The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition. The survey archivists are Marjorie Bryer, Amy Croft, Dana Miller, and Elia Van Lith, and they are also the authors of this blog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bathing Suit Season in the 1900s!

Summer Solstice is upon us, and even amidst the Bay Area's summer fog the temperatures are rising.  Bathing suit season is finally here in all its balmy glory.

Fancy a trip to the beach? Well just pull on your wool suit, cape and swimming boots- and don't forget your knee socks and hat- and meet me down by the seashore for some frolicking in the waves.

 This image is from a 1906 mailing card used for advertising.  
The note on the back said the card was considered flawed for 
not showing the men's suit, but "the picture was so very good 
the temptation was too great to leave it unused."

One day far too many months ago to be to my credit I surveyed the records of the Gantner and Mattern Company, a New York based clothing manufacturer with a large outpost in San Francisco.  Featured prominently among the volumes of the collection are several swimsuit catalogs ranging from as early as 1900 to the mid-1950s. 

There were far too many amusing and bewitching examples of yesterday's swim fashions to choose from, but I did manage to scan just a few images for the fashion-minded viewer's pleasure- I even chose some examples from the men's catalog.  Those Project Runway designers might just get some ideas from this one!

This is an example from 1906, with a very demure looking model in what seems to be a fairly scanty suit- perhaps an athletic version.

 Also from 1906- full swim dresses. Note the tights and lace-up shoes.

This is a page from the 1906 men's catalog. I really like the striped trunks. Stripes were definitely in that year!

 A much later example, this is a page from the 1943 Gantner  & Mattern catalog.  The model is wearing an example of the company's "wikies" trunks- the "de luxe" fancy version made of 100% worsted wool. Prices ranged from $3.95 to $6.00.


The cheaper version, left, is also from the 1943 men's catalog. The trunks are made from gabardine and prices range from $1.95 to $2.50. (By the way, doesn't everyone smoke while they swim?) 

The women's 1943 catalog notes that these styles are made of new, non-essential textiles, such as velvet, faille, and seersucker.   I adore the one on the top right with the flower decal. Not bad for war-time looks!

I like this last example, another mailing card from 1906, because she's laughing. 
Whenever I trying on a new bathing suit, I always laugh too. 

Visit the Bancroft to view the collection in the library- it's a SPLASH!

See: BANC MSS C-A 399 Gantner and Mattern Co., San Francisco records, ca. 1901-1957. 

-- D. Miller

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