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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Walking the Plank: 1926

Walking the Plank: 1926

July 29, 1926. At the Wardman Park Hotel pool in Washington, D.C. "Joyce Halderman. Red, White and Blue swimming troupe -- swimmers of Panama Canal Zone. Exhibition of swimming, diving and life saving." View full size.

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The old bound swimmer demonstration

This is likely the start of life-saving demonstration of how to tread water even if you cannot use your arms and legs. I've seen it many times, once where they handcuffed the demonstrator.

What could go wrong?

In the 1970s my high school required all students to pass a "drownproofing" course where you learned to survive in the water for hours without expending much energy. One of the final exercises was to have your hands and feet bound like this (they told us it was to simulate cramps), then you went into the 15 foot deep pool for a while. I don't remember it being that difficult once you had the proper training.

The interesting part was when they wanted you to swim 2 laps in the Olympic sized pool while tied like this - you had to swim sort of like a dolphin. It was a very slow way to swim!


She's in good company. "Drownproofing" is an easily learned set of skills to increase your chances of survival in the water, but only the advanced students do it with their hands and ankles tied. So she's on par with the US Navy SEALs.

No Board

What's needed here is a railroad track.


The bondage is a little odd. I guess she's going to perform some sort of underwater escape trick.

Uh ...

I don't think I'd let my daughter jump off the deep end tied up like that, even if there were adequate "life savers"!

All tied up

She is tied up around the wrists and ankles. What's up with that? I know it says they were demonstrating "swimming, diving and life-saving" but is risking a life in order to demonstrate how to save it part of the plan?

Female Athletes

My My what a beautiful child! With luck, she was able to continue showing her athletic gifts through the 1930s. But, acceptance of female athleticism being what it was, the chances aren't good.

Wait a minute

Her arms and legs are bound. Suddenly this is all a bit creepy.

Tank Artist

Washington Post, Jul 30, 1926

Child Tank Artists to Show at Wardman

Child swimmers from the Panama Canal Zone will give their second exhibition at the Wardman Park Hotel pool, starting at 3 o'clock. The youngsters are from 5 to 11 years old, and are billed as the red, white and blue swimming troupe. A special diving board was built for the exhibitions.

After the performance today the kiddies will go to Philadelphia where they will compete tomorrow at the Sesquicentennial aquatic games.

Shorpy Goes Bondage


You have no chance

"Not only have we bound your hands and feet, we've rigged the plank to snap off if you take too long. Waahaha.... Quit smirking, and jump!"

What is this thing

Shorpy is Educational

OK it's still early and already I increased my vocabulary today...

"Gamine" was a new word for me and I had use my friend Google to research it...

She doesn't look like she is a street urchin, but "a small playfully mischievous girl" could certainly apply.


Seriously? Folks are so caught up with her gamine charms that no one's commenting on her legs and arms being tied together??

Hog Tied

Since she appears to be constrained and about to dive into the pool, can we assume she is about to be the object of a "life saving"?

Garçon manqué

Just missed being a boy, as the French so aptly put it.


If ever you needed to understand the term.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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