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True Confessions: 1941

July 1941. Street scene in Chicago on Washington at Dearborn. 35mm nitrate negative by John Vachon for the FSA. View full size | Another view.

July 1941. Street scene in Chicago on Washington at Dearborn. 35mm nitrate negative by John Vachon for the FSA. View full size | Another view.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Straw Hats

Straw hats were always summer wear. They were light, cheap to make and therefore cheap to buy, cool (they "breathed" unlike a felt hat because they were woven) and as with all hats, they kept the sun off your eyes and the rain off your face (though the latter might not have been as effective, again because they were woven). But you didn't see them much after the middle of September. In fact when you read newspaper stories about the New York Yankees of the 1920s, a favorite pastime on train trips after the team had clinched the pennant was to grab straw hats and smash them - apparently it amused people like Babe Ruth to no end to grab the hats off the heads of unsuspecting fellow passengers and put their fist through them. (Of course Wikipedia claims that the straw boater was something of an unofficial uniform hat for FBI agents of the 1930s so you had to be careful about whose hat you smashed.)

You can still find straw boaters - Google straw boater - but be warned they can be expensive. Miller Hats (the largest online hat store - for reasons you'll soon understand I am not giving their URL) has six different Italian straw boaters for adults. Price: $125.00. Buying for a kid, you would undoubtedly be better off one of the novelty type hats made out of some sort of foam that you sometimes see at fairs and the like.

Straw Boater

And if anyone knows where to find a genuine boater today, please post. We've been trying to find one for our 3-year-old since he was 1.5 years old. Thanks.

[Google "straw boater." Or look on eBay. - Dave]

Straw Hats

Those are called "boaters", and I was recently surprised to find a snapshot of my dad wearing one, with jacket and tie, in 1961, when he was 42.

Straw Hats are Always in Fashion

At first I was certain you had the date wrong, as I didn't think men's straw hats were still in fashion in 1941. Now I have to wonder, am I way off, or were those two gentlemen behind the times?

Windows to the soul?

I, too, concur...

She's actually quite handsome and her eyes are nowhere near as scary as Mr. Straw Hat in front of her...he's even sporting one of those crazy eyes. Beware!

The Sister

What's scary about her eyes? She was probably tired from teaching children, working at an orphanage, caring for the homeless, or nursing sick patients -- and for wages that were unbelievably low. That is what nuns did. Let go of the tired stereotypes.

[I agree. Nothing scary about this lady except maybe that there aren't enough like her today. - Dave]


Hey, you'd have scary eyes too if you had to wear that outfit in "high Summer"!

Definitely Summer

Of course it's high summer--the straw hats on the men and women, the women's dresses, and especially the women's white shoes--after Memorial Day, before Labor Day--used to be an infallible guide!


I see the bottom of the sign for Hillman's Pure Foods, where I used to shop in the late 70's and early 80's on the dreaded "Block 37." Also the Woolworth store wrapping around the Reliance Building (now nicely restored). I think all three buildings across the street are still there.

News of the Day

That nun sure has some scary eyes.

News of the day

The newspaper at the top of the news rack looks like it might be the Abendpost (Evening Post), a Chicago German-language daily.

And the headline appears to be about "der Ostfront," the eastern front which the Germans had just opened with the attack on the Soviet Union the previous month. I wonder if the Abendpost was interventionist or isolationist (he asks, thinking he knows the answer).

[Good work. And that's the July 1, 1941, issue of Look at the bottom. - Dave]

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