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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

A Place in the Sun: 1910

A Place in the Sun: 1910

New Jersey circa 1910. "Long Branch bathing beach." You kids turn down that Victrola! 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

 

Towel Talk

Believe it or not, towels were something of a luxury 100 years ago. Thus, the average housewife would not have cared to soil her good towels at anything so frivolous as a day at the beach, not to mention the trouble of washing them afterward in those days of labor-intensive laundering. Now, you could have rented a beach towel along with your bathing suit at the "Bath House" (as one of the chaps appears to have done), but that would have cost extra, and I'm guessing most beach day-trippers from the city were probably on a strict budget: streetcar fare (20 cents or so for a round trip), suit rental (25 to 50 cents) and a soda or two for refreshment (5 cents each?).

Blown Away

The young woman on the far left, just at the ocean's edge, looks as though she was just blown over by a tremendous blast of wind or she is performing some weird exercise.

Fitness Lady

There's something you don't see everyday in these old beach photos: the woman in the wet sand at the far left appears to be doing push-ups, and nicely too.

Granularity

Look at the woman to the far right up close with the umbrella. I love the detail in that and how the moment was captured with young and old on the beach playing with the sand. You see people on the beach today and they are all strangers. This depicts people all mingling together almost like one big family.

Plus ça change ...

This is one of those many Shorpy pictures that just transport you right back in time, more so than the portraits or more posed shots, I think. I just came back from the beach, and yes, the bathing suits are different, there were no ropes, we had boogie boards. Still, it's the same: relaxing in the sand and sun, picking something out of your feet (bottom left), kids at play. Wonderful. Carpe diem.

Whole lotta clothing

The scene looks like there was a horrible shipwreck 100 yards offshore and everyone on board just sort of washed up on the beach and decided to have a party.

Bathing suits!

Looking how much clothing these people had on the beach, compared to today's thongs, I couldn't help remembering a remark by an old acquaintance that said that, back in the day, those long bathing suits were very, very exciting to see, because the girls even dared to show the skin of their little ankles! When asked what he thought of today's beachgear, he said that he didn't like it because, unlike the fashion of his youth, today's garments didn't leave anything to the imagination. "Where's the fun on that?" he said.

Awaiting invention

of the beach towel.

Is this the place

where the sea lions go to warm themselves in the sun? Those poor ladies look so uncomfortable in their heavy "swim suits" and hats. Imagine all the sand that gets between the cloth and skin!

Not so retro

With the popularity of rash guard shirts and big baggy trunks for guys, these photos -- for the males -- don't really look all that old.

No skin cancer here.

You would have gone broke selling sun tax lotion to this crowd. I feel bad for the women who had to endure that get-up called a bathing suit...and for the men too.

No Beach Blanket Bingo

I wonder when beach towels and blankets came into use. Those people in the foreground are going to have some gritty sheets tonight!

Some details

Notice the one real towel is not on the ground, but around a man's shoulders. (I see only two people lying on blankets or towels). Some ladies are wearing bathing caps while a few have thrown caution to the wind and are wearing their hair loose.The bathing beauty on the right with her hand on her hips who seems to be admiring her feet. Finally, the matron on the right, trussed into her rather formal striped dress and wearing an elaborate hairstyle, is having none of it!

What, no melanoma?

Looks like they're playing it safe.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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