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The Cocktail Hour: 1940

The Cocktail Hour: 1940

August 1940. Truro, Massachusetts. "Guests in bedroom of tourist house having a glass of whisky." Medium format negative by Edwin Rosskam. View full size.


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Truro Tourist Houses

Shacks used by fishermen and members of the lifesaving service were converted in the early 20th century to homes for tourists, artists and writers. Henry David Thoreau described antebellum shacks, used for the lifesaving service and as refuges for shipwrecked sailors in Provincetown and Truro. They were replaced in the 1920s by the Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill. The shacks had no electricity or running water. They were used by Jack Kerouac, e. e. cummings, Norman Mailer, Jackson Pollac and, most famously, Eugene O'Neill. They are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

High Art

Some cultural context is useful here. In the 1930s and 40s Truro (on Cape Cod, near Provincetown) hosted a burgeoning colony of artists and writers, including Edward Hopper. I believe the woman on the right with the shorts is the artist at her easel that Rosskam photographed from a distance in this shot -- still wearing the shorts.

Timeless Shorts

Well now, that's quite a pair of shorts, even for almost 80 years later. God bless her.

Women's Day

Very apropos image on National Women's Day. Two beautiful travelers, the busts on the stove mantel and the most interesting, that round image of a woman with her dog in the next room near the ceiling. I wonder if Rosskam explored this building further.

Anyone for tennis?

Wonder if the lady to the right is the owner of the tennis racquet on the left, which might explain her "outrageous" shorts. Also note the stove and, almost out of sight on the right, the oil lamp which might just indicate a certain "rustic charm" to said tourist house.

Like the song says

"Cigarettes and women, and wild, wild whiskey,
They'll drive you crazy; they'll drive you insane."


My maternal grandmother, who was 43 in 1940, and who was a widow with three children, and who disapproved of women wearing trousers, would most certainly not have approved of the shorts on the woman to the right. As for the woman on the left, despite her dress and covered knees, I'm not sure my grandmother would have approved of that tumbler of booze, either. (For what it's worth, I think they're both pretty cool.)

[Not to mention Shortsie's tumbler and cigarette. - Dave]

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