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Sleeping Beauty: 1910

Sleeping Beauty: 1910

Washington circa 1910. "Congress Heights Dramatic Club." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative, Library of Congress. View full size.


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Jack and Jill

I am struck by the fact that this photo looks like the Sleeping Beauty tableau described in Louisa May Alcott's book "Jack and Jill." I wonder if any of children (especially the girls) read the book and set themselves up in the same way.

Harry Chick

I normally hate topic drift but my mind is completely befuddled by the Plaza Theater's "Harry Chick in Songs" ..... something to do with Ag's mechanical demo hen we saw earlier (tomorrow?)

[The tenor Harry Chick was billed as "Washington's sweetest songster." - Dave]

This looks familiar...

I'm currently stage managing a production of "Camelot." These costumes would fit right in. The kneeling prince even has a sword and tights. I love that the king has that elaborate chain of office, but his crown is rather simple.

Time didn't fly

After perusing the excellent reference provided by A.T. at 3:58 am, I was surprised at how slowly fashions changed then. Now, we can recognize the 1920's, 1930's, etc. with no problem. Most interesting is that the men started exposing more and more lower body and the women continued to wear long skirts well into the 20th century. Except for the military, hats eeemed to have disappeared altogether just within the last 50 years.

Costume imagery

It wouldn't have been necessary to do much research to come up with costumes like this; in fact I'm sure the look wasn't at all unfamiliar to these kids, since this period was justifiably termed the "Golden Age of Illustration." Books of fairy tales, myths and adventure stories aimed at younger readers were filled with full-color paintings by such illustrators as N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. Though from 1924, the Wyeth Charlemagne illustration below is typical of what was being done during this period.


Absolutely gorgeous! Reminds me of a Burne-Jones painting. If
anything, the variety of faces actually improves on, say, a Waterhouse
or Burne-Jones image, which tended to feature one type of face

Costume History Books

In addition to theater productions and the early movies, there were numerous well illustrated books on historical costume that would have been readily available in Washington schools and libraries. One very popular source was The History of Costume by Braun & Schneider, published serially in Germany from 1861 to 1880, and widely reprinted ever since. Such resources added a level of authenticity to the look of historical genre paintings, theater and opera productions, and the early movies. And, textile mills here and in Europe churned out reproductions of historical textiles and trims from many periods for popular revival styles in fashion, architecture and for churches. It looks like Sleeping Beauty's handmaidens had seen Plate 15b in Braun & Schneider, among other images. This plate is reproduced online at

That's interesting!

I knew they had movies then, but I hadn't realized that they were as widely available as they were, judging from these ads. We had "moving pictures" as early as the 1890's here in New Orleans, and I know these were "big city" kids with access to these venues, but I guess I always think of silent movies as something out of the 1920's - and then "talkies" from the late 20's and 30's. So much change going on right before WWI... I'd like to know more about their world.

That Girl

That beautiful young lady could be the model for every interpretation of an Angel ever painted. Wonderful picture!

No movies - no internet -

John in New Orleans again -

I wonder where their ideas for costumes came from. Books, probably. Most people in 1910 probably didn't have preconceived notions of what medieval costume would have looked like from years of watching movies or Disney cartoons - although I know they had magazines in 1910 with photographs reproduced. I just wonder about stuff like that. Of course without TV and movies and the computer (ahem...) to distract them, they read a great deal more than most of us do today...

And I look at this photograph and wonder about the friendships that were made during the rehearsals of this production and the giggling and fun that went on as they tried on their funny costumes... Where was it staged... what did the cars and carriages look like lined up outside...

[They probably saw some movies. There are hundreds of movie ads in the Washington Post archives from 1910. Plus there were plays, opera houses, vaudeville. - Dave]

Sly smile

Sleeping Beauty is smiling slightly because she knows any second she's gonna get a big wet one!

Jack and Jill

The girl on the left is strikingly beautiful. As for the dude wearing fish scales and the lace around his neck; I can just see him arriving at school wearing that outfit and being stopped by the bullies in the schoolyard! But he's a good sport, good for him!

Same old ratio

Two girls for every boy. I guess drama clubs have been like that since Great-Great-Grandma's day.


Such beautiful children. Not that kids today aren't cute, but I'm sure they all grew up to be beautiful men and women in their day.

Act 2

This is the same backdrop as in "Class Photo."

Gee, I don't know ...

all these pictures of prone folks are giving me flashbacks of "playing doctor" when I was a young-un'. Please stop toying with me, Dave; you're playing with fire.

Posh Costumes

Were these Congressmen's kids? Looks like the costume budget was pretty big for an amateur youth theater group. There is evidence that attics had been searched for props, though. That immense Paisley shawl under Sleeping Beauty is of a size worn with Lincoln-era crinolines, but not later.


Kids had much better costumes in the days when nearly any mother could whip up something fairly elaborate on the home sewing machine.

Nearly There

Doesn't she sleep for a hundred years? Only a year to go...

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