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Teen Spirit: 1926

Teen Spirit: 1926

July 9, 1926. Washington, D.C. "Girls in bathing suits with ukuleles." Identified in the caption of another photo as Elaine Griggs, Virginia Hunter, Mary Kaminsky, Dorothy Kelly and Hazel Brown. National Photo Co. View full size.


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There are actually two different entries at the LoC for this picture: the version reproduced above and a slightly overexposed version titled “Icing off at the tee.”

[That photo is here. Scroll down to the comments for more about the girls. - Dave]

Those five girls were performers (dancers and musicians) known as the Gladyse Wilbur girls. Washington Post articles from the same period refer to a show the girls were doing all week at the B.F. Keith’s theater, in Washington, with entertainers Ruth and Dick Gilbert :

It is not a long jump to the back side of the footlights for song writers who have made good at broadcasting and record making. Such is the case of Ruth and Dick Gilbert, who will appear at the B.F. Keith’s theater all the week of July 11, with the Gladyse Wilbur girls, six dainty maidens, who render a surprise ukulele chorus.

The next day, a review was somehow less enthusiastic:

Ruth and Dick Gilbert, known heretofore as Gilbert and Wimp, present a little song and dance number, assisted by the Gladyse Wilbur girls―which girls would have aided things in a finer way if they concerned themselves less with dancing. The Gilbert duo present the harmonious numbers in their usual way.

Ukulele Chords

The girl in the middle looks like she might be playing a G7, a basic ukulele chord, but the others seem to have placed their fingers on the frets randomly. It is posed photo, after all, taken during the height of the ukulele craze of the '20s when so many families owned one. If the photo had been taken 80 years later, the girls might have been posed with their iPods!


But they do seem to all be forming chords with their left hand, albeit different chords. Ukes use a different tuning than a guitar, so I don't know what chords they're making.

Olden Days

So Tom, did your Gram walk 10 miles to school in the snow uphill, both ways? I do admit Shorpy has been awesome at giving me a better glance into the past!


According to my mother who could have been one of these ladies, no one she knew actually played a tune. They just set the pace. She had a uke and plunked up, down and sideways while people sang what they wanted. A very "in" thing to have in those days.


These ladies are just perfect. I wonder what song they might have been strumming?!

I was sold a bill of goods...

My Gram would have been this age in 1926 ... she told me that life was unbearable, tough, nobody even the rich had any fun, that it was always cloudy and cold and snowy, people dropped over from disease all the time ... guess she was wrong!

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