Hallowe’en How-To: A Crafty Miniseries for October 2017!

halloween party art deco dennison maybe

Photo Source: A page from The Bogie Book, sourced from Pintrest

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Hello everyone!

Lately I’ve noticed a big uptick in last year’s Halloween post, How to Make a REAL 1920s Halloween Costume. So, in light of that, I thought it might be fun to do a short mini-series on how to throw a vintage Halloween party! 🙂 Each Wednesday this month I’ll post something you can do to make your upcoming Halloween party even more vintage. By the end of the series, you’ll know…

how to make a rhyming vintage party invitation

the best way to decorate your home for a truly vintage Halloween

…what strange vintage holiday foods to serve your guests…

…and more! 😀

So, if you’re looking to add a dash of old-time magic to your Halloween party this year—or you just want to know what Halloween parties were like back in the early 20th century—then check back with me each week this month for tips, tricks, and fun tidbits about Halloween during the Roaring Twenties! 🙂

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C is for Cocktail: Shrub, the Temperance Cocktail You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

When thinking about cocktails, do these lovely ladies ever spring to mind?

lips that touch liquor

They look like fun, don’t they? 😉 Photo Source: Old Picture of the Day

Probably not! But did you know that the fine ladies of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement are a big part of why one of the world’s oldest cocktails—the shrub—is seeing a resurgence in bars today?

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A Brief History of Shrub, America’s Forgotten Cocktail:

rasp shrub1

A jar of raspberry shrub. Photo Source: Barman’s Journal

What is a shrub, you ask?

Well, in basic terms, a shrub is a fruit syrup mixed with vinegar that can be used to flavor drinks, alcoholic or not. The word shrub comes from the medieval Arabic word sharab, which means “drink” or “beverage,” and is etymologically related to sorbet, sherbet, and syrup (Diestch 22). At that time it referred primarily to a sweet non-alcoholic drink made of “preserved herbs, flowers, spices and fruit juices” simmered with “honey…and…sugar to form a thick, sweet concentrate” (Hall 49). Over time, this evolved into drinks flavored with sugar, rosewater, and lemon juice, plus “perfumed tablets” of many different flavors (Diestch 27).

Considered by some to be “the world’s first soft drink,” sharab changed into something new when Western European traders and sailors got hold of it in the seventeenth century. Combining a vinegary syrup of “citrus and sugar” with “rum or brandy,” sailors trasnformed shrub into an early form of punch (Deistch 27). This form of shrub was “served aboard trading ships and naval vessels” to ward off scurvy by giving sailors a dose of vitamin C—and to mask the taste of bad rum rations, as well as smuggled rum (Deitsch 27). Much like Prohibition booze, rum during the early 1700s was often made with industrial leftovers from the sugar production process, and usually tasted awful, so anything to mask the taste was welcome (Deistch 28-29).

Shrub reached American shores in 1716, when the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe carried shrub as part of their supplies from Virginia (Diestch 29-30). It quickly caught on big-time in Colonial America, with luminaries like Ben Franklin, Martha Washington, and Thomas Jefferson all crafting their own recipes (Ben liked orange shrub, Martha’s recipe calls for Cognac, and Thomas loved peaches).

But another kind of drink, known as “fruit vinegar,” was also becoming popular at this time. By the early 1800s, the rum or brandy-based shrub existed alongside “quick” fruit vinegar recipes that mostly consisted of “steeping fruit in vinegar for a long time, and then straining it off” and adding sugar (Diestch 36). Besides helping to preserve fruit in a time of limited refrigeration, these vinegar syrup recipes were seen as useful in helping to slake the thirst of those fighting off fevers or colds (Diestch 37). The New London Family Cookbook (1808) by Duncan MacDonald claimed that “raspberry vinegar…is one of the most useful preparations that can be in the house, not only as it affords a refreshing beverage, but being of singular efficacy in complaints of the chest” (Ibid).

By this point in history, then, shrub could refer to one of two kinds of drinks: a vinegar-laced fruit syrup mixed with “sugar, water, and other ingredients,” or “a blended drink made of fruit juice, sugar, and a spirit such as rum or brandy served cold and diluted with water” (Diestch 22). Over time, however, these terms would become interchangeable. By the 1800s, cookbooks referring to raspberry vinegar and raspberry shrub often meant the same thing, and by 1909 people were using “raspberry shrub” and “raspberry vinegar” to talk about the same beverage—which was understandable, seeing as the recipes for each were becoming much the same (Diestch 45).

This didn’t mean shrub’s alcoholic version was gone forever, though. Cocktail recipe books for bartenders from the late 1800s and early 1900s still contained a handful of alcoholic shrubs, mostly punches—and they rarely explained how to make the “shrub” part, which meant it must have been fairly common knowledge for bartenders. For example:

It was the recipes for non-alcoholic shrubs, however, that were the most prolific—and eventually became the most popular. By the 1840s, one saw “fewer and fewer boozy shrubs in cookbooks…and more of the vinegar-based versions” (Diestch 40). Here are some examples of typical recipes:

Shrub was also seen as a good drink for children. Patty Pans (1929), a delightful vintage cookbook geared towards children, encourages them to make their own shrub, and a 1922 guide for What to Serve at Parties lists “raspberry shrub” as part of a children’s party menu, right above “honey sandwiches of graham and white bread.”

 

Others, however, saw something else in shrub: an alternative to wine. Lydia Maria Child, author of The American Frugal Housewife, Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy (1838), deliberately mentioned raspberry shrub as a frugal alternative to wine that homemakers would be wise to adopt:

“Raspberry shrub mixed with water is a pure, delicious drink for summer; and in a country where raspberries are abundant, it is good economy to make it answer instead of Port and Catalonia wine.” (Childs 82)

Shrub found its true home, however, with Drys during the Temperance Movement. The drink “appealed greatly to Temperance-Era drinkers,” who could enjoy their “winey” flavor while still avoiding alcohol (Diestch 45). They could even point to Biblical passages that featured vinegar-based drinks, such as when soldiers offered Jesus “soured wine” during the Crucifixion, as a basis for championing their new drink. And it was so tasty, it had the possibility of converting Wets as well. As Jane Eddington pointed out in a 1919 Tribune article, current cocktails didn’t have that much alcohol in them to begin with, so cutting it out might not change much in the end:

“…charged water plus delicious and hauntingly flavored sirups, with fresh fruit for a garnish, will replace many of the mixed drinks which have often been but a little more than this anyway…a cherry or olive can just as well be at the bottom of the glass as when a pony of brandy or whisky, and the lemon “horseneck” does just as well for a temperance drink as for the other sort.” (Eddington, B3)

While the Temperance Movement embraced shrubs, once Prohibition ended and soda became the teetotaler’s drink of choice, shrub pretty much disappeared from public memory, bars included—until 2006, when food critic Eric Felten mentioned them in an article about barbecue cocktails for the Wall Street Journal. “The notion of putting any sort of vinegar in a drink may be counter-intuitive,” Felten wrote, “or even off-putting. But remember that cocktails generally strive for a balance between sweet and tart. In most drinks the tart comes from limes, lemons or other citrus; the vinegar in the Shrub serves the same purpose” (Felten, P10). He also mentioned Tait Food Farms, which has been producing its own bottled shrub mix since 1987, as a place to try some.

Then, two years later, reporter Toby Cecchini wrote an article for The New York Times about a “plum vinegar with soda” at Thai restaurant Pok Pok that was “a revelation: shockingly refreshing, tart and fruity, able to stand up to food and cleanse the palate like wine without being cloying. It seemed like the first truly adult non-alcoholic drink I’d ever had”—and adding booze to it didn’t hurt any, either (Cecchini, M2). He loved them immediately, and not only started making them himself, but “fobbing off bottles on puzzled friends,” encouraging them to try it for themselves (Ibid).

His article led to a bar-tending explosion. Thanks to Cecchini’s enthusiastic embrace, today you can find shrubs on cocktail menus across the country. Bartenders like them because they’re an easy way to add a lot of complex, interesting flavors to a drink—and today’s drinkers like them for much the same reason.

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Screwy for Shrubs:

Another enthusiastic early adopter of shrubs is Michael Dietsch, whose book Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink For Modern Times, overflows with unalloyed joy for the vinegary things.

He first fell in love with them on a particularly hot day at the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, when he had a cocktail composed of cachaça (a Brazillian liquor akin to rum), raspberry shrub, lime, and ginger ale. The drink was “balanced and refreshing,” with a tang that had him coming back for more (Dietsch, 15).

Then in 2010, two years later, his interest deepened—a lot. And just like Toby in 2008, he…

“…went on a shrub-making frenzy. I made shrubs out of every type of berry I could find, plus peaches, apricots, nectarines, and cherries. I had so many shrubs in the fridge at any given time that it was hard to fit anything else in there. My wife would open the door and a bottle of shrub would nearly tumble out onto the floor. She’d shoot dirty looks and sardonic comments my way…[but] those shrubs helped sustain her through her pregnancy when she couldn’t drink alcohol.” (Deistch, 16)

Ever since then he can’t seem to get enough of the damn things. Shrubs, he claims, are an amazing thing, simultaneously “an adult beverage” and “a soft drink,” and wonderful regardless of their alcohol content—especially during the summer (Deistch, 17). As he points out, “vinegar is incredibly good at quenching your thirst when it’s hot out. Research shows that sour-tasting beverages…are better at stimulating salivation than are other drinks. A wet mouth helps you feel hydrated even after you’re done drinking…[and] stimulates the appetite” (Dietsch, 15-16).  Shrubs were also easy and fun to make: almost any type of fruit and vinegar could be used, leading to all sorts of interesting flavor combinations, and all you needed was a jar, some fruit, some vinegar, a lot of sugar, and a dark room to shove it all in. What could be easier than that?

But vinegar and fruit? Ugh. Sounds like drinking salad dressing!

And yet, there he was, singing their praises throughout the whole book. His enthusiasm made me wonder. What if shrubs were just as awesome as he said, and I was missing out on something that would make my cocktails really zing?

So, I decided to give it a try.

Time to make shrub! 🙂

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Making Shrub, Round 1:

Now, before I begin my shrub making adventure, let me first explain that making shrub involves a few key decisions: what kind of fruit to use, what kind of vinegar to use as a base, and whether to make it hot or cold—all of which will affect the taste of your shrub. The outcomes for these various decisions are explained in detail here at Serious Eats, but just know that there’s more than one way of going about making a shrub.

Personally, however, I wanted an authentic, vintage shrub-making experience, and I didn’t care if it took weeks, either—so I turned to Deitsch’s beautiful book.

After flipping through Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink For Modern Times, I settled on his recipe for “Strawberry Pepper Shrub” as a good place to begin—mostly because I had a lot of strawberries in my fridge at the time, and a lot of pepper in my cabinet. It also sounded rather enticing. He described the flavor as follows: “On your first sip, the main flavor is strawberry, but as you swallow the shrub, the pepper startles the back of your tongue and lingers, subtly, on the finish” (Dietsch, 168).

Sounds pretty good, right?

His recipe is as follows:

1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) strawberries, hulled and quartered

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

1 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Place strawberries, sugar, and pepper into a large jar. Tighten lid, and then shake to combine.
  2. Place in refrigerator. Allow to macerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
  3. Add vinegar, tighten lid, shake, and return to fridge for an additional 2 days.
  4. position a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl and pour the mixture through to remove the solids.
  5. combine strained syrup with vinegar. Whisk well to incorporate any undissolved sugar.
  6. pour syrup-and-vinegar mixture into a clean mason jar. Cap it, shake it well to incorporate any undissolved sugar, and place in the refrigerator for a week before using (Ibid).

 

VERDICT: Godawful! :p

Whatever I made, it wasn’t shrub—more like salad dressing. Instead of the pleasant taste of strawberries, all I got was pepper and vinegar. Ugh!

What had I done wrong? I wasn’t sure, but I decided to try again.

Round 2:

So I went out and bought more strawberries. I mashed them up this time, thinking that releasing more strawberry juice might help the flavor. I also added more sugar, hoping it might soften the tang of the vinegar as well.

VERDICT: Even worse than last time! 😦 

Not one of my changes worked. The whole thing was pepper and vinegar with barely a hint of strawberries, worse even than drinking salad dressing.

I’d failed twice now, but I was determined to succeed. Maybe it was time to switch recipes instead…?

Round 3: SUCCESS!!!

By this time I was out of strawberries, so I decided to try raspberries instead. Their natural combination of sweet and sour, plus the fact that most of the vintage cookbooks I’d looked at usually only featured raspberry shrub, made me think it was probably the best choice. So, I looked for a simple, decent modern recipe. Emily Han’s excellent book Wild Drinks and Cocktails (2015) had a few shrub recipes, and they looked easier than Dietsch’s ones, so I picked out a simple one for Raspberry Shrub and gave it a go.

Her recipe was like this:

2 cups raspberries

1 cup Champagne vinegar

1 cup red wine vinegar

2 cups sugar (I added some extra, feeling leery from last time)

  1. Place raspberries in bowl and crush with fork, then transfer to sterilized jar
  2. Pour vinegars into jar, making sure all raspberries are submerged
  3. Wipe down and cover jar and store in cool, dark place for 1 week, shaking daily (I stored it in my basement, and only shook it every other day. The lack of shaking didn’t effect the outcome much it seemed)
  4. After 1 week, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and discard solids. Combine mixture with sugar, seal, and refrigerate for 1 week, shaking daily to help dissolve sugar (Han, 100).

VERDICT: Excellent! 😀

This shrub was terrific, with the right balance of sweet and tangy—though I did modify it slightly by adding probably 1/4 a cup of extra sugar, and letting it sit for a few extra days, in an attempt to let the flavor get stronger. Neither of these things were detrimental, however. While it had to be shaken quite a lot before use in order to dislodge my extra sugar, which tended to settle, it tasted great, with a very nice combination of bitter and sweet—and got even better when I added gin! 😀

Basically, I added 1 ounce of gin to 1 ounce of shrub, added some water, and a lemon peel—and I was not disappointed. I’m not a huge fan of gin either, but the shrub made it palatable for me.

FINAL VERDICT OVERALL: If you’ve got some time on your hands and are looking for a new addition to your cocktails, you should give shrub a try! And if you don’t feel like making it yourself, vendors like Shrub & Co offer all kinds of shrub in all kinds of fun flavors. Seems like Dietsch and his fellow boosters are right after all: shrubs are good! 🙂

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What about you, dear readers? Have you ever tried shrub? If not, would you? Or does the idea of mixing vinegar and fruit with booze disgust you to the core? Please Comment below! 😀

I’d love to see your recipes, or hear what you think of this unusual, vintage drink.

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Works Cited (i.e., Those Not Linked To Directly):
Dietsch, Michael. 2016. Shrubs: an old-fashioned drink for modern times.  Countryman Press.  Purchase here.
Han, Emily. 2016. Wild drinks and cocktails: handcrafted squashes, shrubs, switchels, tonics, and infusions to mix at home. Purchase here.
Felten, Eric. “PURSUITS; Leisure & Arts — how’s Your Drink? Barbecue’s Best July 4 Beverage.” Wall Street Journal, Jul 01, 2006, Eastern edition. https://search.proquest.com/docview/398980924?accountid=3688.
Cecchini, Toby. “Dropping Acid.” New York Times, Nov 09, 2008, Late Edition (East Coast). https://search.proquest.com/docview/433976253?accountid=3688.
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Resource Spotlight: The Stag Cookbook Revisited

stag cookbook cover cropped stag

Remember that screwy cookbook I posted about as part of my Resource Spotlight series, The Stag Cookbook For Men? Somewhere between an actual cookbook and an elaborate joke, it collected recipes from famous men of the 1920s in an effort to shore up manly cooks who have wilted “under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm” regarding their attempts at making food.

Well, today I found out—thanks to Fritzi Kramer’s terrific blog, Movies Silently—that not only was The Stag Cookbook written more or less as an exercise in pettiness and spite, but it had a mate, too!

See, it turns out that The Stag Cookbook wasn’t well-received by members of the opposite sex, to the point where a group of women got together and published a response: Favorite Recipes of Famous Women. Not only were most of their recipes actually edible (unlike most of the ones in Stag, says Kramer), but they were often witty, too. Take, for example, Zelda Fitzgerald’s recipe for “Breakfast,” which is reminiscent of the many ridiculous Stag recipes I noted in my own post:

“See if there is any bacon, and if there is ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also in case of bacon do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve perferably on china plates, though gold or wood will do if handy.” —-Favorite Recipes of Famous Women

You can read all about Favorite Recipes of Famous Women—and get more dirt on The Stag Cookbook For Menover here at Movies Silently.

 

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The Fix Is In: Capone’s Rigged Roulette Wheel Rediscovered

 

fully restored table

 

“$2,500,00 DAY SPENT ON OPEN GAMES IN CITY” declared a Chicago Tribune headline in 1928 in bold type, bemoaning the rising gambling epidemic within the city’s confines. “Chicagoans freely and openly indulge in all the pastimes of chance known to the betting world,” wrote an anonymous Tribune reporter. Gambling dens of all types, from “bare walls and pine board tables” to places with “luxurious fittings, studded roulette wheels, [and] handsomely lighted green tables,” had sprung up all over the city, ready and waiting to ensnare unsuspecting rubes  (“List 215”). “There is a gambling den within easy walking distance of every home,” claimed the Tribune, with competition so fierce between establishments on the Loop that big dens paid runners to stake out the entrances and exits of their competitors, “soliciting trade as the players come and go, and offering better odds, a squarer deal, and anything that comes to the mind in the hope of inducing them to leave the play they were playing to patronize the runner’s establishment instead” (Ibid). Thanks to the illicit pleasures of gambling, “thousands of individuals of moderate salaries are finding it difficult to pay their rents and their food bills,” with women in particular being drawn to the tables, eager to “risk their husbands’ earnings” by throwing money meant for “grocery bills and baby clothes” into “the gambler’s till” (Ibid). 

It turns out those housewives might’ve been cheated out of more than just baby clothes and groceries, however.

 

In 2016, game restorer Alexander Walder-Smith of The Games Room Company got a surprise while refurbishing a 1929 roulette table from Chicago: two tiny buttons disguised as screw heads just underneath the lip of the table.

screws from table

The false screw buttons on the bottom of the table, within easy reach of the croupier. Photo Source: dailymail.co.uk

Connected to tiny wiring channels that led to pressure pads and tiny pins, it turns out the false screws were part of an electrical circuit—one that was in the house’s favor.

A set of 1929 Ever Ready batteries concealed in a hollow leg directly underneath the wheel provided the power for the trick. “Packed so tightly” that “anyone rocking the table who was unhappy with their hand wouldn’t hear [them] rattling around inside,” the batteries completed an electrical circuit that, when the croupier pressed one of the screw buttons, cause two tiny pins to rise along the wheel. Then “the ball would travel round the rim of the wheel and would hit the pin which could cause it to drop into part of the wheel the croupier wanted the ball to fall into,” explained Walter-Smith. That way, the house could win anytime it wanted—and more money went into the mob’s pockets.

 

 

batteries in table leg

These 1929 batteries were found inside the false table legs, wrapped in newspaper. The newspapers plus the batteries show the table was operational from 1929 to 1931, towards the end of Prohibition and the height of Capone’s power in the Outfit. Photo source: getsurrey.co.uk

 

 

While there isn’t a direct, proven link between this particular table and Al Capone—it spent a decent chunk of its life in a farmer’s barn in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after all—the money that was generated by the rigged table undoubtedly made its way back to his syndicate. Capone’s Outfit was heavily involved in gambling rackets throughout Chicagoland in the late 1920s, and Capone often personally oversaw their operations as well. In the early days of the Cicero operations, Al was “more of a hands-on supervisor,” according to Jonathan Eig in his book Get Capone. Al was one of two men who “held the only keys to a strongbox containing records from some of Cicero’s biggest gambling halls,” and he “inspected the books almost daily” (Eig, 316).

This level of personal involvement was also revealed in Capone’s 1931 tax evasion trial when prosecutors called on the Reverend Henry C. Hoover, who’d raided a Cicero gambling joint in 1925 with a crowd of reformers, to testify to what he saw there. Not only did one of his followers distinctly hear Al say “I’m the owner of this place,” but the Reverend saw him “taking the money out the till and putting it in his pockets” (Kinsley, 2). Meanwhile, Capone tried to make a deal with the Reverend. “Reverend, can’t you and I get together—come to some understanding?…if you will let up on me in Cicero, I’ll withdraw from Stickney,” he offered.  The Reverend didn’t take him up on it, of course. 😉

While the Reverend’s testimony didn’t make much of an impact, the revenue books taken from Capone’s gambling operations had a big impact on his 1931 trial. According to ledger books from Cicero, gambling dens like the Ship generated roughly $500,000 in a twenty-four month period, each bet and payoff carefully tabulated by accountants hired by each den (Eig, 295). During 1924 through 1927, those same houses made $25,000 to $30,000 a month in profits (Ibid, 317). Yet, while the figures were substantial, there was no way for the prosecutors to directly tie it to Capone’s income directly—until they tracked down the accountants who’d made the notations and got them to testify. Their words about the money, where it went, and who owned the establishments were vital in putting Capone behind bars once and for all.

 

While the Games Room Company was very reluctant to let their intriguing find go, they sold the rigged table to “a very well known person” in the United Kingdom for more than $5,000. “I’m sure he will be playing tricks on his friends,” said Walder-Smith of his client, who he claimed had “a great sense of humor.”

And if that’s all he does to them with that table, then those folks are getting a much better deal! 🙂

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Want to see how the rigged table worked in real time? Check out these explanation videos below, including demos of the restoration and how the pins worked:

 

 

…Or check out this video over at Popular Mechanics.

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Works Cited:
“LIST 215 GAMBLING JOINTS.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Mar 24, 1928. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180918988?accountid=3688.
Eig, Jonathan. 2011. Get Capone: the secret plot that captured America’s most wanted gangster. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kinsley, Philip. “5 WITNESSES ACCUSE CAPONE.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Oct 08, 1931. https://search.proquest.com/docview/181256759?accountid=3688. p 1-2.

 

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C is for Cocktail: A Series of Links For You All

Toasting the cocktails with cocktails. How meta! ;)

Part of the cover for the 1922 edition of “Cocktails: How to Mix Them.”

 

Hello again, everyone! I’m about to go on vacation—again—so here’s a set of interesting cocktail-themed links for you to enjoy this week. Bottoms up! 😉

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Got some cocktail info to share? Please link in the Comments below!  🙂

 

 

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Dance ‘Til You Drop: New Vintage Photos of Grueling Dance Marathons Are Sad, Funny, and Everything In Between

1473 hour winners_sun co uk

Could you dance for 1,437 hours straight? This couple did—and they weren’t the only ones!

Starting in 1923 and lasting throughout the Great Depression, dance marathons were a major form of popular entertainment in America, with couples dancing weeks and sometimes months away in a desperate bid to win cash prizes, trophies, bragging rights, and a brief shot at fame—not to mention photos.

Last month, new vintage photos from the 1920s, 1930s and more appeared on UK news sites like The Daily Mail and The Sun. Each depict the intense, grueling and sometimes odd nature of these contests. One poor man even tries to shave while dancing! Check them all out below.

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1923 alseep on her feet

A series of couples compete in 1923, at the beginning of the endurance dance craze. Check out the poor lady on the far left who’s asleep on her feet!  Photo source: Mashable/Library of Congress

1925 charleston endurance competition 53 min

These 1925 Charleston dancers only lasted for 53 minutes straight, but they got the orchestra to serve them food, so that’s something, right? 😉 Photo Source: Mashable

asleep together awww 1930

This 1930 couple is nearly down for the count. Photo Source: Mashable

 

1930 annoyed lady

This lady from 1932 looks super annoyed at having to hold up her sleeping partner, and no wonder—this was her third partner, and she’d been dancing for 1120 hours! Photo Source: Mashable 

1934ish chicago giving up

Dammmn, that lady is ASLEEP. I think I can hear the snoring now! 😉 According to Mashable, this  charming couple is Frank and Marie Micholowsky. They participated in a 1931 Chicago marathon. Photo Source: Mashable

1931 bemused man with partner

While the fella above looks resigned, this one looks downright concerned about his lady friend. Another shot from 1931, supposedly. Photo Source: The Sun

they look exhausted yr unknown

Not sure on the year here, but this couple looks exhausted. The crowd of spectators looks pretty large, however.  Photo Source: The Sun

 

1930 anna lawanick man on floor

Women weren’t the only ones to pass out on their partners. In this photo, dance contestant Anna Lawanick tries to support her partner, Jack Ritof, at a 1930 Chicago dance marathon. Photo Source: The Sun

lady in heels partner asleep

He’s asleep on his feet, and she’s still going—in HEELS! Photo Source: The Sun

fella shaving dance marathon

Check out the guy on the left—he’s having a shave! Photo Source: The Sun

that lady looks MAD yr unknown

Not sure on the year here, but that lady on the far left is MAD at the cameraman. Another scene from a Chicago contest. Photo Source: The Sun

dance marathon with cots yr unknown

Not sure on the year here, but you can get a sense of the setup for these contests, with the dancers surrounded by spectators, judges, nurses, and a band—plus the resting cots on the edges of the dance circle, where contestants got 15 minutes to “sleep” or rest before staggering back onto the dance floor. Photo Source: The Sun

15 min cots with crowd

Here are more cots for the 15 minute rest periods, with a packed crowd. Photo Source: The Daily Mail UK

judge monitors dancers yr unknown

If your knees hit the floor during the dance marathon, you were disqualified. Here, a judge crouches down to monitor a couple who seem seconds away from being out of the running. Photo Source: The Sun

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EXTRA! EXTRA!

dance contest ad van winkles

An ad for an endurance dance marathon emphasizes the grueling nature of the “sport,” as well as encouraging the kind of voyeurism that comes so easily to reality TV. Photo Source: Van Winkle

Want to learn more about endurance dance marathons? Try this guest post I wrote about dance marathons, or check out this Daily Mail article, which also features a video of an actual contest. This blog post over at Blondie Cuts a Rug has a bit more history to it, however, and this Van Winkle’s post isn’t bad either.

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C is for Cocktail: This Summer’s WTTW Chicago History Cocktails Are For The Ladies

 

Last year, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight featured a series of cocktail creations based on Chicago history. This summer, they’ve brought them back—with a twist. Instead of Chicago politics, they’re focusing on Chicago’s historical leading ladies, starting with Bertha Palmer, the most famous Chicago socialite of the Gilded Age.

bertha palmer still

The lady herself. Photo Source: Forest Park Review

Despite being married to millionaire Potter Palmer, Bertha was very much a force of her own in Chicago, and she had a major hand in many of the things that make Chicago famous today. These include…

…acting as the President of the Board of Lady Managers for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, where she insisted that women have their own building, instead of a corner of an exhibition hall like Daniel Burnham wanted

…collecting vast amounts of French Impressionist paintings which eventually became the core of the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection—and popularized them with the entire world. This Renoir painting was her favorite, and legend had it that she traveled with it wherever she went…

…making the practice of “wintering in Florida” commonplace among those who could afford it…

…and many more! 🙂

You can learn more about Bertha Palmer’s Chicago legacy—and the sweet champagne-based cocktail WTTW whipped up in her honor—at Chicago Tonight’s blog. Check back with them all summer for more Chicago history with your cocktail!

BerthaPalmer_not a feminist cocktail

Bertha’s cocktail, the “Not a Feminist.” Photo Source: WTTW Chicago Tonight blog

And if you want even more cocktail recipes, you can check out last year’s list for a brief history lesson in Chicago politics! 😀

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What’s in a Name? 1920s Baby Names for Girls Rising in Popularity…Again!

1920s baby photo looking up

 

Ever met a Fern, an Opal, or a Zelda? Well, according to sites like cafemom, that might change this year. Roaring Twenties names for girls are back in vogue this year, and why not? There are tons of awesome Jazz Age names out there, and a lot of them deserve to come back—whether in real life or on the written page. So whether you’re trying to name a flapper or a suffragette in your historical fiction, check out this list of unusual 1920s names. Maybe you’ll find the perfect one for your character!

 

Looking to name a suffragette, perhaps? Bustle features girl names from the early 1900s with a feminist bent as well as ones from the 1920s.

If your novel or short story is set during the 1920s, however, it’s likely that your characters were born earlier. So, you’d want to look at names from the early 1900s, the 1910sthe 1890s, or the 1880s, depending on the character’s age. If you’re looking for something quick and period-appropriate for any of those times, however, you can’t go wrong with Mary or James. Both of them topped the list in America for over 100 years. Alternatively, if you want your character to stand out, you could try one of Mental Floss’ least popular baby names. 

 

 

How do you name your historical fiction characters? Share your process in the Comments below.

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Mugs in the Jug: British Edition

Hey everyone! Remember that post I wrote about 1920s mug shots from Australia? Well, now I’ve got a whole bunch of new ones…from England! 😀

This particular collection comes from a scrapbook by former New Scotland Yard detective Herbert Mew, who collected over 64 images of various thieves, murderers, prostitutes, and fraudsters he arrested over the course of his career. His collection had been passed down within his family for years, but ended up going up for auction recently due to “a house clearance,” said Glen Chapman, an auctioneer at UK-based C&T Auctioneers and Valuers, which recently sold the collection. Thanks to the publicity around the sale, many of these photos are now online…and you can see them below! 🙂

 

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T H E   S C R A P B O O K   P A G E S :

When interviewed about the scrapbook by the UK’s The Daily Mail, Chapman said “I could not believe how smartly dressed they all were with their expensive looking suits.” According to the article, this probably has to do with the fact that most of these fellows were brought in on fraud charges—the lowest for 12 pounds and the highest for 10,000. Looks like they spent a lot of their ill-gotten gains on clothes and tailors…

mew scrap pg 1

Photo source: The Daily Mail

mew scrap pg 2

The reason most of these fellows are so dapper, wearing expensive tailored clothes? They’ve been brought up on fraud charges. Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew scrap pg 3

Larceny, theft and receiving stolen goods are part of why these guys got arrested. Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew scrap pg 4

The fellow in the hat on the bottom right—Fiskwick—is an Australian jeweler who was brought in for a series of robberies in 1923. Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew scrap pg 5

Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew scrap pg 6 door

This page is a little unusual thanks to the article that’s been pasted in, which describes the arrest of the dapper-looking gentlemen in the upper half of this page. My guess is Dect. Mew kept the article since he was mentioned in it by name, hehe. Also, the fellow with his arms crossed in the bottom right-hand corner, Hugh Lindsay, is the biggest fraudster of the bunch, at 10,000 pounds!  Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew scrap pg 7

Sometimes you wonder why these people were arrested. I wonder what the story was with the kid on the bottom left… Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew 13 mugshot i think dope queen

That lady in the upper left is labelled “The Dope Queen.” A drug dealer, perhaps? Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew 14 mugshot

Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew 15 mugshot

Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew 16 mugshot

Photo Source: The Daily Mail

mew 17 mug shot

Photo Source: The Daily Mail

more uk mugshot mews 12 i think

Photo Source: The Daily Mail

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Personally, what I love about these mug shots is trying to imagine the stories behind them. Who were these people? What did they do? And how did they get caught?

All grist for the mystery-writing mill, I suppose… 😉

 

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The Yanks Are Coming! A Booklist in Honor of America Entering WWI One Hundred Years Ago Today

enlist man

One hundred years ago on April 6th, 1917, America entered WWI and changed the world forever.

Over the course of the War, America went from an isolationist, frontier power to a major player on the international stage, both economically and politically. Ask you average American about the importance of World War I, however, and you’ll get a lot of blank stares. This is a real pity, as much of our modern social, economic, and political world has its roots in the Great War.

So, in honor of today’s illustrious occasion, I present to you a book list about America’s involvement in WWI, and how that experience shapes our history today. If you have some free time this April, consider picking up one of these books and spare a thought for all those brave doughboys a century ago, many of whom gave their lives to usher in a new era in world politics, whether they meant to or not.

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T H E   B O O K L I S T:

Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson

American pro-War sentiment rode high once a German U-boat sank the Lusitania, a British passenger liner traveling from New York to Liverpool, England in 1915. An excellent, gripping read, it’s a terrific place to begin understanding why America entered World War I in the first place.

path to war

Photo Source: Oxford Press

The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America, by Michael S. Nieberg (2016)

Though resistant at the start, by 1917 Americans were clamoring to enlist and fight “Over There.” Nieberg outlines this transition admirably while also giving voice to the many dissenters, such as many German Americans, who didn’t want American involvement in the War. Kirkus Reviews called it “A valiant attempt to dispel America’s collective amnesia over the First World War.”

the world remade

Photo Source: Target

The World Remade: America in World War I by G. J. Meyer (2017)

Weaving together many disparate strands of history, Meyer creates a compelling and interesting account of America’s participation in WWI, covering everything from political battles and battlefield maneuvers to the social upheaval on the home front. An excellent place to start if you’re looking for a broad understanding of America’s role in WWI.

deluge book cover

Photo Source: Yale University

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931, by Adam Tooze (2015)

Focusing on the final years of the Great War, Yale historian Adam Tooze offers an interesting idea: that America entered the War in order to reshape Europe on its own terms, thanks in no small part to its newfound economic ability to manipulate a highly fragile, interconnected global economy.  “What Adam Tooze has done,” says a Telegraph review, “is to reconstruct a vast global web, and to show how the slightest vibrations on its threads had consequences everywhere, almost regardless of individual fears and hates or venomous ideologies.” “Epic in scope” and “boldly argumentative,” the New York Times called his book “splendid interpretive history” and ensured that it would give readers lots to think about.

first over there cover

Photo Source: MacMillan Publishing

First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny, America’s First Battle of World War I by Matthew J. Davenport (2015)

Here Davenport explores America’s first real battle of WWI, where the American First Division “Big Red One” wrested the French town of Cantigny from German hands. It makes an  excellent companion for a visit to the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, too. 🙂

forty seven days cover

Photo Source: Goodreads

Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I by Mitchell Yockelson (2016)

In a mere forty-seven days, under the leadership of Gen. Pershing, millions of untested American troops managed to beat back the Germans and bring about the end of WWI almost single-handed. Yockelson explores this extraordinary feat by relying on accounts of the men who participated in the battle, from the famous (Patton and MacArthur) to the common Army grunt.

Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I, by John Eisenhower (2002)

Military historian John Eisenhower takes the reader through every American battle of WWI, while showing how leaders like Gen. Pershing transformed the American Expeditionary Force into a capable modern army that was more than capable of facing down global powers.

 

 

 

yanks are coming

Photo Source: Regenery Publishing

The Yanks Are Coming: A Military History of the United States in World War I, by H. W. Crocker III (2014)

A quick military history of America’s involvement in WWI, featuring a number of  short biographies of the great generals and heroic fighting men that made America stand out “Over There.”

last doughboys

Photo Source: Goodreads

The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War, by Richard Rubin (2013)

The last known American WWI veteran died in 2011. Thank God, then, that journalist Richard Rubin made it his personal mission to track down and interview as many of them as he could find before the last of them left this earth. A lively, engaging, and vivid read that brings to life a conflict that’s largely been forgotten in American history, as told firsthand by people who lived through it.

wwi americans who lived it

Photo Source: Penguin Random House

World War I and America: Told by the Americans Who Lived It, Edited by A. Scott Berg (2017)

Inside this collection of primary sources, you’ll find newspaper clippings, speeches, poems, diaries, magazine articles and more, all covering different aspects of America’s participation in WWI. It’s much more than just an excellent resource for term paper quotations, however. Berg’s collection shows bit by bit how America dealt with the War from many different angles—and how much impact it had on the country’s citizens, despite its short length.

over there photos

Photo Source: Amazon

Over There: America in the Great War, by Robert J. Dalessandro (2016)

Need some pictures of American soldiers in WWI? Then look no further than this gorgeous book, which contains over 360 rare photographs of American soldiers training, fighting, and dying.

fellow soldiers cover

Photo Source: Amazon

My Fellow Soldiers: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War, by Andrew Carroll (2017)

While he features a new and surprising “intimate” portrait of General John “Black Jack” Pershing, Carroll also explores the WWI experiences of many other famous Americans in their early military careers, such as Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and even a young Harry Truman—-not to mention a host of common soldiers, nurses, and other Army personnel. A highly readable and interesting take on America’s entry into WWI.

The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers, by Elizabeth Cobbs (2017)

When most people think of women participating in WWI, most think of Red Cross nurses. But there were also the “Hello Girls,” women who signed on with the Army Signal Corps as telephone operators (a difficult job in and of itself) and risked their lives to make sure American troops could communicate on the battlefield. These “female wire experts,” demanded by Gen. Pershing himself, were integral to keeping lines open between commanders and troops. Author Cobbs shines a new light on a little known aspect of women’s involvement in WWI.

chicago transofrmed cover

Photo Source: Amazon

Chicago Transformed: World War I and the Windy City, by Joseph Gustaitis (2016)

Didn’t think I’d leave Chicago out of this, did you? Of course not! 😉

Author Gustaitis shows how Chicago changed thanks to WWI—mostly thanks to major labor shortages, which helped encourage African American migration to the city, bringing a new ethnic group into the larger mix…while nearly killing off the massive pre-War German presence in the city.

War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, by Michael Kazin (2017)

With so many Americans eager to enlist thanks to all that crazy propaganda, it’s easy to forget that there were still many who people who actively protested the War—and they did so together for three years, despite vast differences in background, race, and religion. By the end of the War, public opinion turned in their favor…but not without consequences. A thoughtful look at the consequences of a forgotten movement.

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AND FINALLY…

…It’s time for some recordings of “Over There!” 🙂

Here’s the first ever recording of this song, from November 1917, by singer Nora Bayes.

Or you could listen to George M. Cohan himself sing it, in his only known studio recording ever. He does a pretty good job, too!

 

…And this one is just because I couldn’t resist! James Cagney is the best, and so is Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).

And if you want, the lyrics are here.

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wake up america poster

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