See the 1920s Come to Life in Gorgeous Color Videos

 

 

When most people imagine the past, many think of it as colorless. And why not? Most photographs and film from those times is in black and white, especially films. But what if it didn’t have to be?

Color has been a part of motion picture history from its very beginning, when Thomas Edison projected a two-colored film as early as 1896. Most early color films involved hand-painted cells, tinting, or the stenciling method popularized by Pathechrome technology, however. It wasn’t until 1910 when true color started coming to film with Kinemacolor. Limited to hues of red and green—adding blue would destroy the film as it ran through the camera—they brought the first flickers of color to moviegoers, even if they were often out of sync.

Technicolor, however, which began in 1915, fared much better than their competitors, and their first widely released color film, The Toll of the Sea (which you can see in full here), was a smash hit with audiences. Add to that a stabilized dyeing process invented in 1928, and by the late 1920s color film was a real possibility, even if 80 to 90 percent of films throughout the 1920s were still tinted or toned with a single color.

 

The following clips, however, feature a full range of glowing color given the limits of technology at the time. So, ready to see the past in a more colorful light? Then check out the following list of video clips below! 🙂

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A Kodak Kodachrome Film Test From 1922

This gorgeous Kodak film test comes from the George Eastman archives and features actresses Mae Murray, Hope Hampton, and Mary Eaton—plus a wonderful array of vivid colors and period hairstyles. Hope Hampton in particular is interesting; she’s shown modeling costumes from The Light in the Dark (1922), a Lon Chaney film which included bits of color footage.

 

The deep, rich colors were thanks to a new experimental photo-chemical process that involved a dual-lens camera. According to Vintage Everyday, the camera “recorded filtered images on black/white negative stock, then made black/white separation positives. The final prints were actually produced by bleaching and tanning a double-coated duplicate negative (made from the positive separations), then dyeing the emulsion green/blue on one side and red on the other. Combined they created a rather ethereal palette of hues.”

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Actress Mary Pickford Does a Color Screen Test

Someone on YouTube thinks this clip was a color test for Douglas Fairbank’s The Black Pirate, and they might be right! Especially since it was the first film “designed entirely for color cinematography.”

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Visit the Streets of London in 1926

Restored by the British Film Institute’s National Archive, this video clip gives you a small tour of inner city London, complete with cute inter-title commentary! 🙂

If you’re interested, an entire playlist of these videos can be seen here on YouTube. They seem to cover much of England and Scotland, all circa the mid-1920s.

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A Short Color Test of Actress Claire Windsor

Here’s a very short clip of actress Claire Windsor in a lovely feathered hat.

While it seems she was never a big star herself, she was in a lot of movies and rubbed elbows with a lot of big names. You can hear an interview with her regarding her acting career here on YouTube, or check out this blog dedicated to her memory and film career.

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Watch Flappers Sashay Down the Catwalk

Poking around YouTube, I found quite a lot of these “fashion films” from the late 1920s and early 1930s. While the models never do anything too exciting, it’s interesting to see the color combinations that were popular at the the time. Some clothing was much brighter, garish, or interesting than it seems in black and white.

Each fashion clip features a short introductory inter-title card that describes the ensemble, then a model showing it off, often in fun locales. Check out the following mini-list:

This clip comes from 1928. Check out the crazy color combos on that hat and scarf ensemble at 0:50!

The pastels and beading designs really pop in this next clip, and you get a sense of the more flowing dresses that were also popular:

This clip lacks much color (aside from the sepia tints), but it has lots of great coats that make up for it, plus parks:

As you might have noticed, most of these films come from glamourdaze’s profile on YouTubeTheir website features a ton of cool stuff on vintage fashion, including hairstyles and period clothing. You should check it out!

EXTRA! EXTRA!

Interested in the history of color film? Then check out this quick 21 minute video over at Filmmaker IQ .

Want a list of the best tinted silent films? Then try Fritzi Kramer’s post on the history of color in silent films over at Movies Silently. Her blog is one of my absolute favorites!

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I hope you enjoyed this brief peek into a more colorful past. If you’ve got any cool film links from the 1920s, please post them in the Comments section below! I’d love to see them 🙂

 

Posted in 1920s fashion, list post, silent films, video post | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What Job Would You Have in Britain During the 1920s?

If you worked in Britain during the 1920s, what kind of job would you have?

A fun infographic from the UK’s OnStride Financial blog  attempts to answer this question, using a cheerful, colorful flow chart. Sadly, none of them coincide with Downton Abbey—but they’re still pretty interesting.

The salary ranges were particularly surprising, at least to me. English bankers, I was surprised to learn, made significantly less during that time than I thought—and telephone operators made a heck of a lot more. Farmers, of course, made very little, something which is often overlooked in talking about the 1920s (it didn’t “roar” for everyone, you know).

There was one job, however, that stood out as particularly English to me, mostly because it sounded like a hold-over from the Victorian Age: the “Knocker-Upper.”

Being an ignorant American, I’d never heard of that job, but Wikipedia, the BBC, and MentalFloss assure me it was a real job, and an important way to ensure that industrial workers got up on time for work before reliable alarm clocks existed. The fact that it continued well into the 1970s in parts of England, however, was amazing to me.

Most of these jobs, though, look pretty fun. So which job would you have during England in the 1920s? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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By the way, if you’d like to explore the sources OnStride used to figure out average salaries and such, just scroll to the bottom of the original infographic here on their blog post.

Posted in infographic, link post | Tagged , | 2 Comments

John Barleycorn Must Die: Today in History, Mock Funerals Took Place Across America as Prohibition Began in Earnest

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Image Source: Library of Congress

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On January 17th, 1920, hundreds of fake funerals were held in churches and bars across the country for a man that didn’t exist. John Barleycorn, the anthropomorphic personification of beer and whiskey, was symbolically laid to rest amid cheers and tears at 12:01 AM, January 16th, 1920. These mock funerals saw the actual burial of a bottle effigy, complete with pomp and circumstance. The tone of the ceremony varied widely, however, depending on who was conducting the funeral rites.

For religious Drys, it was a joyous, momentous occasion—both a summation of their political endeavors and a victory over Satan himself. “Good-bye John,” said Billy Sunday, the famous baseball-player-turned-Evangelical-preacher, to a crowd of 10,000 at a mock funeral in Norfolk, Virginia. “You were God’s worst enemy; you were Hell’s best friend.”1 Then he led the “corpse” and a group of twenty pallbearers to the church tabernacle, with “Satan” trailing behind them.2 “Satan”—a fellow “wearing a mask”—then sat with mourners “in a state of deep dejection” as the funeral services went on.3

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An announcement for a mock Barleycorn funeral in Boston. Photo Source: Boston Globe

Virginia wasn’t the only place to see Barleycorn laid to rest by triumphant Drys, however. Chicago’s churches sent him off in style a day later on January 18th, sending out “black bordered invitations” to invite folks to hear Capt. Frank B. Ebbert, chief counsel for the Anti-Saloon League, “conduct the funeral service” at the Second United Presbyterian Church. Considered the “most elaborate and impressive” event of its kind in the city, the funeral featured “a large imitation bottle, six feet high…[that] stood on its head in a coffin” which was then “embalmed, cremated, and buried amid…applause” and cheers from the “dry-eyed” crowd.4 “He was buried upside down,” Ebbert added, “so that if he ever wriggles [away] he will wriggle in the right direction.5  

On July 1st, 1919, a similar act took place in Chicago, in recognition of the Wartime Prohibition act, a precursor to the wider Volstead Act. St. David’s Roman Catholic Church at 32nd Street and Union held a mock funeral for Barleycorn that was just as joyous as the later one. “Our women are going to act as pallbearers,” explained Father Joseph McNamee, church pastor. “They are not going to wear black, because it is too happy an event, but they will dress in white. No flowers are going to be put on the coffin, for John doesn’t deserve any, but the flowers are going to be worn in the hair of the women…we propose to march in procession all around the church…then we will bury John Barleycorn.”6 He wanted to wait a few days on the funeral rites, he said, so he could “invite some of the saloon keepers to be present.”7

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The Drey prelude to the funerals, presumably… 😉                            Source: Father Penn and John Barleycorn (1920) at HathiTrust Digital

 

The Wets, of course, took a very different tone with their “funerals.” For them, things veered from raucous, drunken wakes to sullen tears—often right up until the bitter end. While some “funerals” had an air of fun, more often than not the sadness was palpable. In New York, drunken mourners got to their feet and, “as though animated by the same impulse,” formed “mock funeral corteges and marched in and out among the bottle strewn tables, while the orchestras fiddled desperately at funeral tunes set to jazz time.”8 

The mood wasn’t too different from the beginning of the Wartime Prohibition Act, either. During Chicago at that time, “a vast gloom made itself felt” everywhere.9 “Strong men wept as they ordered,” said the Tribune, often while calling up their wives to discuss “the expediency of remaining in the office” instead of coming home.10 Then they’d order another round and gather together to sing The Alcoholic Blues:

 

When midnight rolled around, some didn’t want the party to end. In New York, when told to dispose of their drinks after midnight by pouring them onto the floor or leaving them, revelers simply drank them on the spot and stumbled away.11 In Chicago during the Wartime Act, people tried to take their booze with them—or pour one for the road: “At midnight lights were switched on and off to announce the hour and customers were told to leave. Some who were drinking from glasses carried them away. Others who had bottles in their hands about to pour drinks carried them off.”12 Apparently, no one stopped them. Some folks even got a bit violent during the Wartime Act. In Chicago, a taxi driver and an insurance salesman came to blows over a 25 cent fare, and a riot started when detectives tried to arrest some men who kicked in the door to the Fountain Inn after midnight.13

But no matter how either side reacted, with the dawn of January 17th, 1920, it was clear that Prohibition had started for good.

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SIDE NOTE: WHO WAS JOHN BARLEYCORN?

Today, most people recognize his name thanks to this famous Traffic song from 1970, John Barleycorn Must Die:

That song, however—and the figure it mentions—is much older than the 1970s. Though the first known printed version of this traditional British folksong occurred in 1568, its likely that the song is much older, especially since Barleycorn’s connection to mythic grain figures is both deeply pagan and Christian, thanks to the themes of death and resurrection.

According to Graeme Thomson, author of I Shot A Man in Reno: A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease and General Misadventure, As Related in Popular Song (The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 2008), this song is “one of the most enduring of all British folksongs,” largely thanks to offering “a multi-tiered explanation of the sheer stubborn necessity of death.”14 While “ostensibly the song is about the production of cereal crop,” says Thomson, it is also “a metaphor for the Christian notion of intense suffering leading to a death made as a sacrifice for the benefit of others, but it also encompasses an essentially pagan viewpoint—the vital cycle of the changing seasons; there can be no bountiful spring without the barren winter.”15

There are many versions of the song since the 1970s, but one of the most popular versions was by the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns (you can read it here or here). Interestingly, while researching this post I happened upon a ridiculously awful Temperance response to Burn’s poem. You can read it in all its hideous glory here at HathiTrust Digital.

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Footnotes:
  1. “THOUSANDS HEAR SUNDAY IN BOOZE FUNERAL SERMON.”  Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jan 17, 1920. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174568545?accountid=3688
  2. “BILLY SUNDAY SPEEDS BARLEYCORN TO GRAVE; Preaches at Mock Obsequies, with Devil as Mourner, in Norfolk Tabernacle.” New York Times, Jan 16, 1920. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B07E0DB1F38E533A25754C1A9679C946195D6CF&legacy=true
  3. Ibid.
  4. “CHURCHES HOLD J. B.’S FUNERAL; CREMATE EFFIGY.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jan 19, 1920. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174547998?accountid=3688
  5. Ibid.
  6. “ST. DAVID’S CHURCH PREPARES TO BURY JOHN BARLEYCORN.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Apr 05, 1919. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174467673?accountid=3688
  7. “CHICAGO GULPS ITS FINAL CUPS AMID A BEDLAM.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 01, 1919. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174533016?accountid=3688
  8. “NEW YORK CAFES BOTTLE-STREWN AT THE WINDUP.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jan 17, 1920. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174568545?accountid=3688
  9. “CHICAGO GULPS ITS FINAL CUPS AMID A BEDLAM.”
  10. Ibid.
  11. “NEW YORK CAFES BOTTLE-STREWN AT THE WINDUP.”
  12. “CHICAGO GULPS ITS FINAL CUPS AMID A BEDLAM.”
  13. Ibid.
  14. Thomson, Graeme. 2008. I shot a man in Reno: a history of death by murder, suicide, fire, flood, drugs, disease, and general misadventure, as related in popular song. New York: Continuum. p 9.
  15. Ibid, p 9-10.
Posted in term origins, today in the 1920s | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Ring in the New Year With Some Fun (and occasionally bizarre) Vintage Postcards

 

 

2016 has been a crazy year…so why not start off 2017 with some crazy vintage New Year’s postcards?! 😉

Holiday postcards were popular forms of greeting during the 1920s, and New Years was no exception. While Christmas has many cute ones, New Years allowed card makers to branch out more—plus feature lots and lots of booze! 😀

I’ve trolled the depths of CardCow.com to bring you the finest in vintage New Years cards from the early 1900s through the 1920s. Some are cute, some are funny, and some are…downright odd. No, really—there are lucky pigs, creepy children, and drunken shenanigans, and all sorts of stuff. Scroll down and check it out!

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So, since this is also a cocktail blog, I figured we should start with…booze! Here are:

PRETTY LADIES DRINKING!

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Not sure on the year for this one, but that lady sure looks lucky…look at those shamrocks and that horseshoe! On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

Annnnd here’s the first cocktail postcard. Whoo 1909! These little sayings were meant for New Years toasts. On sale at CardCow.com

Woman New Year's Toast

And here’s the second lovely lady from 1913, with a different toast. Each one features a different international lady.  Card on sale here at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

And for those who don’t want champagne, where’s a beer toast from 1909! Card on sale at CardCow.com

 

A Happy New Year

But don’t forget those smiling Irish ladies! CardCow.com

New Years Girl in Champagne Glass

Aw look, it’s the…champagne fairy? With elves?  CardCow.com

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And she’s got friends! CardCow.com

Lady in a Wine Glass with Elves

Really drunk friends. CardCow.com

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…who also give away beads and free booze. Wait, is this for Mardi Gras? 😉 CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

Not a lady, but still cute! From 1907. On sale at CardCow.com

So now that we’re done with the ladies, we’re moving on to…pigs? I’m not sure why, but pig cards were a significant, and strange, part of my findings. Is there some folkloric reason for it? Maybe. They also have lots of shamrocks and gold coins, symbols of prosperity for the coming new year, I assume. If you know why there are so many, please let me know in the Comments. Otherwise, check out…

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SOME (LUCKY?) PIGS:

A Happy New Year

Apparently pigs were a symbol of good luck and prosperity in the coming year? On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year with Pigs, Gold Coins, and Shamrocks

More pigs circa 1910. Here at CardCow.com

Four Pigs Dancing

Pig paaaar-taaaay!!! Here at CardCow.com

Gluckliche Fahrat Int Neue Jahr! - people riding on pigs

And now people are RIDING the pigs! Whaa? This gets stranger and stranger…circa 1907. On sale at CardCow.com

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Pig butts. Pig butts! CardCow.com

The most popular motif of all, though, of course, was cute children, mostly with clocks. So many, many clocks!

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LITTLE CHILDREN:

Young Girl with Red Bouquet Atop Bottle of Champagne

A 1911 German card featuring a little girl riding a champagne bottle. On sale at CardCow.com

Two Children and Clock at Midnight

I think the cat’s gone up there to escape from these annoying Dutch kids. On sale at CardCow.com 

Two Children Celebrating the Beginning of 1927

A 1927 New Year’s card in another language—not sure which one. On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

This 1907 postcard features a little boy fishing for his kitty cat. How does this relate to New Years? Who knows! On sale here at CardCow.com

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Not sure on the year, but I guess they’re shooting luck (shamrocks) and prosperity (money) into the New Year? Maybe? Dunno. On sale at CardCow.com

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A little girl sits at a snowy window in this 1920 card. On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

Two little girls with a New Years garland, year unknown. On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

What a cute puppy! On sale at CardCow.com

Keep On Smiling All Through the Year

Some cute advice from 1917. Here at CardCow.com

A Good New Year and a Lucky One to You

Babies and booze, from CardCow.com

And now things get really strange. Really, really strange…

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THE WEIRD AND NOT SO WONDERFUL:

Why Don't You Quit January 1

What a strangely judgmental and moralizing New Years card—that may or may not feature Satan in the background! Who would send this kinda thing? There’s nothing cheery about it! On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

What’s happening here??? If anyone knows the folkloric background behind this image, please lemme know in the Comments. On sale at CardCow.com

Best Wishes for the New Year

So initially this is just some cute kid pulling out good luck signs for the new year, right? And then you see the tiny gold swastika (which was an ancient good luck symbol before the Nazis got ahold of it). Good thing it’s from 1913! On sale at CardCow.com

New Year's Greeting

A doggy family goes out for a New Year’s stroll, like you do. On sale at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

Someone had a fun new year’s eve 😉  Here at CardCow.com

A Happy New Year, Drunks with Dog

Nothing says New Years 1915 like a drunken fight with a dog over your umbrella. Here at CardCow.com

Happy New Year

OMG they’re BACK! Damn creepy clowns. That smile….ugh. And also here at CardCow.com

 

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

OMG they’re EATING one another! And the eye contact…gah! 1907 was a strange year for cards, that’s for sure. Here at CardCow.com

New Year Greetin's

Annnnd now for some straight-up racism. Of course, blackface and the like was popular in 1914, but…still. Here at CardCow.com

Wishing You a Happy New Year

Nothing says New Years like ‘shrooms and gambling. Whoo! CardCow.com

Well that was creepy. Let’s end this on a nicer note. Let’s bring on the…

CUTE ANIMALS!!! 😀

With New Year Greetings, Best Wishes

Aww puppies!!!! 😀 CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

Puppy waits for the new year to chime. CardCow.com

A Happy New Year

And some kitties too. CardCow.com

Oh! What a Night

Poor hungover puppies :(. From 1912. CardCow.com

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Hope you enjoyed these! 🙂 Want even more vintage postcards? Try this post about strange and creepy New Years cards, or this one about beautiful and funny cards.

On another note, 2016 has been a difficult year for many people, myself included. Here’s hoping 2017 will be better for all of us. Happy New Year, everyone! 😀

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Posted in holiday post, link post, list post | Tagged , | Leave a comment

It’s a Wrap: Make Your Own 1920s Wrapping Paper

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Hoping to add some vintage flair to your holiday gifts this year? Then you’ve come to the right place! Read on and learn how to make your very own Roaring Twenties wrapping paper.

THE JOY OF “GIFT DRESSING”…WITHOUT TAPE! 😮

Wrapping paper was still a relatively new invention in the 1920s. As recently as 1917, Christmas gifts were wrapped in simple white, green, or red tissue paper and tied up with string—until Hallmark ran out of tissue paper one day. Forced to use “fancy decorated French envelope linings” as a substitute, the Hall brothers found that the sturdier, heavier, and fancier paper was a big seller—and modern “gift dressing,” as it was originally called, was born.

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Some vintage 1920s wrapping paper that’s actually for sale on eBay! You can buy it here.

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Another brightly colored example, might be 1930s however. Photo Source: Pintrest

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The dog on this vintage Christmas card makes me think this might be early 1930s, but you can see that her packages are wrapped very simply. Photo Source: Pintrest 

Yet while the new wrapping paper was very popular, it was also more expensive. As a result, it was mostly bought by richer people, and suited the tastes of the time—which meant they often featured bold geometric Art Deco designs. According to author Susan Waggoner, wrapping papers of the time “were foiled, or incorporated metallic elements into the design,” with “geometric patterns such as diamonds, squares and plaids” featured in “strong tones” of non-traditional colors like “deep crimson, lapis lazuli, bronze, and even black-and-white”—none of which exactly screams Christmas.1 Pastel colors, like lavender, robin’s egg blue, cream, and rose, were also very popular.2 Besides odd colors, shoppers could also buy wrapping paper in “coordinated sets with embossed seals, gift tags, and tasseled cord,” making one’s gift truly stand out.3 A good idea of the range of wrapping paper options can be seen in this 1929 Marshall Fields ad from the Chicago Tribune:

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This 1929 ad mentions hand-tied bows, pastel papers, “imported” paper, and odd colors. Photo Source: Tribune Archives

Actually wrapping the gift was a different matter, however. The 1920s lacked one wrapping item we take for granted these days: Scotch tape! Wrappers were forced to use these instead:

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Some vintage Christmas seals. Photo Source: worthpoint.com on Pintrest

These small, shiny 1-inch items are gummed package seals. Covered in holiday pictures with adhesive on one side, they were used to secure wrapping paper in lieu of Scotch tape. And according to Susan Waggoner, author of many vintage Christmas books, they were a nightmare to use: “To secure your package, you had to lick the seal’s gummed side, hold it in place until it stuck, and hope it didn’t fall off while you were tying the ribbon on. Seals leftover from last season had a tendency to dry out and curl up, making them especially difficult to use.”4 As you might imagine, this was a frustrating experience. Good thing many department stores were willing and ready to wrap it for free—as long as you were buying their products, anyway. These vintage ads are from Marshall Fields:

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Photo Source: Tribune Archives

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Photo Source: Tribune Archives

Most folks, however, opted for simple white or colored tissue paper, either decorated with extra colorful gummed seals or tied up with butcher’s paper and twine—and it’s easy to wrap your own presents just like they did.

MAKE YOUR OWN VINTAGE WRAPPING PAPER

It’s easy to make Roaring Twenties wrapping paper—and best of all, you get to use tape! 😀 The following instructions, which are for making paper similar to ones from the early 1920s, are paraphrased from Susan Waggoner’s excellent book, Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas: Crafts, Decorating Tips, and Recipes, 1920s-1960s:

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~* HOLY SPRIG WRAPPING PAPER *~

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This vintage holy sprig stamp is on sale here.

MATERIALS

White paper (either tissue, blank white wrapping paper, or even the other side of the wrapping paper is fine)

Red ink pad

Small holy sprig stamp 

Red satin ribbon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Ink stamp and mark up white paper with holy sprigs as much as you like.
  2. Tie up with red satin ribbon and hand tie the bow.

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Easy, right? 🙂 If you want more inspiration, you can see more examples of 1920s gift wrapping here, or take a look at Buzzfeed’s 1920s Christmas wishlist.

Happy holidays, everyone! 😀

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A lovely 1920s holiday card. The colors really pop! Photo Source: The Vintage Traveler blog

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Footnotes:
1.Waggoner, Susan. 2009. Christmas memories: gifts, activities, fads, and fancies, 1920s-1960s. 26.
2. Waggoner, Susan. 2011. Have yourself a very vintage Christmas. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 12.
3. Waggoner, Susan. 2009. Christmas memories: gifts, activities, fads, and fancies, 1920s-1960s. 26.
4. Ibid.
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Some Sweet Links

Hello everyone! I’m still busy hacking away at my big project, but it’s in the final stretch…so here’s a pile of Roaring Twenties-themed links for you instead of a regular post. Enjoy! 😀

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Check Out Some Vintage Vogue Covers

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A Vogue cover from January 15th, 1919. Check out that tiny hat! Photo Source: Vogue

A new exhibit, “1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs,” has opened at the London Fashion and Textile Museum. As part of the celebration, Vogue has put up 11 vintage magazine covers on their website for your enjoyment. Hooray Art Deco! 😀

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Al Capone’s Gun Made it to The Mob Museum…Finally!

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Capone’s gun? Maybe. Photo Source: The Mob Musuem

Lately the Internal Revenue Service of the United States Treasury Department has been attempting to curry favor with the press by sending Al Capone’s gun to Las Vegas’s Mob Museum, allowing them to remind everyone that they put Capone behind bars, not the FBI. At first they managed to send the wrong gun, but now the correct one is on display.

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Eddie Bauer Revives Vintage 1936 Jacket Designs for Today’s Consumers

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A pilot shows off his Skyliner jacket, circa 1938. The jackets were very popular with the United States military, as well as hunters and fishermen. Photo Source: Fast Company

In 1936, 16 years after he opened his first store in Seattle in 1920Eddie Bauer launched the first goose-down jacket in the United States: the Skyliner. After nearly dying of hypothermia on a fishing trip, he was inspired to create a jacket that was both waterproof and warm. The resulting jacket, based on  was not only fashionable, but highly prized by outdoor lovers everywhere. Today, in celebration of its 75th anniversary, the company has relaunched it’s classic 1936 design, and it looks every bit as good today as it did then. Men’s jackets can be found here, and women’s here.

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Crime Doesn’t Always Pay…But Education Does

A pair of criminal researchers from the University of Essex and the University of California recently compared 1940s census data from two groups of people. Specifically, they wanted to understand how known members of the Italian-American mafia compared to their friends and neighbors in terms of educational prospects. Unsurprisingly, they found that most identified mobsters had less schooling than their lawful counterparts—especially since many started their lives of crime at a young age. However, in an interesting twist, they found that mobsters who somehow managed to keep up with both educational and criminal pursuits won out in the end. As this article at Education Week points out:

criminal syndicates often require more complex math and logistics skills than your typical petty criminal. The most successful mobsters, like the infamous Chicago kingpin Al Capone, also ran above-board businesses, but extra years in school probably also came in handy for more nefarious purposes. How can you get your bootlegged gin from bathtub to speakeasy in the most efficient manner? Are you sure you are getting the best rate of return on your protection racket?

More education also meant more money. Not only did an educated mobster’s income increase by “7.5 percent to 8.5 percent on average,” but those involved in high-level white collar crime, like embezzling, “had a three-times-higher return on educational investment than mobsters involved in violent crimes like robberies or murders.” The rest of the article can be found here.

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Listen to Vintage 1920s Tunes Revamped As Modern Jazz

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Mike Jones, pianist for Penn & Teller and an accomplished musician in his own right, has a new album out. Photo Source: JazzJones.com

Do you know who musician Mike Jones is? Turns out he’s an accomplished jazz pianist who happens to provide musical accompaniment to Penn & Teller’s classic magic show in Vegas—and he’s also got a new album coming out. Called Roaring, it features vintage 1920s tunes, but redone in the style of modern jazz. You can listen to clips from the album on Amazon or on iTunes. There’s also a review here at Jazz Times.

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1920s Fashion A La Harry Potter

As I’m sure you already know, this November saw the U.S. release of the newest addition to Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As a result, the 1920s are currently back in fashion! You can buy an entire line of 1920s-inspired clothes at Hot Topic, or sip on inspired cocktail recipes over at Mashable!

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Want to Own a Piece of the 1920s? Buy This Building in Minneapolis for $1!

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Only $1!!!! Photo Source: Finance & Commerce

The city of Minneapolis has put this building, at 4146 Fremont Avenue North, up for sale for the grand total of $1. Built during the streetcar heydays of the 1920s, this 7,000 sq. ft. building has both commerical and apartment space, and is located near a bus line. Check out those cute little brick details. Interested? Proposals are due by February 10th, 2016, but according to the article, “a pre-proposal meeting was held at 4 p.m. Nov. 30 at the City’s Innovation Center.

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Plays, Pageants, and the Origin of the “First Thanksgiving” Story

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These kids look *thrilled* to be in this Thanksgiving pageant :p. Photo Source: mainememory.net

Ask any schoolchild in America about Thanksgiving, and you’re likely to hear a story about how pilgrims and Native Americans sat down together and had a big, friendly feast. We’ve known for a long time, however, that the real story of the first Thanksgiving isn’t that simple. Yet, every year, tons of children across the nation enact this same scene again and again. Why is that?

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MYTHIC ORIGINS :

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Paintings like Jean Louis Gerome Ferris’ 1915 piece The First Thanksgiving, helped to cement this myth into the public consciousness. Photo Source: wikipedia

The first written account of the story that we’d recognize as the First Thanksgiving comes from a letter published in 1622 by Edward Winslow, one of the original pilgrims. In it, he describes how “many of the Indians coming amongst us…whom for three days we entertained and feasted…and although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty” (Baker 12). While this indeed sounds like a Thanksgiving feast, it wasn’t recognized as such until 1841, when the Reverend Alexander Young reprinted it his book Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers. Underneath a description of Winslow’s experience, Young added that “this was the first Thanksgiving, the harvest festival of New England”—making him the first person to connect the 1621 event directly to the holiday of Thanksgiving (Baker 13).

But nothing came of that connection, really, until the 1890s…

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AMERICANIZING THE PILGRIMS :

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Schoolchildren put on a Thanksgiving pageant, circa 1923. Photo Source: mainetoday.com

The Progressive Era saw the rise of America as a global power, rapid industrialization and urbanization, mass immigration, and increasing gaps between rich and poor—plus a major spike in fear. Many “older” Americans—i.e., white Protestants—were afraid. The America they thought they knew was changing. As a result, many of them had developed a newfound interest in Colonial times as a way to reconnect with their “true” past. According to Baker, “books about life in colonial times enjoyed tremendous popularity,” new houses were built in the Georgian style, and many Americans joined together to create patriotic societies like DAR, or the Daughters of the Republic—societies which deliberately excluded recent immigrants (Applebaum 218). While they didn’t welcome the newcomers, these societies did much to “amplify and venerate the acts of the founders” and helped to “define the hallmarks of Americanism” for everyone—including new immigrants (Applebaum 221).

Rapid assimilation was one way to deal with the new immigrants, and oddly enough, the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving seemed tailor-made for them. As James Baker notes in Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday (2009), “The Pilgrims, refugees from religious persecution in Europe, were perfect models for new immigrants…sober, hardworking, God-fearing…Promulgators of the Pilgrim legend hoped or wished that the ‘wretched refuse’ of Europe’s ‘teaming shore’ immigrating to America would become as sober, hardworking, democratic and—God willing—Protestant as were the Pilgrim role models” (Baker 221). While new immigrants (and thier children) were definitely encouraged to learn and accept this story, many adopted it for themselves all on their own. Coleman says that her own mother, who came over from the Czech Republic, identified with the story. Not only were “the Pilgrims…immigrants too,” but recent immigrants could identify with “their hardship and suffering,” how both sides had to learn from one another, and found the image of friendly Native Americans “undoubtedly reassuring…[as they] hoped that Americans would likewise be friendly to them” (Coleman 72-73).

This Americanization was helped along by Progressive Era schools, which included Thanksgiving as a part of a nationwide educational campaign to instill American values and history into the nation’s young people. Basically, anyone who went to school after 1890 “was exposed to an annual sequence of classroom holiday activities through which civic education and American patriotism were inculcated. As each holiday approached, pupils were taught appropriate stories and songs; set to work to cut, paste, and color decorations; and involved in class exercises that pointed up the particular significance of the occasion” (Baker 116). The educational market flooded with “small, inexpensive booklets” that contained “plays, verse, pictures, and stories for the major holidays” to help them along (Baker 120). As a result, Thanksgiving became one of many holidays that was institutionalized across America, enshrined in children’s textbooks as well as classrooms. By 1926, Thanksgiving had become, more or less, a “suitable day for worshiping the memory of the Pilgrim fathers,” with paintings, odes, and stories about Pilgrims—including pageants and plays about the First Thanksgiving. “Americans,” writes Applebaum in Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History (1984), “were force-fed Pilgrims until it was said that many wished Plymouth Rock had landed on the Pilgrims instead” (Applebaum 221).

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PLAYS  AND  PAGEANTS :

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Schoolchildren re-enact the First Thanksgiving, circa 1924. Photo Source: mainetoday.com

What were these holiday entertainments like? Thanks to the magic of HathiTrust Digital Library, we can examine a range of plays and pageants ourselves. What do we find? All kinds of strange things! These plays contain agricultural goddesses, anthropomorphic personifications of pumpkins, turkeys, Pilgrims, Indians, and…goblins? Read on!

A Pageant of Pilgrims (1920) by Esther Willard Bates

While most of the items I found were for children, this particular one seems to be for adults thanks to its grand scope: tons of actors, music, songs, sets, and special lighting. Interestingly, however, it features “pilgrims of a later day” as well—i.e., immigrants—gathering around Lady Liberty in supplication.

The Romance of the Pumpkin (1920) by Edith Stouffer

More of a pageant than a play, this piece features a Grecian Spirit of the Pumpkin, who shows up in all her finery and parades around spouting poetry about Thanksgiving with the help of some farmers and—I kid you not—the Goddess of Pumpkin Pie. The last half of it is pretty much an ode to “the big, yellow pumpkin, the round yellow pumpkin, the Thanksgiving pumpkin that makes such good pie,” and the virtues of said pie.

When Betty Saw the Pilgrims (1921) by Margaret Howard

Betty is a bored little girl who doesn’t want to go to Sunday School. In response, her mother launches into a rambling story about the pilgrims, ending with the first Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving Garden: A Humorous Costume Drill And Dance For Eight Children, Four Boys And Four Girls (1922) by Harriette Wilbur 

A simple, cute song-and-dance routine, complete with sheet music and costume instructions, for young children. Each child represents a different vegetable, and do a little dance while reciting a poem.

A Thanksgiving Conspiracy: A Thanksgiving Play for Grammer and Junior High Grades by Marie Irish

A widowed grandfather forbids hosting Thanksgiving of any kind…until his charming cousin comes along and changes his mind. Marie Irish seemed to write a lot of these things; Pumpkin Pie Peter is another play of hers as well—one that involves tramps stealing pies.

A Thanksgiving Dream: A One Act Play for Primary Children (1921) by Effa E. Preston

The play follows the disjointed dream of a child named Jack, who falls asleep after eating too much food on Thanksgiving and imagines he interacts with pilgrims, Native Americans, talking pumpkins, carnivorous turkeys, and goblins looking to torment “greedy young people” who ate too much, like Jack. The whole thing ends with a warning to kids not to overeat on Thanksgiving. An odd little piece. ***UPDATE: I stumbled across a much older version of this play shortly after writing this post, and it’s even stranger! Not only is it from 1895, but it features a much bigger cast, many more pages, and TONS more faeries. You can find it here at HathiTrust.***

The Meaning of Thanksgiving Day: A Seasonal Play (1922) by Carolyn Wells

A bunch of Roman goddesses of the harvest are bored on Thanksgiving day, so they decide to go down to the mortal world to see what humans think Thanksgiving means to them. They meet a family of six and ask them each in turn. Mother, a “housewifey type,” says she’s excited to make food for her family from the bountiful harvest: “And the mother’s face is smiling bright, with honest pride aglow, / When she views her tempting pantry shelves, with goodies all a-row!” Grandmother promotes hospitality for all, as “the good Book states.” Father says the best way to thank the harvest is “to replant our garden every year.” Son recommends conserving the harvest for the good of the nation, and Grandfather praises God. But it’s Daughter, in her “attractive sport suit,” who puts them all straight:

Thanksgiving Day’s a day of thanks, ’tis true;

But is this not a day of giving, too? Thanks-giving Day!

When that phrase you have heard,

A day of thanks uses but half the word.

Let’s use the rest! You see? A day of giving!

Isn’t that so? As true as that you’re living!

And while in gratitude you praise and pray,

Your Thanks Day should also be a Giving Day.

You see the point, you understand, I’m sure;

Give of your bounty, give it to the poor.

Give food and clothing, give them coal and wood,

Give them—Oh, give them anything that’s good!

Fill a big basket from your storeroom shelf

And carry it to somebody yourself!

Give jellies to the sick, flowers to the sad,

Give anything that will make some one glad;

Give a cash present to a needy friend,

Don’t be afraid that such things will offend,

For, if the spirit of the gift is right,

You’ll find ’twill be accepted with delight.

Get busy at this giving, every one!

There’s so much giving waiting to be done!

Let every one of us pick out some way

To put the “Giving” in Thanksgiving Day!

The Meaning of Thanksgiving Day: A Seasonal Play (1922) by Carolyn Wellspage 14

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In today’s classrooms, things are a bit more balanced. While the old story is still going strong, teachers can use new educational guidelines such as this one to give a more nuanced view of the history behind Thanksgiving—including the fact that Native Americans aren’t necessarily a fan of this holiday. However, whether the history behind it is true or not, the feelings Thanksgiving tries to foster in Americans–togetherness, generosity, thankfulness—are something we could all use more of that these days.

So in light of that, let me wish you all…

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Photo Source: Pintrest

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Works Cited:
Colman, Penny. 2008. Thanksgiving: the true story. New York: Henry Holt.
Baker, James W. 2009. Thanksgiving: the biography of an American holiday. Durham, New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire Press.
Appelbaum, Diana Karter. 1984. Thanksgiving: an American holiday, an American history. New York, N.Y.: Facts On File.
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How to Make a REAL 1920s Halloween Costume…

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1920s German flapper pumpkin! Photo Source: Yahoo Images/Pintrest

Before mass-produced costumes entered the scene, Halloween costumes were a lot more…creative. Forced to make their own masks, dresses, and props–often using highly questionable crafting skills—adults and children across the nation created costumes that were creative, bizarre, and often a LOT more scary than ones we see today. Want to tap into a wellspring of vintage creativity this Halloween? Then ditch those tacky flapper and gangster costumes and follow these steps to create a truly authentic 1920s Halloween costume…

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STEP ONE: PICK A POPULAR COSTUME

Guess what the most popular costume choice was during the 1920s? Oddly enough, it’s the one that we’ll probably see stalking the streets this year—only it won’t be this cute:

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Isn’t she cute? Photo Source: vintage every day

Clowns! Costumes of Perriot clowns in particularthe white and black mimes with sad faces—were all the rage during the 1920s with both men and women.

Check out this cute couple:

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This is a nice vintage Halloween shot. Check out her candle, the basket of walnuts, and the lacy tablecloth—definitely a homemade Halloween party! Photo Source: vintage every day

Kids got in on the act, too:

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They don’t seem to like their costumes much, though. Photo Source: Pintrest UK

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Neither do these kids! Photo Source: vintage every day

Don’t want to be a clown? If you’re a woman, you could always go the witch route. The shapeless drop-waist dresses and skirts popular during the Roaring Twenties lent themselves easily to witch costumes, so they were pretty easy to manage. Throw on a plain black dress and a pointy hat, and ta-dah, you’re a witch!

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A homemade witch costume from the 1920s. Photo Source: vintage every day

 

But maybe standard fare isn’t for you. Maybe you want something more topical. So why not go as…the Spirit of St. Louis?

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And they say that topical costumes didn’t exist until the 1970s. Lies! Photo Source: vixenvintage at Photobucket

 

If none of these costume ideas work for you, though, you could always buy one. While everything I read said that true mass-produced costumes didn’t exist until the 1930s, I found evidence of them being sold in department stores during the mid to late 1920s. Both of these Chicago Tribune ads sell Halloween costumes:

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This October 24th, 1926 ad shows us that mass-produced costumes existed in some fashion during the late 1920s. Photo Source: Chicago Tribune Archives

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This ad fromOctober 20th, 1929 gives an idea of other popular costume ideas. Photo Source: Chicago Tribune Archives

So, you could buy a costume. This makes sense, too, seeing as it was the 1920s that saw the birth of Halloween parties, particularly among the rich and middle class, that often required one come in costume. It seems people had more fun making their own costumes, however—and to do that, they used stuff like…

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STEP TWO: EMBRACE THE CREPE PAPER

As I’ve said in other holiday posts, crepe paper was BIG during the 1920s. Every single thing I’ve seen regarding holiday decorating in the Chicago Tribune during that time mentions crepe paper. Apparently, people were really, really excited about it—and popular booklets like The Bogie Book (1926) helped to spread the love. Created by paper product supplier Dennison Manufacturing Company, the book demonstrates how crepe paper could be used to make Halloween costumes, decorations, and many other things. Their book featured charming costumes for adults and children, all supposedly made out of crepe paper. Take a look:

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The costumes are as follows: Devil (1), Witch (2), Fairy (3), Baby Pumpkin (4), Clown (5) Photo Source: The Bogie Book, 1926, HathiTrust Digital Library

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The costumes are as follows: Soldier (6), Cat (7), Imp (8), Child (9), general Hallowe’en Slip-Over (10). Photo Source: The Bogie Book, 1926, HaithiTrust Digital

And these lovely detailed things were made out of paper. Paper!!!

Crepe paper wasn’t a horrible choice of material, however. Not only was it light, cheap, colorful, and fairly plentiful, it actually held up pretty well to rough play—provided you didn’t get it wet—which made it excellent for children’s costumes.

It was also useful for making “slip-over” costumes, which, as the name implies, allowed one to slip the costume over regular clothing, leaving a hole for one’s head, then tie it at the waist, creating something a bit like a poncho with a belt. Thanks to its ease of wear, this style of costume was particularly popular with young children. As the Bogie Book tells us, “the slip-over is the most popular kind of costume because it is so simple and inexpensive to make and because it is equally appropriate for either girls or boys.” However, as you may have noticed—literally none of the costumes above look like a simple slip-over! That’s because their simple bases have been heavily embellished by professional designers (I doubt anyone actually succeeded in making them look like these drawings). To understand better how these costumes were constructed, check out this pattern for a rose costume from another Dennison book, How to Make Paper Costumes:

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See how this costume starts with a simple base and moves on to something more complicated? Photo Source: How to Make Paper Costumes, 1922, HathiTrust Digital

If you were willing and able to sew fabric, however, your Halloween costume options increased dramatically. Check out these lovely sewn examples:

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These costumes for men and women are interesting and unusual from a design standpoint, compared to today—check out the bat! Photo Source: Pintrest

 

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More patterns from the 1920s. There’s even a Red Cross Nurse!  Photo Source: Vintage Every Day

Clothing was only part of your costume, however. What about a mask?

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STEP THREE: MAKE YOUR OWN CREEPY MASK

Before the advent of mass-produced masks, people made their own masks out of paper mache and fabric. Thanks to questionable crafting ability, these often turned out looking probably waaaay more creepy than intended. Check these scary photos from the 1930s:

 

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Some creepy kids having a Halloween seance. I think the one on the far right is a duck? Photo Source: An Appendage Blog

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Creepy! Photo Source: Vintage Every Day

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Yeah, that’s a nope. Photo Source: vintage every day

 

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While some of these costumes are definitely racist, the range of roles—clowns, Native Americans, policemen—are interesting. Photo Source: An Appendage Blog

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I think it’s a ghost? Maybe? Or a Satanic alchemist, it’s hard to tell. Photo Source: vintage every day

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Little Halloween People my ass. Try little creepy people! Photo Source: vintage every day

But if you didn’t want to use paper mache, you had another option: yet MORE crepe paper! (Sensing a theme yet?) These freaky-looking crepe paper masks come from The Bogie Book:

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Mirth-provoking? I think not! Photo Source: The Bogie Book, 1926, HathiTrust Digital Library

Want to make your own mask? Try these instructions at Instructables.com for a basic face mask, or these ones at UltimatePaperMache.com for more elaborate, sculpted masks.

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STEP FOUR: GO OUT ON THE TOWN!

Now that you have a costume, you’re ready to out and have fun! During the 1920s, children roamed the streets in costume, burning stuff and trashing the place, until adults instituted more controlled celebrations in the form of parties and events at schools, churches, and other public areas, as well as at home. Adults, meanwhile, went to fun, lavish costume parties, full of dancing, festive treats, and party games. All ages enjoyed showing off their costumes and playing at being someone else for the night.

Hopefully you will, too! 🙂 Happy Halloween!!!! 😀

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EXTRA, EXTRA!

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This hilarious costume awaits you at the following links!

Want more crazy Halloween costume photos? Then try this post, this post, this post, and this post for more fun. Happy Halloween, everybody! 😀

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Posted in holiday post, list post | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

C is for Cocktail Guest Post: 7 of Chicago’s Most Famous Speakeasies (Which Are Still Open Today!)

Looking for a sip of Chicago history? Then check out this lovely guest post from Liana Camen, the Mayor of Drinxville, about Chicago’s historic Prohibition bars!

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Although Chicago doesn’t have the centuries of history that eastern seaboard cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York do, the Windy City’s role in early commodities trading, mechanized industrialization and U.S. gangster culture has made it a historical mecca for travelers fascinated by the early 1900s. The passage of the eighteenth amendment in 1920, and the nationwide prohibition on alcohol that the amendment created and enforced, turned Chicago into a city of violent gangs, irrepressible good times, and seemingly limitless rivers of illicit booze.

These illegal spirits were bought and sold by establishments called speakeasies, which were secret bars and pubs that operated outside the purview of the law – often by bribing public officials and convincing cops to look the other way. Today, even though Prohibition is a distant memory, Chicago’s speakeasy culture hasn’t completely disappeared. Here are seven modern-day watering holes that have either been continuously operational since the 1920s or are striving to keep the proud speakeasy tradition alive in midwestern America’s biggest metropolis.

~ T H E   B A R S ~

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The trademark glowing sign of the Green Mill, Chicago’s most well-known Prohibition Era bar. Photo Source: this article at the Chicago Reader; Photographer Richard A. Chapman

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  1. The Green Mill (4802 North Broadway Avenue – www.greenmilljazz.com)

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An interior shot of the Green Mill, featuring the the booth that Al Capone favored in the foreground. Photo Source: Photographer Tom Gill, from this article at savingplaces.org

Supposedly, this venerable establishment was created in the 1920s as an homage to the celebrated Red Mill bar in Paris, France (the setting of Baz Luhrman’s film Moulin Rouge). Formerly owned by Jack McGurn, who was an associate of Al Capone renowned for his violent nature and ruthlessness with a machine gun, the Green Mill was the picture of opulence in the pre-Prohibition period. After the eighteenth amendment’s passage, the bar downsized and served Chicago’s finest and most infamous alike. Visitors to Chicago today can go and enjoy (legal) spirits inspired by those crafted by Prohibition-era bartenders while listening to the best that Chicago’s vibrant jazz scene has to offer. No secret password to come into the Green Mill anymore – simply walk up to the bar and order a drink!

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  1. The Zebra Lounge (1220 North State Parkway – www.thezebralounge.net)

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The darkened interior of the Zebra Lounge, complete with zebra lamps. Photo Source: The Chicago Reader

The Zebra Lounge feels like a relic from an age long gone that somehow ended up down the block from steel skyscrapers and multinational conglomerate headquarters. Operational since 1929, the lounge actually owns the third-oldest liquor license in Chicago, which is quite the accomplishment in that city of ancient bars and pubs. The bar is located inside the Canterbury Courts apartment complex, and would-be patrons must pass under a set of black arches in order to access the tiny establishment. Known in the neighborhood for its commitment to being an authentic, old-fashioned piano bar, the Zebra Lounge hosts live piano players seven nights a week. If you find yourself in Chicago and in the mood for some Elton John or Billy Joel, you can’t do any better than a visit to the Zebra Lounge.

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  1. Simon’s Tavern (5210 N Clark St)

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The cheery glowing sign of Simon’s Tavern. Photo Source: getawayhostel.com

Simon’s Tavern is another longstanding Chicago neighborhood tradition. Founded as a cafe by a Swedish immigrant in 1929, the owners of the tavern quickly acquired a new set of revenue streams by rebranding as a speakeasy, bottler and distributor of illegal spirits. The whiskey distributors operating out of the bar’s basement were rumored to be supplied by Al Capone himself, and the Capone organization reportedly had a fondness for the Swedish drinks and bar food supplied by the tavern’s immigrant chefs. In the new millennium, the owners of Simon’s have attempted to stay true to the bar’s origins: the tavern sells huge quantities of glogg, which is a traditional Swedish spiced wine that is only brewed during the Christian holiday season. House drinks also include copious amounts of Swedish liquors, making Simon’s Tavern a can’t-miss stop on any speakeasy tour through the city.

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  1. Room 13 (3222 N. Sheffield Ave – www.oldchicagoinn.com/rooms/room13.shtml)

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The public entrance to Room 13. Photo Source: Thrillist

When people think about “secret” bars in Chicago, nearly everyone brings up Room 13. Although the bar has no tangible connection to the Prohibition era in Chicago, its entire ethos hearkens back to the 1920s in every way. Located deep in the bowels of the Old Chicago Inn, Room 13 requires visitors to either book a room in the hotel or supply a secret password to enter. The bartenders are highly trained in the art of the cocktail, and they supply guests with expertly crafted Old Fashioneds and Manhattans while expounding upon the intertwined history of speakeasies, jazz and old metropolises. Even the décor of the bar is set up to perfectly mirror the embellishments and gaslight sensibilities of authentic speakeasies in and around the city. Certainly an interesting – and intoxicating – attraction in the heart of Chicago.

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  1. The Office (955 W Fulton Market)

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A comfortable nook at The Office. Photo Source: Bach Ha/Grant Achatz at Flickr

Located beneath a trendy restaurant called The Aviary, the Office is the perfect complement to an opulent dining experience – if you know the secret number to text for reservations. That’s right – having a drink at the Office depends on either receiving an invitation from the wait staff to descend into the basement for an after-dinner digestif, or knowing the well-guarded, exclusive reservation digits. Open since 2011, the Office charges a pretty penny for its libations, but each drink is crafted with care by licensed mixologists using equipment such as a rotary evaporator. A must-see location for people who spare no expense to quench their thirst for innovative drinking experiences.

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  1. The Green Door Tavern (678 North Orleans – www.greendoorchicago.com)

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Inside The Green Door Tavern. Photo Source: Spring Rewards

The Green Door Tavern claims to have had its doors open since 1921, but the origins of the building that it is housed in actually stretch back even further. The squat, two story wooden structure was built directly after the Great Fire of 1871, which makes it one of the only wooden buildings left in Chicago that was constructed before the Central Business District fire code ordinance banning wood buildings was passed in 1873. In 1921, an Italian immigrant opened a small speakeasy that signified its presence in the neighborhood by painting its nondescript door green, and a Chicago tradition was born. The establishment maintains many of the old bar’s distinctive traits today: it is known throughout the city for its cheap drinks, expansive bar menu and casual atmosphere. Certainly worth passing through for a drink or two!

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  1. The Berghoff (17 West Adams Street – www.berghoff.com)

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That famous sign! Photo Source: Tripadvisor

The Berghoff is the proud holder of the first liquor license issued in Chicago after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and its tumultuous history goes back decades before that moment. The bar was founded in 1898, and was actually able to remain open for business during Prohibition by playing by the rules (sort of.) The Berghoff became famous for selling “near beer” products, which were typically low-alcohol content malt beverages that remained beneath the government’s official alcohol threshold while still supplying patrons with plenty of good times. Today, the bar is actually still owned and operated by the original Berghoff family. Patrons can visit the pub for a dining experience steeped in the sordid history of the neighborhood and city and for a taste of Berghoff’s famous root beer – the recipe goes back four generations, and the beverage is nearly as famous as the bar itself!

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Chicago is a city full of fascinating drinking and dining experiences, many of which stem from an era that peaked and passed almost one hundred years ago. A visit to this majestic city of the shores of Lake Michigan simply is not complete without a trip to each of these seven venerable establishments!

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This guest post comes from Liana Camen, who balances her time between her family, her freelance writing career, and fulfilling her duties as Mayor of Drinxville. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, traveling to exotic places, and sipping on a nice stiff drink.

Posted in C is for Cocktail series, guest post | Tagged | 3 Comments

One of Al Capone’s Letters Could Have Been Yours…If You Had $62,500!

How much would you pay for a three page handwritten letter by Al Capone? For one anonymous Chicago collector, the price was $62,500—over $10,000 more than expected. Given how rare it was for Al to write things, however, it’s hardly surprising. “It’s an exceedingly rare personal letter showing the softer side of the notorious gangster,” said Robert Livingston in a VOAnews article about the letter. Livingston is the executive vice president of RR Auction, which auctioned off the letter on September 27th, 2016. What’s more surprising, however, is the letter’s content, which many reporters happily claimed showed Al’s softer side.

Hello son, here is your dear Dad, with a letter for you, and pray to God, it will find you in perfect health,” says Al at the beginning of his letter to his son, Albert “Sonny” Capone. Al goes on to describe the “daily grind in prison,” which for him also included a special treat: playing music. Al was an avid player of the banjo and the mandola, an instrument similar to the mandolin, and he took great pride in his abilities. “There isn’t a song written that I can’t play,” Al brags to Sonny in his letter. Besides playing music, Al was also a big fan of listening to it, and was allowed to play records in his cell as well. He recommends a few songs to his son in the letter as well.

While he was always denied special privileges while in Alcatraz, Al somehow managed to get a band put together for the amusement of the prisoners. According to an article on SFGate.com, “the gangster begged the warden for permission to form a small band. The warden relented, the inmates sent away for instruments and Capone made music behind bars.” According to A History of Alcatraz Island, The Rock Islanders “were a staple on the island until the prison closed,” and Al did play with them regularly during his time there. He even wrote a song! “Madonna Mia,” a song about a man’s undying love for his woman, was written as a gift for his “good friend,” Father Vin Casey, a Jesuit priest who visited prisoners in Alcatraz to offer spiritual guidance. “With your true love to guide me, let whatever betide me, I will never go wrong,” go some of the lyrics. Experts aren’t sure if the song refers to Al’s love for the Virgin Mary (Al was a devout Catholic), or if they were meant for his loving wife, Mae–but either way the song is a “beautiful…tearjerker” according to Rich Larsen, founder of Caponefanclub.com. Larsen supposedly had a recording made of the song back in 2009, but I was unable to find it anywhere.

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A framed copy of “Madonna Mia” with photo also sold for around $60,000 dollars. Photo Source: AP/SFGate

 

Al closes his letter with encouragement to his son: “Well Sonny keep up your chin, and don’t worry about your dear Dad, and when again you allowed a vacation, I want you and your dear Mother to come here together, as I sure would love to see you,” he wrote. He signed the letter with “Love & Kisses, Your Dear Dad Alphonse Capone.” While these words might seem surprising to those who think of Al as a cold-blooded, ruthless killer, for anyone who knew him this tenderness was nothing new. Al had always been a devoted family man—and he was human, too. 😉

 

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E X T R A   E X T R A :

If you’re interested, here’s Al’s actual letter, courtesy of Smithsonian.com:

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