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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Feathers, Furs, Pearls: 1920

Feathers, Furs, Pearls: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Miss Helen LeSeure." Granddaughter of "Uncle Joe" Cannon, a legendary Speaker of the House. Harris & Ewing. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

The greatest hat


Even by today's standards

She's hot!

"Conspicuous Consumption"

The term was introduced by economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 book "The Theory of the Leisure Class."

Spit Curl

I remember my mother, who was born in 1902, telling me about these styles. The little curl sticking down from under the hat was called a spit curl because you'd moisten your finger and press it against your forehead to make it stay. The feathers are called a "bird of paradise". These were also worn sometimes sticking up from a head-band and held by an ornament at the middle forehead.

Soft focus

According to the 1900 census, she was born in December 1899 (lived in Uncle Joe's house, as a matter of fact). She would have been around twenty years old. So the photographer's blurriness must have had some other objective.

["Soft" was the aesthetic of the era when it came to studio portraits. Negatives like this were often blurred when they were printed for an even more impressionistic effect. The goal seems to have been images that were equal parts painterly and photographic. - Dave]

Natural Resources

Don't know if she got her fur from a mink, fox or a rodent, but the pearls are from the ocean and the feathers are obviously from some flying creature, so she is probably not adorned in man-made synthetics and can still be called a "natural woman." She can also be a cover girl for "Fin and Feather." I'm not sure about the wisdom of decorating oneself with deceased animal life and personally have absolutely no complaints about polyester even though it is disdained by the hipper people. It is machine washable, never needs ironing and wears like iron. What's not to like? Of course it did not exist in 1920 and since this was before the Great Depression, conspicuous consumption by status seekers was all the rage among affluent flappers. (Don't mean to plug Vance Packard's writing, purely unintentional.)


unnecessarily blurry. Unless it turns out she was really 95 years old here.

I think

she looks absolutely lovely in that outfit and her face is adorable.

Didn't she invent canned baby peas???

Transcriptionist extraordinaire

Helen LeSeure Abdill acquired her own bit of immortality when she transcribed her Uncle Joe's memoirs from his days as Speaker.

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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