ballooning for women when the season of gayety threatened to become monotonous. She is original, enterprising, daring, and above all, beautiful—the guests at Bagneres went again and again to look at the now celebrated statue.

There it stood, classically serene, challenging comparison with the old Greek statues, whose models one may never know.

The resemblance was not to be disputed—the “lily of the Valley” was the Duchess d’Uzes. Every day during her sojourn at Bagneses she had visited the studio of the great artist who was to perpetuate her in marble. She had gone secretly and alone. Accused by one of her set of cowardice, she explained:
“To pose for an undraped statue is as yet considered unconventional; therefore, one does not announce it to the world. But if one is beautiful…”

The Duchess D’Uzes.

The Duchess’ excuse found an echo in the heart of the Duchess d’Aosta, who is of the daughters of the late Count of Paris is the loveliest. It has been said of her that even if she were not of royal blood she would be considered handsome. She might, in that event, however, be more rudely censured. As it is, she shocks society and still remains in it, a maneuver, by the way, not confined to Italy or France alone.

The Duchess is clever, restless, courageous and not in love with her husband. Only a few years ago she startled all Europe by announcing her intention to leave him. He had done nothing wrong, and was undeniably attached to his handsome wife, but she was tired of him that was all there was against him. It was enough until her ambition came to the rescue. The possibility of giving an heir to the throne of Italy persuaded her to retain her position of Duchess d’Aosta. This is history, so too are the Duchess’ love affairs, so too are. the duels that have been fought by the Duke on her account.

Vanitas Vanitatum.

And now comes the episode of the statue. This time the Duchess has shocked profoundly. Her mother, the Countess of Paris, who is a lady to her finger tips, is in despair; the King of Italy is furious; the Duke is at his wits’ end. There is no one he can challenge. He does not dare to denounce those who point to the lovely Venus as his wife’s portrait, because above the graceful figure her features are too plainly sculptured. Photographs of the statue are for sale everywhere, and the Duchess is calm in the midst of a tremendous family row. To prove this they tell the following anecdote of her:

One of her intimate friends sympathized with her deeply. “Poor woman,” she said, “with your beauty they want you to remain forever in obscurity. But tell me, was it not very uncomfortable posing—without–well, as the statue is?”

The Duchess looked at her from under her wealth of golden hair and firm but clear, steady blue eyes. “Oh, no,” she answered reminiscently of the Borghese princess, “the studio was well heated. I was most comfortable, I assure you.”

The fad to have your friends see how charming marble may make you grows. In its progress it has claimed the Countess Bela Zichy. Of her the sculptor D’Epiny [Prosper D’Epinay] says: “She is, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He has done his best to prove this to the world in the statue he has made of her.”

However some dozen or more years ago, when she was Mabel Wright, a girl designing calicoes to assist her father, who was at work in a print factory, her beauty was recognized without the aid of either painters or sculptors. Without fame or fortune she made her way into the heart of Mrs. Astor’s “Four Hundred,” and there met and married Fernando Yznaga, brother of Consuelo, the present Dowager Duchess of Manchester, for whom the present Duchess of Marlborough was named.

How The Nude Craze Has Grown.

Unhappiness, divorce and all the things that lead to a second marriage followed in quick succession, and the American girl became a Hungarian Countess. Since then she has lived much in the great world abroad. Naturally she has made its fashions here.

But the end is not yet. It has Just been said that King Victor. Emmanuel is furious. He has read the riot act to his cousin’s beautiful wife, and has forcibly reminded her of the fate of that other beautiful Duchess of Aosta, Laetitia. The unconventional and dashing Laetitia, when she persisted in her flirtatious conduct with army officers and riding astride in public on a bicycle was sent to prison to do penance and was threatened if she did not cool down the King would take away her allowance and she could shift for herself.

The younger Duchess, more intrepid than her young mother-in-law, has snapped her fingers in the face of the King and has announced if he tried any such summary punishment on her she would scandalize Italy at this very ticklish point in the affairs of the country by suing for a divorce. This has made the King even more furious, and he has retaliated by saying if she did such a thing he would see to it that her position in any court of Europe would be forfeited.

And so the situation now stands. In the case of the Countess Bela-Zichy another royal rumpus has been aroused. While the Count stands by his wife and insists that the statue is an exquisite expression of purity, the court ladies of Austria, with the Emperor in sympathy with them, have made, it.is said, a secret compact to completely ostracize the lovely blonde countess if it is really proved beyond dispute that she posed as a diaphanous angel. The Austro-Hungarian court is one of the stiffest in Europe for etiquette, and if the case is decided against the Countess Bela Zichy her social position will be ruined.

The row in the D’Uzes family has become so intense over the nude posing of their young Duchess that nobody quite knows yet what the family council will decide to do.

Consequences Of This Folly.

However daring these aristocrats may be, the setting of conventionalities at defiance in statuary or paintings is not original with them. We can recall, for Instance, when Cleo de Merode, the lovely ballet dancer, posed for the sculptor Falguiere; also the sensation that followed the announcement that Mme. du Gast was the model for Gervex’s painting of “The Nude Lady With the Black Mask.” It is true that Mile, de Merode denied that she had posed for anything but the head of the statue called “The Dancer.” It is also true that Mme. du Gast sued those who had dared to say she was the original of the lady who might be just about to slip into her bath.

Henri Gervex Le modèle masqué nude model masked

The fad for being photographed, painted, hewn in marble, grows. Is it due to vanity? Apropos, here is a story told of a woman well known in the world of society. It happened at a time when she had been admired immensely, but, being very young, had been seen but little. She was strictly chaperoned everywhere by her mother, who superintended also the cut of her gowns. She was permitted to wear what might be described as a very modest décolleté to parties or dinners. On a certain occasion she was visiting at a country house without her mother. It was night. She was alone in her room, undressing. In a mirror her figure, girlish, charming, graceful, was reflected. She moved and smiled; she moved and sighed. Then she looked at herself intently and took note of her charms. It seemed to her a pity that no eyes should see them but her own. It seemed such a pity that she sallied forth to the library below, with a lighted candle In One hand and her eyes tightly closed.

She encountered her host and some of his guests–judges of beauty. They said she had walked in her sleep. She encountered her hostess, who declared her guest was wide awake. Either way, a record of her loveliness flew through society. Her defenders said she was so exquisite, endowed with such purity of line, that it would have been a shame to keep it hidden always–forever under drapery. The girl thought so, too. This was before Madame la Duchesse d’Aosta, Madame la Duchesse d’Uzes and Madame la Comtesse Zichy had set their approval upon the marble fad as the very latest artistic solace for woman’s vanity.

The Baltimore [MD] Sun 27 December 1903: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Obviously Mr William Randolph Hurst warmed to his theme, no doubt with the aide of a stove in the room.

While we do not often see Duchesses and Countesses posing as nature made them for exquisite expressions of purity in marble or bronze, reality TV stars and athletes more than fill the void with lingerie “selfies” and ESPN’s “The Body” issue. Plus ça change…

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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Jabber Jazz: 1921

 

flapper in motion 1920

JABBER JAZZ? IT’S LATEST IN DANCE FASHIONS

Trot and Talk, but Don’t Forget the Conversation.

Chicago, Aug. 7 Now for the jabber jazz. The latest thing in dances for this fall is called the “conversation walk.”

Girls may nibble the complexion off their lips but they will have to talk to dance the new step.

The new dance has been planned for the country by the American National Association of Dancing Masters and was described today by Miss Florence Reid, instructor of an exclusive dancing school here.

When the jazz band starts the dance will go like this:

You greet your partner and move slowly down the floor talking in time with the music.

“Nice weather we are having.”

“I’ll say it is.”

Next you balance forward and back fox trot to the northeast, switch to a one step and resume:

“This bobbed hair fad is the cutest yet.”

“Sure, it’s got me cuckoo.”

Then you fox trot again, any direction you want to, but don’t forget to keep up the talk.

Of course a good dancer will memorize a verse of bright remarks and use them on each dancing partner in turn. They’ll not know the difference unless you dance with the same person twice.

“I don’t think the new dances are nice” Miss Reid added after explaining the “conversation walk.”

“The couples dance—ah—so close, you know, and so slow. This ‘conversation walk’ demands more vocal skill than terpsichorean dexterity.

“The new toddle dance of the season will be named ‘Chicago.’ It will be one of the big hits. It eliminates the horrid ‘Frisco step,’ which some cabaret patrons now use. I like the new ‘Culture dance’ best. It eliminates the toddling in the fox trot.”

“Yes,” said Richard Kandler, owner of several dancing schools, “we must insist this winter on graceful dancing. The music, too, will be without the barbaric jazz. The swinging beauty of the old-time polka must return. It is a symptom of returning sanity after war hysteria.”

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, oh] 8 August 1921: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil believes that the fad was short-lived. After all, the entire purpose of ball-room dancing is to foster the illusion of intimacy, while eliminating actual conversation between the sexes.

The new dance had passionate advocates on both sides of the question:

But What If You Can’t Think of a Darn Thing to Say?

CHICAGO. Aug. 6. Well it’s here and what do you propose to do about it? It is the “jabber jazz” and it goes with bobbed hair and skirts to and above the knees and a scandalous lack of underwear.

The inventor of the new dance, if such contortions can be dignified by that title, calls it the “conversation walk” and it has some vehement backers among the dancing teachers. They argue that it eliminates the horrid “Frisco step,” which still is used by some cabaret patrons. It also takes the toddle out of the fox trot.

It may be said in defense of the “jabber-jazz” that it is less like a violent attack of St. Vitus’ dance than any recent movement. It lacks the spasmodic shudders and it is not essential that the dancers should be glued together.

Briefly, one greets one’s partner and they amble down the floor, talking all the time. Then they balance forward, fox trot a step or two, shift their gum to the other cheek, do a one-step tempo and resume the walk and conversation. It is all very well for those who have to indulge in such antics, but to old fashioned dancers of the waltz and redowa and schottische, the “jabber-jazz” looks like something the cat dragged in.

Pittsburgh [PA] Daily Post 7 August 1921: p. 6

If one wanted to look on the dance floor like something the cat dragged in, Mrs Daffodil can recommend the “Kitty Trot,” a dance sensation of 1919.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Banshee of Hillstock Road: 1914

THE BANSHEE OF HILLSTOCK ROAD.

Hillstock-road was about the last place in the world that a self-respecting banshee or other supernatural visitant might be expected to patronise. It was not even in Ireland, but in the North district of busy, smoky, up-to-date unromantic London.

Grendoran Villa, Hillstock-road, was rented by Mrs. O’Shea, an Irish lady of good means, and immense antiquity —as regarded family. Mrs. O’Shea was the widow of a general officer, as she took good care to inform her neighbours, upon whom she looked down with justifiable contempt as being principally composed of business people. None of the O’Sheas had soiled their hands with trade; but in Mrs. O’Shea’s native country there were those so ill-natured as to whisper that the late General O’Shea had found means to escape from his creditors by marrying the heiress of a wealthy Hibernian bacon merchant.

The household of Grendoran Villa consisted of the stately widow, an orphan niece, and two servants—one a confidential maid, who had lived with Miss Molly Dowd before her marriage to the aristocratic and impecunious Major O’Shea. Honor Carroll was a character in her way, but under a sharp manner and tongue hid a warm heart and much fidelity. She had served the Dowds from her youth, and was as careful to preserve her mistress’s status as was that lady herself. Until very recently, Honor had never disputed Mrs. O’Shea’s will, except by the grumbling which had become habitual with her; but now there was a difference of opinion between mistress and maid, and Honor held her own obstinately, for the happiness of Katherine O’Shea, whom the old woman idolised, was at stake. Katherine was not an O’Shea at all, but merely a Dowd, being the only child of Mrs. O’Shea’s brother; but on the death of her parents, her aunt had adopted her and given her the grander name. She was a typical Irish girl, sad and merry by turns, with a wholesome horror of restraint, and but little reverence for authority. She was pretty, with dark eyes and hair, small features, and a remarkably bright and clear complexion. The girl had no nonsense about her, and cordially detested her aunt’s snobbishness. She had a special reason for rebelling against the enforced gentility of her position, as it had led Mrs. O’Shea to refuse her consent to the proposal of Katherine’s lover—a young man in every way a suitable match for her, but to whom the General’s widow objected on the score that he and his people were “mere tradesfolk.”

Honor Carroll had taken the side of the young people, and uttered her protests with no uncertain voice, and her remarks were as thorns in Mrs. O’Shea’s side, for the home truths she advanced were incontrovertible.

It was a dull November afternoon, not by any means the sort of day one would select for an al fresco conversation; yet Katherine O’Shea and Henry Plavell were standing under the leafless elm trees at the end of the garden, and apparently perfectly unconscious of either cold or damp. Very frequently the young man paid these visits, safe from the observation of the mistress of the house. Honor, while scolding Katherine briskly for meeting her fiancé, secretly kept watch that Mrs. O’Shea did not come upon the scene unawares, and at the time of which we are speaking she was on duty.

The sound of the drawing-room bell warned her that Katherine would probably be asked for by her aunt; and the old servant trotted down to the lovers’ meeting-spot, and, without any preliminaries, began:

“Shure, an’ Miss Katherine, isn’t it a shame fur ye to be meandering down there wid Master Flavell, an’ ye know that the mistress is dead agin him comin’ at all?”

“Don’t be cross, Honor,” replied Katherine, with an unconcerned laugh. “If I am not to receive my visitors properly inside, I’ll take good care to enjoy myself out here.”

“It’s cowld enjoyment, I’m thinkin’,” muttered the old woman; “but in wid ye now, fur the drawin’-room bell’s rung, and the mistress is shure to be wantin’ ye.”

“I expect it’s you she is wanting, Honor,” remarked Henry Flavell. “Don’t you think Miss Katherine might stay out a little longer?”

“Bedad! I do not, Master Flavell,” answered Honor, sharply, “an’ it’s yerself ought to be above matin’ her on the sly.”

“Did you never meet anyone on the sly yourself, Honor?” laughed the young man.

“Ach! Go along wid ye,” grinned Honor, her eyes brightening up with some merry thought of her girlhood. “Better fur ye to persuade the mistress to let ye court Miss Katherine straight out. Och! Murder! Ay she isn’t at the winder! I towld ye how it would be.”

Henry Flavell dodged behind the tree in very undignified style, while Katherine and Honor walked towards the house.

Mrs. O’Shea never for a moment dreamt that Henry Flavell would dare enter her grounds after she had forbidden him the house; therefore, her suspicions were not roused, and she only scolded Honor for not having more sense than to be out that cold day without something over her head.

It was the evening of the same day, while Honor was helping her to get ready for bed, that Mrs. O’Shea began to hold forth upon the presumption of a person in “young Flavell’s position” attempting to pay his addresses to her niece.

“An’ a fine young man he is, whin all’s sed an’ done,” put in Honor, sturdily. “Faith! I see no great harm ay Miss Katherine an’ he made a match ay it.”

“How dare you, Honor!” exclaimed Mrs. O’Shea, with a withering look at her maid. “My niece shall marry as well as I did, or remain an O’Shea all her life.”

“An” herself no O’Shea at all, but Dennis Dowd’s daughter,” muttered Honor. “Arrah! marm, shure, why do ye be brakin’ Miss Katharine’s heart fur sich nonsense? Isn’t Mr. Flavell’s big warehouse twinty times grander nor the shop Miss Katherine’s father- God rest his sowl!—had?”

“Honor!” screamed Mrs. O’Shea. “If you ever dare to mention that shop, or let Miss Katherine know of it, I’ll send you back to Ballymorty. Have you no respect for me at all?”

“I’m not likin’ to see the young people crossed,” maintained Honor.

“They shall never marry while I draw breath.”

“The blessed virgin grant ye may repint,” was Honor’s pious reply.

Before her mistress could retort, a weird, wailing sound came borne on the still night, and died away like a plaintive cry. There was not a breath of wind, and Mrs. O’Shea turned pale and grasped the back of the chair, while Honor devoutly crossed herself and whispered:

“The holy saints be betune us an’ harm this night!”

“It’s like a banshee,” stammered Mrs. O’Shea, when she had recovered her voice. “There’s one in our family. It’s a warning.”

“I was afeered something id cum when ye was so hard on Miss Katherine,” said Honor, improving the occasion. “Ay yer tuk, marm; shure, nothing can kape the two from marrying.”

“I am only doing my duty,” remonstrated Mrs. O’Shea, faintly.

“We’ll see what comes ay sich duty,” sneered Honor.

“It must come three times,” remarked Mrs. O’Shea, referring to the banshee.

“Oh, divil doubt it! It’ll come,” was the servant’s comforting reply.

And sure enough, the following evening, about the same hour, the uncanny, unaccountable, prolonged wail came again; and Mrs. O’Shea, trembling and unnerved, accepted it as her summons. Honor Carroll, while admitting that it was the banshee, hazarded the remark that if approaching death were sent as a punishment for crossing the young people, speedy repentance on the part of Mrs. O’Shea might turn back the judgment.

Mrs. O’Shea was too fond of her present existence to care to change it, unless that was absolutely necessary; and she there and then made a solemn vow that if she were spared until the morrow, she would give her consent to the mesalliance in the hope of propitiating the banshee.

She did not sleep that night, but she lived through it; and to the great surprise and joy of Katherine and Henry Flavell, the old lady wrote a formal acceptance of the young man’s proposal,

It need not be explained that the supposed banshee was nothing more supernatural that the sound emitted by the new motor cab invested in by Mr. Flavell, senior.

Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, 19 August 1914: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Although she is not fond of dialect stories, Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously at that extraordinarily abrupt and unsatisfactory denouement in the worst tradition of the “and then I woke up” ghost story ending.  Mrs Daffodil, and, doubtless, the redoubtable Honor Carroll, would have been much happier if there had been a banshee. Mrs O’Shea would have been found dead in her bed and young Katherine would not only have been free to marry the man of her heart, but would have inherited the O’Shea fortune.  Even after years of respectable widowhood at Grendoran Villa, there should have been a substantial sum left from the labour of that wealthy Hibernian bacon merchant. Honor Carroll, after a period of luxuriant mourning, might have stayed on to help with the children or retired to Ireland with a generous legacy. As a bonus Henry Flavell would have been free from the plague of a snobbish mother-in-law.

That is what Mrs Daffodil calls a happy ending.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

A Story Successfully Told: 1875

A STORY SUCCESSFULLY TOLD

Pretty, plump Mrs. Archibald Steele wrote the following paragraph in one of her letters to her husband the other day:

“John must come down here at once, whether you can spare him or not. Our dear little Laura is greatly taken with a tall, thin young man, with a hooked nose and thin lips, called Stuyvesant.  It is whispered about the hotel that he is a very good match, and has the veritable blue blood of the old Dutch governor in his reins. I must say it has a queer way of showing itself, for the young man is as pale as a specter; and dressed in that white duck, with his sunken eyes and bilious skin, is enough to frighten one. I have grown to hate him, while Laura is growing to be quite the contrary, I am afraid. All the evening he leans up against the wall, never dancing or opening his mouth, save to give vent to some hateful, sarcastic criticism upon the scenes around him, and yet dear little Laura’s eyes–as, indeed, all the other pretty eyes about–are perpetually beseeching him for attention. In the daytime he is always with a long black horse, that covers more ground with its legs while it is going than any other animal that I ever saw. When Laura goes out to drive behind it, and vanishes out of sight with the bony creature, I tremble to think how dreadful it would be if our dear little girl would ever be part and parcel of this wretched man and his beast. So I think John had better come down at once. I quite long to see his handsome face and hear his honest voice, and I think it is about time that John should tell his little story to Laura and have thing settled comfortably.

Mr. Archibald Steele smiled when he put the letter of his wife in his waistcoat pocket, and, picking up the morning paper, scanned through his gold-rimmed spectacles the news of the day. Finding nothing therein to refine the exceedingly satisfactory condition of his affairs, he put it down, smiling as only a prosperous, contented down-town merchant can smile. He was one of those happy exceptions to the ordinary rule of mortals, with whom everything went well. His whole experience was an exclamation point to that effect. If he ventured a little hazardously in trade, fortune trimmed her sails to favor him. If he set his heart upon anything relating to domestic felicity, all the elements of art and nature conspired to bring it about. So when he stepped to the door of his office and beckoned to a young man with a strip of commercial paper in his hand and a pencil behind his ear, with the general air of briskness and shrewdness about him that betokened a successful down-town merchant embryo, Mr. Steele smiled the third time, with the air of one who was not at all afraid of any bilious, blue-blooded obstacle that might be thrown in the path of  domestic happiness which he firmly agreed had been arranged by an Omnipotent hand.

“John,” said Mr. Steele, closing the door of his private office, and looking upon his young clerk benevolently, “I’ve got an order from Mrs. Steele which I wish you would attend to.”

“Certainly, sir,” said John; “shall I go out and get the articles myself?”

“Why, the fact is, John,” said the merchant, enjoying his joke more and more, “it’s only one article–a rather bulky one. It was bargained for a long time ago. I think you will have to go down with it, John.”

“Down to the seashore!” said John, getting a little hot and flustered; “is it a very valuable parcel, sir?”

“Well, perhaps your natural modesty may depreciate its worth, John. Mrs. Steele and I think a good deal of it, and Laura, too, I am sure does. The commodity is yourself, John. Mrs. Steele wants you to go down and take a little holiday there.”

When the name of Laura was mentioned the young man’s face grew more flustered and hot than before.

“You are very kind, sir,” he said, “and Mrs. Steele is more like an angel than a woman.”

“Rather solid and plump for that,” interposed Mr. Steele, but liking the phrase nevertheless.

“But it is a simple madness,” pursued John, “to dream of further happiness than I enjoy now–your affection and that of your wife–my position here; I don’t dare, I can’t hope for anything more. Oh, Mr. Steele, I can’t tell her my story. She would turn from me with horror and aversion. She is so young, so beautiful. Let me at least enjoy the present.”

“And in the meantime some cadaverous, bilious, blue-blooded scoundrel will carry her off from us all.”

Then John’s face grew pale and stern. “If there is the slightest feeling upon her part for–for any one else, then, indeed, Mr. Steele, my case is hopeless.”‘

The commercial paper fluttered from his hand, the pencil fell from his ear, and he leaned his head against the desk and trembled.

“Why, who would suppose you could be such a coward?” said Mr. Steele, impetuously. “You shall go down with me this very day.”

All the way to the seashore John’s face wore the look of one who had resolved to storm a deadly breach, but who did not hope to survive the attempt.

Even the ocean, when it confronted them, wore a threatening look. Upon the horizon a pile of clouds formed a background, wan and gloomy, a great black mist lay in the zenith, and a dense, red vapor almost touched the water.

“A very nasty sea,” said Mr. Steele.

John snuffed it in, his eyes dilating and his head high in the sea-scented air. A tramp on the hard, wet sand, and, like a meteor, a long black horse swept by, disappearing in the mist, leaving for John the memory of a charming head, crowned with blonde curling hair, two kind eyes bent upon his own, and a white waving hand extended in salutation.

“John,” said Mr. Steele,” did you see the face of that man? I count upon your saving Laura. Did you see his thin, cruel lips and treacherous eyes?”

“I only saw Laura, sir,” said John, simply.

Later on Mr. Archibald Steele and his plump, pretty wife were alone together in their private parlor. Her dimpled hand lay lovingly in his, and her shapely head, fresh from the hands of the coiffeur, rested recklessly on his shoulder.

Suddenly the door opened, and there was heard the rustle of silken drapery.  A still shapelier little head, and fresher from the hands of the coiffeur, all unrumpled by the audacious hands of mortal, peeped in at the door. Laura was pale: her little white hands were clasped together and her musical voice trembled.

“Oh, papa, mamma, come directly! Mr. Stuyvesant ventured too far, and—and–”

“Was drowned?” said Mr. Steele, with a queer combination in his voice of pity and relief.

“No, no; how can you suppose so dreadful a thing? He was rescued, but is very weak and ill. He has asked for me, and may I go? Will you not come with me, mamma? Oh, do, I beg of you. Can’t she, papa?”

Her blue eyes filled with tears: her little feet seemed wanting to fly through the corridors.

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Steele. “Let him wait till he is able to come to you or me. Either the man was drowned or he isn’t. Because he was imbecile enough to risk his life, that is no reason for your being the talk of the hotel.”

Laura raised her eyes proudly.

“No danger of that, papa; and besides, every one is occupied now with the one that rescued him.”

“And what madman was that?” said poor Mr. Steele, who could not reconcile himself to the present condition of affairs.

“I don’t know–a stranger, I believe. I was so interested in Mr. Stuyvesant I forgot to ask.”

“Bah!” said Mr. Steele, getting upon his feet and walking to the door. “I’ll go and find out all about it. Do you stay here till I return.”

Before he had gone far, Mr. Steele heard from the excited guests several different versions of the affair; but one and all agreed that the rescuer could be nothing less than a champion swimmer.

“A regular water-dog!” said one to Mr. Steele; and as the merchant had heard this epithet but once before in his life, and that on an occasion of vital interest to himself, he sought out the hero of the hour, and found, to his unbounded astonishment, it was John Waters himself! He was quite enveloped in the flounces and furbelows of pretty and sympathetic women, who insisted upon knowing every half second if he was sure he felt strong and well, and how in the world could he buffet those dreadful waves in that grand, heroic way, and how I he manage to drag poor Mr. Stuyvesant to the shore?

John, like any other hero of the hour, enjoyed this adulation, but looked anxiously at Mr. Steele when he approached.

“Hum,” growled that worthy merchant; “a pretty fellow, you, to interfere with other people’s plans! How do you know he wanted to be rescued?”

“He appeared anxious that way, sir,” said John. “He wrapped himself about me like a devil-fish. I thought at one time we’d both go down together. There ought to be a school for teaching people how to be saved. It’s the easiest thing in the world; the water itself is an accessory if you manage it right.”

“Oh, do tell us how, Mr. Waters, please,” chorused the pretty and women; and as John began his lesson Mr. Steele slipped away.

“Oh, papa,” began Laura, “how is Mr. Stuyvesant?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask,” he replied “I was interested in the fellow that dragged him ashore. He’s an old friend of ours. The way we made his acquaintance was on. such an occasion; he saved a lady from drowning.”

“Why, papa, “said Laura, “he must be a splendid fellow.”

“Magnificent!” said Mr. Steele. “You see, we had traveled over considerable of the world together, your mother and I, while you were yet a baby; and we found it rather odd one morning to discover that having crossed the ocean and the Alps, loitered in the Highlands, traveled thence down the Mississippi valley, across the American desert to California, and back again by another route, your mother had never been up the East river as far as Morrisania. It seemed so absurd to have neglected this home excursion, that we determined upon it at once. The morning was wet, but we didn’t mind it. Your mother looked prettier in a water-proof and with a shovel hat tied down under her chin, than most women would in a ball gown. She wasn’t a bit afraid of rain or mud. She was a little too reckless; for, getting ashore to see the institution for vagabond boys, her foot slipped off the plank, and she disappeared.”

Mr. Steele stopped a minute; his voice faltered; the plump little hand of his wife slipped into his own; he clutched it, and went on again.

“One minute I saw her as neat and trim a little figure as ever graced a waterproof and shovel hat, and the next she was gone.”

“Gone!” cried Laura. “Gone where?”

“Into the water, child: into the hungry green waves that surged up to take her away from the fondest heart in the universe; and if it had not been for one of those very vagabond boys, who had been lurking there for a chance to escape from the island, you would have lost us both, my dear; for I made an agonized plunge after her, though I am ashamed to say I cannot swim a stroke, and should only have gone to the bottom like a plummet of lead: but an official standing by caught and held me, and cried out that Johnny Waters had her safe; and presently that vagabond boy came up with your sweet mother on the other side of the boat, and the officer cried out: ‘He’s a regular water dog, that Johnny Waters!’ and these were the very words a guest here used in relation to John a minute or so ago.”

“John!” cried poor bewildered Laura, “our John? Mamma? My mamma? Was mamma the lady? Was John the boy? And is it John, our John, that saved poor Mr. Stuyvesant?”

“The very same John, our John; he’s always on hand when there is any trouble or danger.”

“Oh, mamma! mamma!” cried Laura, forgetting all the years that had passed since the accident, and crumpling both the coiffeured heads in the most reckless manner.

“Papa,” she then said, “we must go and find John; I want to tell him how much—I–”

“Yes, dear;” said Mr. Archibald Steele, and all the way through the corridor and into the parlors of the hotel with his plump and pretty wife on one arm and his beautiful daughter on the other, he sailed.

But John was still surrounded by the pretty and sympathetic women, who had cruelly deserted the blue-blooded descendant of the old Dutch governor, lying in his most graceful and languid of attitudes on a neighboring lounge–the descendant, not the governor—and had flocked, one and all, to the handsome and heroic founder of the school for teaching people the way to be rescued from drowning…

John was almost hidden in flounces and laces; but when his eyes met Laura’s he plunged out of those costly billows with his usual ease and trepidity. There was something in Laura’s eyes that he had never seen there before–a tempting languor, a bewitching shyness, a bewildering splendor that steeped his soul in a mad, sweet hope.

Laura stopped one moment to whisper to her mamma, and John gasped out to Mr. Steele:

“If I dared–if I only dared to tell her–”

“I have told her myself!” said the merchant.

“That I was a pauper, without home or friends?”

“I told the story in my own way, John,” continued Mr. Steele, “and I flatter myself I told it successfully; do not spoil it, if you please. I have managed the past and the present; do you look out for the future, John.”

And John did. Laura walked through the parlor that night the envied of all the pretty and sympathetic women and brave and appreciative men that congregated there.

The Head-light [Thayer KS] 8 October 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is rather extraordinary to find a successful down-town merchant so eager to marry his only ewe-lamb to a confidential clerk in his establishment. And a confidential clerk, mind you, with no visible antecedents. The sack for the clerk and the convent or remote boarding school for the daughter are the more usual outcome.  But this is, after all, sea-side fiction, when anything can happen and swift endings must be contrived to fit the penny-a-word limit set by the fiction editor.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

An Oil-boom Ghost: 1870s

ghostly woman appears to man The Last Tenant Farjeon.JPG

A Doctor’s Device

[Original.]

In the days of the Pennsylvania oil strikes I, then a young physician, was called to examine a man there, Samuel Granger, who had inherited a farm near which oil had been struck and whose brain was supposed to have been affected by the sudden turn of his fortune. He heard sounds no one else could hear, and at intervals a ghost came into his room at night. He lived with his aunt, who wanted to have him placed in an asylum.

I didn’t care to have the patient or his aunt know that I was going to examine him, so I wrote that I would arrive much later than I intended. One morning I went to the house without either the aunt or nephew knowing that I was coming. The door was opened by the aunt.

“I understand,” I said, “that this property is for sale. I would like to buy it if I can do so at a fair price and get a clear title.”

“You can’t buy it or get a clear title either. My nephew owns it, and he’s gone daft on account of its sudden rise in value.”

“Why don’t you have him adjudged incompetent to manage his affairs and a guardian appointed?”

“That’s what we’re trying to do. There’s a doctor coming down from the city in a few days to examine him. But I don’t believe it’ll do any good. Sam sees a ghost every now and then. There isn’t any ghost. Nobody but Sam sees it. He’s all right on other subjects, and I don’t know as you can call a man crazy because he says he has seen a spirit.”

“Has any one been with him when he has seen the ghost?”

“Don’t know that there has, excepting me.”

“How often does the ghost appear?”

“Oh, once in awhile!”

“Will he be likely to see it within the next few days?”

“Maybe, if he gets excited about anything.”

“I’ll tell you what I’d do If I were you. I’d tell him that the doctor is coming to examine him with a view to putting him in an asylum. Tell it to him the day before you expect the doctor. That will bring on the paroxysm, and he’ll fancy he’s seen the ghost again. That’ll give the doctor an opportunity to talk with him just after he has seen it.”

The woman made no reply to this, and, assuring her that I would give a large sum for the property as soon as it could be sold, I left her.

The next day but one I was expected to appear and examine the patient. The next afternoon I went up on a hill overlooking Sam Granger’s farm and watched. All I saw was a young man come to a window but a few feet above the roof of a piazza. After dark I stole down to the house and climbed up a trellis to the window. It was summer, and the window was open. There was no one in the room, but a light on a table showed me by the presence of clothing, pipes, tobacco and such things scattered about that it was a man’s room. I waited on the piazza roof till after 9 o’clock, when the young man entered, took ft his clothes and went to bed. He looked nervous and haggard.

What I was after was to see him under the influence of his vision without his knowing of my presence. His aunt had doubtless, excited him by telling him that I was coming, and he would be pretty sure to see the ghost. I could hear him tossing in the bed, but as the lamp was not lighted I could not see him. I waited till nearly 11 o’clock, when he had quieted down, and I thought he was asleep. But suddenly he gave a shriek, and I could faintly see him sitting up in bed, doubtless staring at his vision. I cast my eyes about the room, and to the left, near a door, I saw a luminous white figure, apparently of a woman.

For a moment I was taken aback. I had no idea of anything appearing except to the young man’s excited brain. Here was something that I could see myself. Then it occurred to me that the ghost’s garments had been rubbed with phosphorus. The figure stood a few moments and was turning to go before I gathered my faculties, but suddenly under an  impulse I sprang into the window, dashed across the room and seized its skirts just as it got into the hall. Then with one arm around a buxom waist I drew the apparition back into the room, took out my matchbox and lit the lamp. My next move was to pull a piece of white muslin from the apparition and expose the head and shoulders of the aunt.

“Who are you?” she cried angrily.

“I’m the man that wants to buy this farm, alias the doctor who was to come here to examine your nephew. He doesn’t need any examination. It is plain that you are anxious to shut him up, doubtless with a view to being appointed his guardian and getting a hand on his property.”

The young man was astonished that his ghost was human and at the same time shocked at what his aunt had been doing. Then he fell into a rage with her and despite my efforts to prevent drove her out of the house.

When I returned to the city and related my experience to some of my young medical associates they all declared that I had mistaken my calling; I have been a detective. To this I replied that I had been especially stupid from a detective point of view, as I had not for a moment suspected the real cause of Sam Granger’s mental trouble.

WALTER B. PIXLEY.

The Daily Notes [Canonsburg PA] 15 March 1904: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil suspects that the author of the story above has changed the names (including his own) to protect innocent and guilty alike–she has not been able to find any Dr Walter Pixley in the contemporary medical association rosters. But the phosphorus-painted-on-muslin trick was well-known in Spiritualist circles and luminous, sheeted pranksters, flitting through darkened neighbourhoods, were frequently reported in the press. We have also previously read of X-ray spook parties, where a phosphorus preparation was applied to the “apparitions'” face and hair and the “weird ghost girls” dressed in costumes painted with phosphorus to mimic spirits in the dark. Here is a deadly DIY suggestion:

To Make the Hands and Face Luminous. Pat a piece of phosphorus, about the size of a pea, into an ounce or so of ether. After a time, portions of the phosphorus will dissolve, and if the hands and face be rubbed with this solution, which is perfectly harmless, the operator will seem on fire, and in the dark would pass for a respectable ghost.

Lake County Press 12 August 1886: p. 2

This lady had an unusual motive for her nocturnal flittings.

WOMAN WAS THE GHOST.

She Was Daubed with Phosphorus to Scare Her Husband.

Wallington, N, J., July 20. Elmer Ackerman, of Paterson, a motorman on the New Jersey Trolley Line, says he saw a white robed figure on his last trip through Wallington Friday night and pursued it.

He caught a young married woman with her face and hands smeared with phosphorus. The woman said she was around looking for her husband and a female companion he was in the habit of meeting at roadhouses. She played ghost, hoping to meet her rival and scare her. The woman was permitted to go without revealing her identity

The Scranton [PA] Tribune 21 July 1897: p. 1

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Noble Revenge: 1868

child pine coffin

The Noble Revenge

The coffin was a plain one—a poor miserable pine coffin. No flowers on its top, no lining of the rose-white satin for the pale brow; no smooth ribbons about the coarse shroud. The brown hair was laid decently back, but there was no crimped cap, with its neat tie beneath the chin. The sufferer from cruel poverty smiled in her sleep; she had found bread, rest, and health.

“I want to see my mother,” sobbed a poor child, as the city undertaker screwed down the top.

“You can’t—get out of the way, boy, why don’t somebody take the brat?”

“Only let me see her one minute;” cried the hopeless, helpless orphan, clutching the side of the charity box, and as he gazed into the rough face anguishing tears streamed rapidly down the cheek, on which no childish bloom ever lingered. Oh! It was pitiful to hear him cry “Only once, only once, let me see my mother.”

Quickly and brutally the hard-hearted monster struck the boy away, so that he reeled from the blow. For a moment the boy stood panting with grief and rage, his blue eyes distended, his lips sprang apart, a fire glittering through his tears as he raised his puny arm, and with a most unchildish accent screamed, “When I’m a man I’ll kill you for that.”
There was a coffin and a heap of earth between the mother and the poor, forsaken child—a monument stronger than granite, built in his boy heart to the memory of the heartless deed.

* * *

The Court House was crowded to suffocation.

“Does any one appear as this man’s counsel? Asked the judge.

There was silence when he finished, until, with lips tightly pressed together, a look of strange intelligence blended with haughty reserve upon his features, a young man stepped forward with a firm tread and kindly eye, to plead of the erring and friendless. He was a stranger but from his first sentence there was a silence. The splendor of his genius entranced—convinced.

The man who could not find a friend was acquitted.

“May God bless you, I cannot.”

“I want no thanks,” replied the stranger with ice coldness.

“I—I believe you are unknown to me.”

“Man! I will refresh your memory. Twenty years ago you struck a broken-hearted boy away from his mother’s coffin. I was that poor boy.”

The man turned livid.

“Have you rescued me, then, to take away my life?”

“No. I have a sweeter revenge; I have saved the life of a man whose brutal deed has rankled in my breast for twenty years. Go! And remember the tears of a friendless child.”

The man bowed his head in shame and went from the presence of a magnanimity as grand to him as incomprehensible, and the noble young lawyer felt God’s smile in his soul forever after.

The Olathe [KS] Mirror 5 March 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A pauper’s funeral was the final insult to the poor, who often went into debt–foolishly, said social reformers–to provide a decent burial for their loved ones. While undertakers were sometimes accused of exploiting the poor–quoting them a price for a funeral that was precisely the amount that the burial club had just paid out–they also waited years for payment that sometimes did not come.

One wonders what crime the city undertaker had committed to bring him within the shadow of the gallows. Mrs Daffodil suspects that he had a lucrative contract to provide subjects to the local medical school and, needing to fill his quota, he helped some clients  to join the Choir Invisible prematurely.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Purity League and the Sea Vamps: 1922

a group of rollicking sea vamps 1922

A rollicking group of sea vamps, 1922

“Protect Our Husbands from the Wiles of the ‘Sea Vamps’”

How the Purity League of Florida Has made the One-Piece Bathing Suit a Political Issue and Demands a Bathing Suit Inspector to Stop the Frolics on the Beaches.

The one-piece bathing suit has pushed its way into politics. In the next election for Mayor of St. Petersburg. Florida, the candidates will have to declare themselves without equivocation whether they are for or against the “Sea Vamps.”

It is a complicated situation. Florida is a Winter resort and the importance of the decision is a far-reaching one. The Purity League and the church element have looked on with increasing dismay at the frolicsome antics of the feminine charmers who frisk about the ocean beach in tight fitting bathing trunks without skirt, stocking or shoe.

But pleasure resorts are dependent for their business prosperity upon luring the tourists. If the news travels abroad that a bathing suit censor stalks the beach the Winter visitors, many of them, may not go to St. Petersburg Thus the hotels and rooming houses and restaurants and merchants will feel the effect of the bathing suit censor in their pocketbooks.

The question of suppressing the lures of the beguiling young ‘Sea Vamps” has become acute, because of the recent official action of the St. Petersburg Purity League. This earnest association of worthy citizens has served notice in writing upon the Mayor of St. Petersburg that the antics of the visitors on that Florida beach must be stopped.

Frank F. Pulver, the Mayor, happens to be a young man and a bachelor. When it became known that the Purity League demanded the appointment of a bathing suit inspector he was inclined to pigeonhole the letter from the league and with a few diplomatic phrases hoped to see the matter blow over.

But the newspapers printed the rather sharp demand of the Purity League and long lines of men formed at the Mayor’s office, offering their services as bathing suit inspectors. Young men and old men, tall men and short men, near-sighted men and men with acute vision, fat men and thin men, married men and bachelors offered to accept the proposed new office of bathing suit inspector without salary or fees or compensation of any kind. He was surprised at the public-spirited unselfishness of the men of the town.

Mayor Pulver, whose youthful portrait in white Winter flannels and straw hat is printed on this page, is regarded as a very eligible matrimonial catch. When he strolls on the beach many of the more attractive of the “Sea Vamps” have beguiled him with their most skillful wiles. They rather interest young Mayor Pulver.

But Mayor Pulver cannot overlook the political aspect of the situation. What would be the probable line-up of the voters of St. Petersburg on the sharply defined issue of “Sea Vamps” or bathing suit inspector?

Of course, the Purity League and the church element would be solidly behind the Mayor if he appointed a bathing suit censor. On the other hand, the younger voters among the women are, many of them, wearers of the one-piece bathing suits and they would vote against him. The young men could be counted on to vote against censorship and whispered warnings from many of the older and married men lead Mayor Pulver to think, that the bald-heads and gray beards would be likely to be against him on the one-piece bathing suit issue. And a large element of the business men would not like to risk the results of blue-law management of St. Petersburg’s beach.

So, to gain time, Mayor Pulver referred the letter of the Purity League to the city attorney, who is the Mayor’s official legal adviser, and thus then secured a legal opinion which lets Mayor Pulver out of this hole for the present.

Here Is the letter the Purity League sent Mayor Pulver:

Frank F. Pulver, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Dear Sir.

The attention of this organization, the Purity League, has been called to the outrageous bathing suits being worn on the beaches around St. Petersburg. Abbreviated to an extreme, skirtless and sleeveless, young women in reckless abandon appear before young men and their elders in costumes that never would be tolerated in Christian communities.

Mr. Mayor Pulver, it is up to you to take some action on these bathing suits. You must compel the young ladies to wear stockings and skirts to their suits. You make them wear sleeves. As it is now permitted, these girls don’t care how they look on the beaches. They are half naked.

Further, this league will protect the married men in its membership from the wiles of the “Sea Vamps” even if it has to engage its own law enforcers. Members of the Purity League have gone on record in opposing the present costumes being worn on the bathing beaches, and it further urges you, Mr. Mayor Pulver, to do away with the suits named after a certain Annette Kellermann.

Give back to us the modest bathing suit and take away the shameless ones your police permit the young women of this community to wear before the men and our husbands.

Pressure is now being brought to bear with the State Legislature to compel restrictions on the abbreviations of bathing suits. We are also urging the appointment of a bathing suit inspector at all beaches.

(Signed) ST. PETERSBURG PURITY LEAGUE

By Hazel Milford Van Freedon, Secretary.

Mayor Pulver, as already said, forwarded the letter to the city attorney Mr. F. J. Mack, for advice as to the Mayor’s legal right to appoint a bathing suit inspector, and it was with a sigh of relief that the Mayor received in due time the following opinion from the legal adviser of the city, which allowed him to dodge the embarrassing issue for the present. Mr. Mack wrote as follows:

“Pursuant to your request for an opinion as to your authority to appoint a ‘ladies’ bathing suit inspector’ with authority to censor and prescribe the texture, dimensions and transparency of ladles’ bathing suits, as you have been requested to do by the Purity League.

“As a legal proposition, it is my opinion that you have no authority under the laws of Florida or the city charter to appoint such an inspector, or to confer any authority upon him.

“Under the ordinances of the city, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, and violators, upon conviction in the municipal court, can be punished.

“The married women of the Purity League who ask you to protect their husbands from the ‘wiles of the sea vamps’ can invoke the above mentioned ordinance, and if the court finds the wearing of bathing suits complained of comes within the scope of disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, the matter can thus be adjusted in court.

“It is my opinion that the members of the Police Department are not the best qualified to pass upon the sufficiency of ladies’ bathing suits, and therefore recommend that the sufficiency of said bathing suits be not tested in court until complaint is made in due form, by some of the women who are apprehensive of the consequences of ‘the wiles of the sea vamps.’

“Yours respectfully

“F. J. MACK.

“City Attorney.”

Backed up by the decision of the City Attorney, Mayor Pulver spread the disappointing news to the men of the town who had applied for the job of bathing suit inspector that there would be no such office created.

“Furthermore,” said Mayor Pulver, “I see no good reason for allowing the demand of the Purity League, even if it was within my power to appoint a censor for the bathing beach.

“I am not very familiar with water sports and, in fact, have seldom been on the beach here. But when I have been there I have never seen anything objectionable about the bathing suits worn by the girls of St. Petersburg, nor their behavior.

“It seems to me that we have as lovely girls here as can be found anywhere and just as modest maidens and I do not believe that they would wear insufficient clothing or vamp the males who go into the bay with them. I am strong for the girls. They can wear what they want to wear. They will do it anyhow, so what’s the use?

“The Purity League asked me to be its chairman but I declined and if there is anything done to require the bathers to wear stockings and long skirts and a lot of other clothing when they swim, the leaders of the League will have to take the cases into court.

“The human form is divine and judging from some of the bathers I have seen, a divinity shaped their ends for they certainly are well shaped.”

The young women who enjoy themselves on the bathing beach are indignant at the phrase “Sea Vamps,” which the Purity League has applied to them. They point out that the worthy women of the League, for the most part, belong to a generation which flourished before automobiles were invented or wireless telephones were used, or the “shimmy” had been discovered. They declare that those who complain of the bathing costumes of the girl of 1922 are out-of-date and ought to get into adjustment with modern times.

“Nowadays,” said, one of the “Sea Vamps,” “we do real hard athletic work in our water sports. Grandmother used to cover herself up from her toes to her chin and walk down and step timidly into the water and stand around for a while and then go out and call it sea bathing.

“Now things have changed. We go in for real athletic sports. We swim, dive, play water polo and all sorts of stunts and it can’t be done with skirts and pantalets and water-soaked bathing shoes. That is what the women of the League don’t seem to grasp.

“And another thing. Some of us come to Florida at the advice of our doctors to get all the sunshine we can get. The doctor advises a generous coat of tan. It’s healthy. And how are we going to get all browned up if we wear grandmother’s bathing suit?

“Of course things have changed. But that doesn’t mean that they have changed for the worst. There is nothing to get frightened about. When the taxicabs first began to appear on the streets some people were afraid to get into them. But we are all of us pretty well used to taxicabs now and nobody is shocked or frightened about them any more. The Purity League has got to get used to us girls wearing our brothers’ one-piece bathing suits just the same as they have had to get used to taxicabs.”

But the end is not yet. The Purity League feels that Mayor Pulver has evaded the issue. Miss Hazel Van Freedon, the secretary, believes if she was elected Mayor of St. Petersburg she would not dodge the issue, but would find a way to stop the vampish antics on the beach.

grandma's bathing suit purity league 1922

And another element has entered into the controversy. The Florida Art School, with Miss Edith Tabb Little at its head, has taken sides with the Mayor and declares there is nothing wrong with the one-piece bathing suit: it is cheap, shapely and artistic. The art school is chiefly horrified at. the threatening aspect of the return of grandmother’s style of bathing suit with skirts and pantalets visible beneath them. Upon esthetic grounds the art school is prepared to take the field and campaign against their sisters in the Purity League at the next election.

Meanwhile, as the Purity League announces, pressure is being brought to bear to put through a State law which will provide the authority which City Attorney Mack says the Mayor now lacks. After and when this law is passed by the Legislature the unfortunate Mayor of St. Petersburg will be forced out into the open for or against the frolicsome vamps of St. Petersburg’s famous beach.

The Washington [DC] Times 5 March 1922: p. 65

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Well. Quite.

The Purity League obviously had strong feelings on this issue, as did many communities, who hired “beach censors” to make sure that their standards of modesty were being upheld. A laudable goal, some would say. However, “The St Petersburg Purity League” was, in fact, fabricated by Mayor Pulver and publicist John Lodwick to promote interest in St Petersburg tourism. Papers ran photo-gravures of Pulver posed on the beach while pretending to inspect one-piece bathing suits. No doubt there was a gratifyingly large influx of visitors who wished to see for themselves the ravages of the frolicsome Sea Vamp.

Mrs Daffodil has posted about this issue before in A Matter of Three Inches on a Bathing Suit and Mixed Bathing and the Fall of Empire.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.