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Motoress: 1921

Motoress: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Woodward & Lothrop window." Department store display with a motoring theme. National Photo glass negative. View full size.


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A hole in one

I believe those arrowed beauties are part of period golfing attire. That said, they best belong on that mannequin. Or on a hussy, advertising her wares.

1921 Blue Book

The 1921 Automobile Blue Book cost $4 in 1921, and came with advertising. It is very similar to today's AAA regional guides: Locational advertising for placves like Poland Spring, Maine, The Balsams at Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, The Belleview in Bellair Heights, Florida... "National Touring Objectives" Local garages are listed throughout the guide, as well as hotels (American or European Plan) Fireproof was a big selling point. There were also ads for tires and other auto accessories. Inset maps for 1921 as usually still accurate today, very few places have totally destroyed the old downtown street grid.

Sock Arrows

Maybe they were to remind you how to put them on. This end up.

The American Guide

K2, I have a copy of that book, too. I can only imagine that it had to be read aloud by a passenger while the driver tried to follow the directions. It's much easier to follow the gal's sock arrows. (Oh, and her shoes look like a marriage of saddle shoes and spectator shoes that produced ugly kids.)

Sporty Knicker Suit

The mannequin is wearing a woman's wool knicker suit, with matching plaid fabric on the pocket facings as on the short pants. The tight button or buckle fastener band just below the knees identify the knickers. Vaguely scandalous knicker suits for women came in with bicycling in the 1890s, and remained fashionable as outdoor sports attire through the end of the 1920s. The arrow clocks on her stockings (which may be decorated seams) and her two-tone shoes indicate sports activities also, perhaps golf, or just hacking about the countryside on what was then still called a pic-nic.

Stunning Model!

The car, I mean. I have been trying to gauge just how large it is - surely at least four feet, perhaps more. A model that size, detail and workmanship had to be an expensive item, not the sort of thing you might expect for the typical window shopping display. Not a toy. I would be amazed if it hasn't survived to grace someone's private or museum collection.


What is she holding in her right hand?

[A glove. - Dave]

Still touring

I have a similar book -- "The American Guide," published by Hastings House and dated 1949. Think I picked it up from the throwaway pile at my local library! 1270 pages of directions, followed by bibliography and index for a total of 1348 pages, all without benefit of advertising support. Take that, AAA!

A Short Trip

Trip's off. I don't see how she's going to get in that car.

Heaven's Above

The stockings with the up-pointing arrows reminds me of an old joke Groucho Marx told about a girl he once knew: "She was very religious. She wore an ankle bracelet that said "Heaven's Above."

Dear Santa

I'd like that huge and well crafted model car for Christmas.


I like the arrowhead clocks on those stockings. Very spiffy.

She's gone all out in packing her picnic for two -- salad AND entree forks, two spoons, two knives, three spreaders, and enough wine to guarantee post-prandial petting in the back seat and a nap.

Spiffy socks!!

I love the socks on that dummy!


Well, this might be yawn inducing for A. Tipster, but that model car made my eyes fall out of my head. Is it too late to get a letter to Santa?

A little racy?

I liked the upward pointing arrows on the mannequin's stockings. Reminds me of some of the less than subtle lingerie I have seen advertised but the shoes might be a mood killer.

Ho, Ho, Hosiery

Those stockings on Miss Mannequin are highly suggestive. To what are the arrows pointing?

Map on the wall

The Baltimore-Washington map is interesting. It's big enough to see that there were far fewer roads in 1921. I wonder how many were still unpaved.

Touring Book

The book on the floor with "Kelly Tires" on the spine is an "Automobile Blue Book" - a highway touring guide that listed point by point travel instructions for regional travel. ABB changed formats in the late 1920's, changing from the almanac style shown here to a wider book format in the late 1920's. I have not seen any publications from them in the 1930's. The directions were more detailed than modern triptiks or the directions you get from online mapping services. In older areas, you can still find the landmarks these guides referenced. The map on the wall is AAA. No highway numbers were used in this area at the time, any numbers you could make out are mileages. The turnpikes and interstates are decades away, but the roads that would make up the US highway system five years later can be seen.


When I first looked at this, I thought it was a stage. Great dressing, and great lighting, highlighting the shape of the proscenium arch.


Apparently the Woodward & Lothrop stores were the first major retailers to sell chemistry kits (Chemcraft) to the public, as well as the first store to introduce Play-Doh in the 50s.

Still doesn't make this yawn of a window display any more exciting though...

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