Tag Archives: bathing costume

The Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Waist: 1906

peekaboo waist

Midsummer Follies in Dress

How the Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Shirt Waist Has Grown Worse and Worse Until It Has Gotten Into the Courts.

From the New York American.

The well-recognized innate tendency of woman to carry fashions to outrageous extremes receives a startling illustration this year in the garment popularly known as “the peek-a-boo waist.” It has now reached a phase of disclosure entirely beyond anything dreamed of in civilized countries; since the pagan fashions of drapery yielded to the advance of modesty.

The peek-a-boo waist heads the list of all the follies which woman is committing this summer in the name of fashion. Philosophers, be it noted, have observed that woman is especially prone to commit follies in summer. Associated with the peek-a-boo waist in prevalence and in provocative character is the open-work or peek-a-boo stocking.

The question of the peek-a-boo waist is a serious one for the American people. Leading clergymen have thundered denunciations of it from the pulpit. It has given rise to cases in police courts. In the opinion of clergymen, magistrates and other high authorities, it is the cause of wickedness, strife and widespread demoralization in social and business life.

The New York Telephone company has been forced to issue orders that its women employees shall not wear peek-a-boo waists.

It was found that the men employees were so distracted by the new developments and vagaries of the peek-a-boo, as exhibited by their near neighbors in the Office, that they were practically unable to attend to business, thereby causing great annoyance to the public. A leading bank president called to have his house telephone disconnected for the summer, and addressed his instructions in vain to an assistant manager, whose eyes were busy exploring the mysteries of a peek-a-boo waist.

Even a Parisian leader of fashion has declared that the peek-a-boo waist is immodest. The Countess de Noailles has declared that any woman who wears a shirt waist exposing her bare shoulders is deficient in good breeding. The decollete gown may be excused on the ground that it is worn in the company of friends and intimates, but the peek-a-boo unveils the wearer to the populace. The denunciation from a Parisienne is as significant in its way as that of religious leaders.

In one case the waist led to a violent altercation between persons of good social position and a subsequent appearance in the police court. Upon a recent evening Mrs. Mary Linck and her husband, of No. 835 Cherry street, Philadelphia, were returning home from the theater. They were in a crowded street car and were both standing up. Behind them stood Mr. Joseph Bruce, of No. 4541 North Twentieth street. Mrs. Linck was wearing a peek-a-boo waist of unusually provocative design. The demon of perversity was aroused in Mr. Bruce by the sight of this garment just under his nose. He happened to have an instrument of mischief at hand in the shape of a straw. This he passed through the interstices of Mrs. Linck’s waist and proceeded to tickle her. Thinking it was a mosquito Mrs. Linck slapped at the place on her back, and Mr. Bruce quickly withdrew the straw. He chuckled deeply at the joke, and began it again as soon as she took away her hand. There were actually a great many mosquitos in the air. She slapped and slapped and told her husband how maddening the mosquitos were. Suddenly she turned round and caught Mr. Bruce in the act of tickling. She angrily denounced the offender and grappled with him. Mr. Linck then had the car stopped and gave Mr. Bruce into the custody of a policeman.

Bruce was arraigned at the Central police court before Magistrate Kochersperger, who decided that the act of tickling constituted a technical assault and battery, and held Bruce in $600 bail for trial. It is considered by many that the peek-a-boo waist should be regarded as a justification of this offense, or at least, a greatly extenuating circumstance.

Dr. Jacques Schnier, a dentist, of No. 604 Lexington avenue, New York, appeared before Magistrate Whitman in the Yorkville police court and made a complaint against Miss Adelina Weissman, who lives in the same house. Miss Weissman is pretty and plump, with flashing black eyes and abundant hair. The doctor complained that she wore “an awfully tantalizing peek-a-boo waist,” and that wearing this she came and looked at him while he was engaged in the delicate art of filling teeth and distracted his attention. The magistrate did not find a cause for criminal proceedings, but warned Miss Weissman not to disturb Dr. Schnier unnecessarily.

By the church the peek-a-boo waist is generally condemned. Mgr. McNamee, of St. Theresa’s church, Brooklyn, looked over his congregation and was shocked that most of the young and attractive women in it were wearing peek-a-boo waists, and in many cases very short sleeves.

“It is disgraceful the way some of the women come to the altar to receive communion,” said Mgr. McNamee. “I have been pained to see them coming to the sacrament with these transparent waists, and, worse yet, with sleeveless waists, with hideous looking gloves as substitutes for sleeves. I hope I will not be obliged to say any more on this question.”

The Rev. Dr. MacFarland, on behalf of the Ministerial association, of Iowa, denounced the peek-a-boo. “Our mothers would have thrown up their hands in holy horror if they had been asked to wear the kind of waists the girls now wear,” he said….

A few Sundays ago the pastor of St. Cecelia’s church, in Rochester, Pa., Rev. Father Schoerner, on rising to preach saw before him in the congregation two young women wearing especially flagrant examples of the up-to-date, open-work, sleeveless shirtwaist.

“Go home!” he thundered at them. “Take off those bathing suits; this is a church of God, not a bathing resort.”

Father Schoener’s only mistake was the injustice he did to the bathing suit. At no known resort would bathing suits modeled on such a design be permitted…

Women are showing a fondness this summer for several garments which seem fitting accompaniments of the peek-a-boo waist. One of these is the thin white bathing suit. At Lake Hopatcong. N. J., a young woman gave a fine imitation of Venus rising from the sea. She wore a costume that seemed too beautiful to wet. It was of white brilliantine, trimmed with blue polka dot silk. The blouse was sleeveless, the neck was low, the skirt was short. A white silk cap was perched on Venus’s head. Long, very long, extremely long pink silk stockings encased her limbs.

When this bather emerged from the water and took a sun bath on the pavilion 600 persons surrounded her, but their stares did not disconcert her. When finally she went to the bathhouse a crowd followed her. The manager of the bathhouse ordered her to leave by the rear door and warned her to wear a different bathing suit the next time she bathes there.

The Rev. Mr. Johnson has been preaching against young women, and young men, too, “who go about the bathing grounds with their chests bared and their arms exposed.”

It is interesting to recall briefly the evolution of the peek-a-boo waist. Like other outrageous fashions, such as the crinoline and the eel-tight skirt, it had a comparatively innocent beginning. That was in the year 1900. It was at first confined to a simple little yoke, outlining a pretty girl’s neck and giving fleeting glimpses of the interior decorations. It was graceful, coquettish, piquant. It was a tantalizing hint, not a bare-faced revelation.

By 1902 the peek-a-boo shirt waist had reached another stage in its evolution. The open-work yoke had extended its limits and began to frankly disclose features which garments were supposed to veil.

In 1904 the extent of open-work territory claimed by the shirt waist was increased by spacious Vs descending in front and in the rear to points beyond the limits that mere men had expected fair woman to fix.

In 1905 “panels” of various shapes came to the aid of the V’s in adding space, variety, interest and intricacy to the area of exposure. In the present season the shirt waist, it is believed, has got as near to the Trilbyan “altogether” as it may dare to go.

And fitting companions in disclosure and exposure of the peek-a-boo, apt aiders and abettors in allurement of the casual eye are the open-work stockings. Like the peek-a-boo, they, too, began their career in most modest guise.

Mere pinpricks traced in varied designs that flashed faint, fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. But today they also have advanced to a point where the word “open-work” possesses hardly strength sufficient to be adequately descriptive.

The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 19 August 1906: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, who is always annoyed by the gentlemen who have so much to say about the modesty of women’s dress, wonders if these depraved peek-a-boo wearers were also sans corsets, chemises, or corset-covers? Even in summer underthings, the amount of flesh exposed in the sheerest tulle or lawn waist would be negligible, stimulating only to those of powerful imaginations who focused their attentions (or a straw) on fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. In short, Peeping Toms.

There is an antiquated argument that goes like this: ladies who leave their homes in a state of immodest dress somehow deserve to be tickled by straws or worse. To which Mrs Daffodil crisply replies, Rubbish. A gentleman may enjoy the view, if he is able to do so discreetly and without giving offence,  but he is not then allowed to denounce it from the pulpit.


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.

Shoes for the Surf: 1879-1922

bathing boots cartoon

From Mermaids: with Other Tales Piscatorial and Pictorial, Charles Henry Ross, 1886


At present most American ladies prefer a striped stocking to any slipper that can be devised, but now and then, when a beach is pebbly, a pretty foot is badly cut, and its owner wishes that its delicate covering had been more substantial. The French slippers have hemp soles with canvas tops and are fastened on the feet by ties matching the trimming of the dress. As a rule, an anchor is embroidered on the toe, and cork soles are placed inside. The French plates representing ladies clothed in the most approved style show these slippers fastened by means of enough cross-gartering to satisfy Malvolio himself, but this style is not likely to be adopted at American watering places. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 7 June 1879: p. 11

embroidered bathing shoe

Bathing-slippers should not be forgotten, nor their immediate purchase neglected, particularly if the shore be a frequented one, for then there will certainly be an ample store of broken glass, besides the usual sharp flints, oyster shells, and pebbles, to cut or bruise your feet. At many seaside places they may be procured, being made of plaited straw or of felt. In either case they need some embellishment, which may be given by the small expenditure of a piece of scarlet braid, and the turning of it into rosettes or bows, and sandals which cross over the foot and ankle, and are tied above it in a bow and short ends. These bathing-shoes and slippers may also be made by clever amateur hands out of felt or blanketing, or of very coarse flannel, embroidered in coarse crewel-work, and bound neatly with worsted braid. They may be soled also with a pair of cork soles, to be found everywhere, which should first be covered on both sides with flannel. Another method of making a bathing-slipper is to take a pair of old boots or shoes, cut them down to the required shape, and to cover the fronts—the only part left—with flannel to match the bathing-dress, trimming with worsted braid, and attaching sandals of the same to them, to keep up the heel. The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book, edited by Charles Peters, 1889

bathing sandals with ribbons 1903

Those who are truly thorough in this revival of an ancient mode are appearing on the beach without stockings, having their slender ankles and well-shaped calves crossed and recrossed with the canvas ribbons of their bathing sandals. Sometimes these are all white, though oftener you see gay colors looking pretty and effective against the gleaming white skin of which one gets scarcely more than a glimpse….Those who find this fad too much of an innovation compromise by wearing very thin lisle or silk stockings, so thin are they in fact that one could scarcely consider them as a real covering. The Washington [DC] Times 29 June 1902: p. 3

Although the assortment of shoes and boots is more limited, many changes may be achieved by the addition of silk laces to correspond in shade with the garment. Of course, there are the high laced boots of canvas, which are very trim and neat, finished by the silken string and tied in dainty bows; then some of our fair sisters may selected the prettily embroidered sandal with the crossed ankle ribbons that were worn many years ago, and still have a fascinating touch, particularly upon a small or well-shaped foot. Lastly, there are the plain little sandals with absolutely very little to them besides the sole and a strap to hold it on, and many of the bathers do not wear any shoes at all, but have the finest silk hosiery made to match the color of the bathing dress or its trimmings. To return for just a moment to a few suggestions regarding the hosiery, it might be well to know that some of the daintiest silken affairs worn are embroidered in small floral designs scattered at intervals and giving a touch of inconspicuous color to a dark ground, while others are woven in fine lace patterns and smart openwork stitches that reveal a hint of a white ankle peeping through the mesh. Ottumwa [IA] Tri-weekly Courier 21 June 1904: p. 2


High Strapped Boots now Worn When Swimming.

Canvas lace and strap bathing boots that reach half way to the knees, are the latest novelty of the season added to the already complete list of accessories, and are particularly popular with women, because of the support they afford to the ankles, as well as for the good background they make for wearing elaborate hosiery.

Made in white, brown and black canvas with a heavy hand sewed cork sole, these new styles boots are decidedly attractive looking. The edges of the top are prettily scalloped, and the nickel buckles through which the straps pass that hold the boot in place make the fronts ornamental. If laces are used instead of straps, the boots are even prettier, with red, blue or yellow silk lacings zigzagged in diamond shapes across the front of the stockings.

These bathing boots are not lined and as a result are not warm, and the fronts are open except for the lacings or straps that do not interfere with the freedom of the muscles in swimming, while the height acts as an ankle support.

Soleless Shoes.

Many women prefer braided soleless swimming sandals, which are also new this year. They are made exactly like bed slippers with no sole and are fitted bout the foot with a draw string. They are made of white and black cotton stripes that look like shoe strings when braided into the slipper. These low bathing shoes are made with a long lap, or upper, and high sides, so that when pulled up the foot is incased to the ankle as if in a mitten. They are loosely woven and are cooler than the styles made with soles. They cost 49 cents.

Besides these novelties the old cork sole low cut style of bathing shoes in black or white duck or canvas, with one strap and buckle or lacings, are still the most popular with bathers, because of the cost. They may be purchased for from 22 to 50 cents a pair. The Washington [DC] Times 10 August 1905: p. 7

Bathing Shoes.

Bathing shoes for any member of the family may be easily and cheaply made at home, says Mothers Magazine. They are strong enough to protect the feet from the little stones on the beaches, and so light that you will hardly feel them at all. Many swimmers object to the regular bathing boots as being somewhat in the way, but these homemade ones are so very light as to cause no inconvenience. Take an old pair of stockings (if they match the bathing suit so much the better.) and cut them off just below the knee. If they come higher they are apt to hinder a swimmer’s movements. Hem the top edges and cut and buttonhole little slits all around, about one inch below the hem. Buy a pair of cork or loofah soles (or if you have an old pair of light slippers you can use the soles) and slip into the feet of the stockings, fastening them on well. Then, run a wide tape, or ribbon, if you prefer, though the slits at the top and tie around the leg, and you have a pair of really good bathing boots for no cost at all. The Oregon Daily Journal [Portland OR] 12 July 1913: p. 7 [And, Mrs Daffodil would add, of no style whatsoever.]

Brilliant Bathing Boots Please Paris

Silk on Velvet Footwear Impracticable, of Course, of It Wouldn’t Be Attractive

Paris Fashionable shoemakers are already being besieged with orders for the new bathing boots which have been the rage at the Riviera and Monte Carlo baths. These silk and velvet boots are brilliant in color, the most conspicuous being orange boots lined with purple, white lined with red, and green lined with yellow.

In accordance with the theory that whatever is fashionable must be unpractical these boots are not laced, but are of the slip-on kind, so that once in the water they are sure to slip off.

Bootmakers contend that the bathing boot must be wide and baggy around the leg, so as to permit freedom of movement, while fitting the foot like a glove, and while the impartial spectator may agree with their arguments he is obliged to doubt the practicability of the principle. Wisconsin State Journal [Madison WI] 26 March 1920: p. 10

All-Rubber Bathing Slippers

One of the surf bathing shoes made popular last Summer is made of colored rubber without fabric, and cured on a perfectly-modeled last. The stock is calendered with an imitation leather grain. The sole and vamp are of the same quality of rubber; the inner surface of the sole is faced with white rubber. The trimming strips also are of white rubber.

Evidently the shoe was not designed by a shoemaker, or the upper would have been joined with a heel seam, rather than in the center of the vamp where faulty workmanship more easily mars the appearance of the goods.

These bathing slippers are made in six different colors, in sizes from child’s No. 11 to men’s No. 11.

Rubber Soled Bathing Shoe

Another shoe for the surf that is being made for Summer swimming is of a mercerized fabric, and has light rubber sole, thick enough to keep the feet away from the pebbles of the beach, but not heavy enough to stop the wearer from having a good swim. Both Roma and American patterns are used. Some of the Roman sandals, of colored fabrics, with white straps, are fascinating. Some one-strap pumps are of red, blue, green and black fabric, and have white bindings.  Boot and Shoe Recorder 15 April 1922: p. 132

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Unless one is extraordinarily hardy, bathing boots are an essential accessory for a sea-side holiday. The beaches of Britain are stony and unforgiving, which is why we build piers. If a bather wishes to be coddled, rather than braced, they should try the south of France.

There were always controversies about the correct stockings to be worn with bathing costumes.

Some young women are bold enough to venture upon the beach in sandals to match their bathing suits but without stockings of any kind. While the idea is sensible from the swimmer’s point of view, for certainly both shoes and stockings hinder one’s movements in the water, it is not a fashion which recommends itself for use in public. The girl who likes a good swim and prefers wearing a sensible costume must enjoy the sport where spectators are few. The Washington [DC] Times 6 July 1902: p. 3

The notion from 1904 that “many of the bathers do not wear any shoes at all, but have the finest silk hosiery made to match the color of the bathing dress or its trimmings” seems an appalling waste of stockings, which would be instantly torn to pieces on beaches littered with stones and shells.

Silk stockings are not necessary for bathing unless sandals are worn. The fashion would prove too expensive for the average woman. Fine lisle thread are every bit as good and even if they last but little longer they can at any rate be more easily replaced. Open-work hose are never worn with a bathing costume.  With an all blue or red gown the stockings should be of the same shade, unless there is considerable black braiding, in which case the black hose is effective. With a black costume the stockings should be of the same color. From time to time sandals appear and for a while are thought absolutely necessary, but almost as suddenly they will be disappear and for a while will be quite forgotten. This year at least one pair has already been provided with each smart bathing suit, which looks very much as though this were a sandal season. The sandals now fashionable look much like heelless pumps, with a little strap across the instep, and if the beach is at all rough it is of inestimable service. The swimmer, of course, has no use for this little slipper, which is quite useless in deep water and only retards and renders swimming unnecessarily difficult. Los Angeles [CA] Herald 25 June 1905: p. 33

Those shell-studded beaches made cork soles seem an admirable idea. However, they, too, had their perils.

Mermaid With Cork Soles

[Salt Lake Letter in Ogden Pilot]

Writing of the lake reminds me to say, for the benefit of my Ogden sisters, be warned in time and don’t do when you go bathing as one of my lady friends did. She said the pebbles on the lake bottom hurt her feet, so she had a pair of sandals made with cork soles. She put them on and went into the water. She’s not a vain woman, but she has a pretty foot, and she showed it that day with less effort than she ever did before in her life. Her feet went up and her head (heavy, of course, with the weight of a brain that could originate cork soles for sea-bathing) went down—on somebody’s broad shoulders—or I might have been under the painful necessity of elaborating on ‘another case of strangulation from sea-water.” Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 24 September 1881: p.12

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.

Mrs Pomeroy’s Page: 1873

pageboy 1902


By Mary E. Bradley.

Did you notice him when he opened the door for us, just now—a cunning little chap, with a curly head, and a blue sailor suit? Perhaps you thought he was Mazie Pomeroy’s little brother, or something?—people do, sometimes, because Mrs. Pomeroy always keeps him dressed so nicely, and not in “buttons,” either.

He isn’t the least relation, though; only her little page; and it’s quite a story, the way we found him. I had something to do with it, you see,— quite a good deal, in fact,—for it all came about through an accident that happened to me last summer, when Lizzie Prior and I were spending the long vacation with Mazie. Mrs. Pomeroy has a cottage at Long Branch, you know, and she was kind enough to invite Lizzie and me to go down with Mazie for the holidays.

We were to stop a week in New York before we went to the Branch, just to get our little fineries together. Mazie was clever with her needle, and she had the idea of an astonishing bathing-dress that was to take the shine out of everything on the beach. Lizzie and I followed her lead, and we were all three up to our eyes in blue and gray and scarlet flannels,—making a great litter of scraps and cuttings, too,—when Catharine came up stairs, one morning, with a little object of a child behind her.

Catharine is the parlor-maid, and she wanted her mistress; but Mrs. Pomeroy had gone out to buy a lot of things we needed for our work,—Hercules braid, and smoked pearl buttons, and oiled silk for caps. Mazie asked her was it anything particular that was wanted, and where under the sun had she picked up that creature,—meaning the child, who was the most ridiculous object you can-imagine, and set us all to laughing at the first glimpse. It was dressed in such an absurd way, with a boy’s hat on its shaggy head, and a boy’s jacket, with the sleeves cut off, round its waist, and under that was a girl’s little faded cotton frock, so short that it hardly covered the child’s knees. Its slim bare arms, and its long pipe-stem legs, made you think of a young Shanghai before its feathers are grown; and altogether there was such a comical look about it that we couldn’t help screaming,—though we are not so hard-hearted as to laugh when it hurts anybody’s feelings, I want you to know.

It didn’t hurt this monkey at all. In fact, it seemed as much amused with us as we were with it; and stared and grinned in the drollest way while Catharine was explaining that it had come to beg for rags to sell; and did anybody know what they wouldn’t be coming after next? But it was Mrs. Pomeroy’s orders that no beggars were to be sent away, and she didn’t know what to do about it.

“Why, give her the rag-bag, of course,” said Mazie.

But Catharine didn’t know whether there was a rag-bag, and looked as if she thought it beneath the dignity of the house to keep such a thing. Mazie didn’t know, herself; but I happened to have seen one hanging in the hall closet once when I wanted to get rid of some scraps, and I told Catharine where to find it.

So she went to fetch it, and came back presently with a large calico bag, pretty well stuffed with the snips and pieces that Mrs. Pomeroy’s dress-maker had left. The ridiculous child was perfectly delighted when all this trash was emptied into the big basket she carried, and we were so amused with her grimaces, that we went upon our knees and picked up all the scraps of flannel that were scattered on the floor, to add to her treasure.

“Now, then, what are you going to do with the rags?” I asked her, as I stuffed the last handful into the basket .

“Take ’em home to Mum,” she said, with a beaming face.

“Who’s Mum? Your mother?” asked Lizzie.

“Mum’s the woman. Haint got any mother.”

“Is the woman good to you? Do you like her?” asked Lizzie again.

The object shook her flaxen head, “like “the lady from over the Rhine,” and civilly answered: “No, she aint!”

“What makes you so glad to get the rags for her, then?” cried Mazie.

“‘Cause we get whacked when we don’t bring ’em,” she said, coolly. “There’s Jinny, an’ Sally, an’ Mary-Ann an’ me, an’ some of us gets whacked every night for not fetchin’ enough. Mum’s a hard hitter, too, she is.”

The girls looked at each other, and Lizzie cried pitifully, “You poor little monkey! She starves you, too, I dare say,—the horrid woman!”

“Well, she don’t feed us werry high,—Mum don’t,” was the answer, with a confidential nod at Lizzie. “Cold mush for brekfus, an’ wotever you can pick up in the street for dinner, aint none too fillin’, miss. You know how it is yourself.”

This was more than we could stand, of course. We screamed with laughter at the idea of Lizzie “knowing how it was herself;” and Mazie, as soon as she could get her breath, ordered Catharine to take the child down stairs and feed her.

“Give her all she can possibly eat, and a whole lot of gingerbread and sponge-cake to take home with her,” said Mazie.

“And here, you oddity !” cried Lizzie, “there’s a quarter for you to keep. Mind you don’t give it to Mum, though.”

Such eyes as that creature made! I wish you could have seen how they flashed like fire, at first, and then softened all over, and the way she snatched Lizzie’s hand and kissed it—actually kissed it! Mazie and l found some pennies to keep the quarter company, and Catharine carried the child off at last to be fed in the kitchen. Of course, it kept our tongues going for awhile afterwards, and there wasn’t much sewing done, until Mazie remarked, sarcastically, that she thought we might take in orders for bathing dresses, we were getting on so fast. And then we all picked up our thimbles and went to work again.

Nearly all, at least, but my thimble was not to be found. I couldn’t remember exactly where I had laid it down; yet, as I had never left the room, it must be somewhere around, we all agreed. However, after scattering everything about, and upsetting the work-basket, and rummaging the tabledrawer, and turning things inside out, generally, there was still no sign of it.

I began to be worried; for the mischief of it was, l had been using Mrs. Pomeroy’s thimble; and, besides being a very handsome one, she thought everything of it for another reason. It was made of a lump of Californian gold that her only brother had dug with his own hands; and not long after he had it made for her, he had lost his life at the mines. It all happened, of course, long before any of us were born; but the thimble was one of Mrs. Pomeroy’s precious things still.

I had no business to have touched it, either. It was just a piece of laziness not to go up stairs for my own; but this lay in a work-basket conveniently near, and I slipped it on my finger without thinking, which is nothing new for me, I suppose; for mother says my thinking generally does come when it’s too late to do any good.

It was certainly so this time; for after all our rummaging,—and Lizzie has eyes that could find a needle in a haystack,—we had to give it up in despair. The thimble wasn’t in that room, and none of us had left the room since it was seen on my finger. So there was only one conclusion,—somebody had carried it off; and the same thought flashed upon all of us at once. It was that wretched little rag-beggar!

“And to think of our giving him quarters and pennies!” cried Mazie.

“And sponge-cake and gingerbread!” exclaimed Lizzie.

“What do you say him for?” l snapped out crossly. “The horrid little object was a girl, and so much the worse.”

“So it was,” said Mazie, innocently. “But, do you know, it didn’t seem to me in the least like a girl. It talked and looked like a boy.”

“As if that made a bit of difference!” I said, peevishly. ”Boy or girl—it’s all one. The little wretch has stolen Mrs. Pomeroy’s thimble, and whatever am I going to do about it? Lizzie, why did you let me touch it? You ought to have known better!”

Now, Lizzie is the most amiable creature in the world; but this attack took her by surprise.

“How could I help your touching it?” she exclaimed. And Mazie cried indignantly:

“Why, Jet! aren’t you ashamed of yourself, to blame Lizzie?”

So they were both down upon me, and I was down upon myself, for that matter; and when Mrs. Pomeroy came back with the pearl buttons and things, she found us all looking as sober as a funeral. We had asked Catharine and the cook, and we had hunted up stairs and down; but it was all no use, any more than my crying like a baby, which I could n’t help, either.

Mrs. Pomeroy was lovely about it, as she is about everything. It’s her “nature to,” and I wish it was mine. She brushed the tears off my cheeks with her lace handkerchief, and said I was not to cry. That accidents would happen, and she might have lost it, herself, in exactly the same way, and she didn’t blame me in the least. Still I knew how sorry she was, in spite of her being so sweet, and I blamed myself enough, I can tell you.

We couldn’t talk of anything else, and the whole story was told over and over, till, before we knew it, it was one o’clock, and the luncheon-bell rang. I thought I shouldn’t eat a mouthful when I went down, but there was a great dish of strawberries, and the most delicious frozen custard; and one must feel pretty bad, you know, to refuse those on a hot June day. I didn’t refuse them, neither did Mazie nor Lizzie; in fact, we had a second helping, and were getting quite cheerful over it, when suddenly a great outcry came from the kitchen regions. We heard a scream from cook, and a sort of scattering rush out into the basement hall, and then a screech, as if they had pounced upon a chicken.

Lizzie started up breathlessly. “If it should be that child!” she exclaimed. “Mazie! Jet! Don’t you know that voice?”

We sprang up without asking to be excused, and rushed out into the hall, where the first thing we saw was cook struggling up the basement stairs, and dragging, sure enough, our poor little Shanghai with her.

“I’ve got her, miss! I’ve got her!” she screamed. “I spied her goin’ past the windy, an’ I jumped at her ‘fore she had time to run.”

“I warn’t agoin’ to run—now !” cried the child, trying to shake herself out of cook’s grasp. “I was a-comin’ here a purpose to give the young lady her thimble wot I found in the rags. You lemme go, I say!”

And in a second she had twisted herself out of her old jacket, that she left in cook’s hands, and darted away to Lizzie.

“Here’s your thimble”—stuffing it into her hand—“it’s gold, aint it? Mum tried to grab it when it rolled out o’ the rags, but I hooked it an’ run, cos I thought you’d be wantin’ it. Guess you dropped it in the basket with them rags you picked up off the floor.”

So there it was, as clear as daylight. I had let the thimble slip off my finger,—it was rather large for me, anyhow,—when I was stuffing those flannel scraps into the basket, and the poor little monkey that we had been abusing for a thief, had rescued it from Mum’s clutches, and braved her wrath to restore it to us!

It seemed at first so impossible to believe, that we could only stare at each other, and say, “Did you ever?”

Mrs. Pomeroy was the first one to give the child a word of praise or thanks.

“You ‘re an honest little girl,” she began, “and a brave little girl. You shall certainly…”

But, before she could finish her sentence, that child interrupted her.

“I aint a honest little girl—I aint a brave little girl—I aint a girl at all! ” he jerked out. “I’m a boy, I am, an’ I don’t care what Mum says, I aint agoing to have no more nonsense about it.”

And he held up his head and spread out his comical little legs with such a lord-of-creation air, —well, you never saw anything like it, and it’s no use trying to describe it, or to express our amazement. Catharine declared afterwards, that it made her feel all over in spots, whatever that means; and cook said that “it bate Banagher, to see the impidence of a little spider like that.” But Mazie turned to me in her innocent way: “I told you it talked like a boy,” said she; “now you see.”

Well, we inquired, of course, why “it” wore a frock, and made a pretence of being a girl; and we were informed, with a condescending air, that it was “just a notion of Mum’s. She said girls was more noticed than boys, and ladies would ruther give ’em the rags.” His own mother was dead, he went on to explain, and Mum had kept him two years, and made him beg for her. But he was going to “cut it” now, and do something else for a living. “He’d have to keep out of Mum’s way after this, or she’d make jelly of him. An’ if the lady could give him a old pair o’ trowzes, he’d be werry much obliged, an’ he wouldn’t trouble her no more.”

Mrs. Pomeroy asked him what he meant to do for a living, and, as his answer was not perfectly satisfactory, she concluded to keep the monkey in the house till Mr. Pomeroy came home. He was made very comfortable in the kitchen, with a plate of strawberries and unlimited bread and butter; and to come to the end of my story, he has been very comfortable ever since.

The Pomeroys are the best people in the world, I do believe. They took pains to hunt up “Mum,” and find out whether she really had any right to the boy; and she hadn’t, and was an awful old creature besides, and everything the little “what-isit” said was true. So it ended in his being sent to some respectable people in the country, to be civilized a little; and when we came back from the Branch there was such a good report of him that Mrs. Pomeroy brought him home, and made him her little page. He opens the door for us whenever we go over to see Mazie, and gives us all a beaming smile. But Lizzie is his adoration. He considers her an angel, Mrs. Pomeroy says, on account of that quarter, I suppose; and was quite disappointed when he discovered that the thimble wasn’t hers after all.

One of these days, when he’s a little bigger and stronger, he’s to be Mr. Pomeroy’s office boy. And, after that, what’s to hinder his being a lawyer and a statesman, and a member of Congress, may be? Wouldn’t it be funny, though? and all to grow out of a thimble!

St Nicholas Magazine, 1873

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A recognised theme in the nineteenth-century press was the girl dressed as a boy to avoid detection either when fleeing a cruel step-parent or enlisting in the armed services to follow a lover. When we hear reports of a boy dressed as a girl, invariably it is for some nefarious purpose.

How very interesting to observe that the Americans, particularly on the Eastern coast, had adopted some of our old English customs, such as page boys, week-end cottages, and the class system.  In the inevitable sequel to this story, “the monkey” would rise from office boy to Head of the Firm and marry Lizzie.

Rags were a lucrative commodity. See this post on the “rag trade.”

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.


Lawn Swimming, the Newest Hot Weather Sport: 1916



Have you tried lawn swimming?

It’s the new hot weather sport.

Try it!

Put on your bathing suit, assume the attitude of a mermaid on the front lawn or in your back yard and sing out, “Splash me! Come on an’ splash me!”

If some member of your own family doesn’t answer your appeal, try your next door neighbour. Some one will gladly handle the hose for you.

It’s a sport for men, women and children, with no age limit.

The Day Book [Chicago, IL] 4 August 1916: p. 29

Mrs. Daffodil really has nothing to add….