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About the Photos

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 • BUY WAR SAVINGS STAMPS, c. 1918

On the Beach: 1904

On the Beach: 1904

Old Orchard, Maine, circa 1904. "Beach in front of Sea Foam House." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Bathing vs. swimming

My wife is a collector of bathing suits (1860s to 1960s), and she informs me that recreational "swimming" did not popular activity until the 1920s.

The seaside with plentiful breezes and exposure to fresh, if somewhat salty, air was the attraction.

The idea of being extremely uncomfortable with the summer heat seems to be a product of later twentieth-century thinking when we became well-acquainted with artificially changing our interior environments to "iceboxes" in warm weather. I came to this conclusion while researching warm weather clothing circa 1850-75 for a series of presentations.

Those rocks were still there

when I photographed them in 2004. I'm not surprised that the people on the beach are covered up. Even in the summer months it can be quite cool there when the wind is blowing.

You can see more of my Old Orchard images here.

An innovation in the works

In past beach pictures, viewers have wondered why everyone just sat or lay directly on the sand.

Now take a look at the blond lady on the right. It may just be my own conjecture but I think a light bulb is about to go on. She may be thinking that it is a nice day and I don’t need this blanket wrapped around me for warmth. As she further studies the sand and the blanket she thinks, what if I just put it on the sand for Johnny and me to keep clean. After his swim he won't have sand on his wet behind and scratch up the leather seat in our new carriage on the way home. Another light bulb goes on; Also there won't be sand in the tub or on the washboard to wear out his clothes at laundry time.

Could be, huh?

And here she is, folks

The inventor of the beach blanket! But apparently it took years for the genius of her invention to be recognized.

How did they stand it?

I've often wondered how in those days people stood the heat of the day dressed like that!

 
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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