Friday, September 5, 2014

Photographs: Early 1900's Romance

Exciting things are happening at CFHS. We're getting a new name that betters depicts our theme—Uniting those who love to write about history with those who love to read it. 
We'll have our big reveal on Sept. 8th.

The first two decades of the 20th century brought tremendous changes on both sides of the Atlantic. People zipped around in automobiles, airplanes, and motorcycles. The rise of women's skirt lengths threw men's heads in a tizzy along with the matrons of society who wanted to cling to the Victorian age. And along the way, young ladies stepped out with a beau--alone, without a chaperone--leaving parents and guardians sitting on tenterhooks until their daughters returned.

Which young ladies had the courage to take on this new world? Which ones threw caution to the wind and went too far without a chaperone? Young ladies of this era needed an inner strength to accept the challenges of this new freedom and come out intact with a good reputation.

That is the basis for this post. Where would a young lady of this era go on the arm of a young man if given a choice?

Let's start with an afternoon outing on a golf course. A respectable sport played out in the open in the daylight for all the busy-bodies who might happen to be watching, ready to report back to anxious parents.

 On the Links

A walk along the beach is always relaxing, although maybe not so much if the young lady has the attention of two persistent suitors.

1910 Walk on Winnipeg Beach.
Courtesy of Prairie Postcards at University of Alberta Libraries

Since the people in the above photo are not dressed for swimming, I suspect the large building on the left is probably the Winnipeg Beach Dance Palace and they are taking a fresh-air break. Here's a 1928 photo of what the rest of the Dance Palace looked like:

1928 Dance Palace at Winnipeg Beach.
Courtesy of  Prairie Postcards at University of Alberta Libraries

While we're walking on the beach, some of our young ladies might accept a ride in a row boat, either alone with their fella, with friends, or with someone else doing the rowing so the couple can sneak a bit of hand-holding time. I wonder if the boat is pulled on shore for the ladies to board or if a strong young man carries them through the water.

1910 Boating on Gull Lake, Lacombe.
Courtesy of  Prairie Postcards at University of Alberta Libraries

ca 1890's Boating party near Banff, Alberta. Courtesy of the Glenbow Museum Archives

This next photograph sent me into research mode even though I knew that gasoline motors were being used on boat launches back in the 1910's. Although the hair styles look like they could be the 50's, courageous modern women of the 1920's were cutting their hair in a fashionable 'bob'. Usually you'll see this with tight curls close to the head, but if I've learned anything from researching early photographs of every-day people it's that nothing can be ruled out where human nature plays a part. As for the women's clothes, their is nothing definitive in what they are wearing as we can't tell if they are shorts or pulled up skirts. Therefore, I'm accepting the caption as written.

Young Woman Driving a Motorboat, circa 1920 Courtesy of and the Magnetawan Public Library 

Perhaps a relaxing time of conversation while watching the sun set on the western horizon is more to the young lady's liking. Other couples within shouting distance would have provided a level of respectability while giving each couple their own space.

View of North Shore, ca.1890's. Cavendish, P.E.I. Courtesy of
and University of Guelph Library

As day wanes and darkness falls, what could be more fun than a beach bonfire along with silly and amusing antics. But watch out...the dark hides dangers that looked tame in the daylight.

1915 Beach Party, British Columbia, Canada. Courtesy of and Milton Historical Society

How late would a young lady stay out? I guess that would depend on her circumstances, her intelligence, and her daring. Add in the strength of the influence her parents or guardians had over her. And take into consideration the young lady's ambition regarding a good reputation and social standing.

If you had a chance to leave your chaperone behind and step out with a male companion, where would you have gone?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books has chosen a second short story, Here We Go A-wassailing for inclusion in the 2014 Christmas Cheer II book set due out this October.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at


  1. Anita, What fun photographs! I enjoyed viewing them very much - thanks for sharing them with us.

    1. Thanks, Winnie, I appreciate you leaving a comment. :)

  2. Anita, you always find intriguing photos. I loved looking at these as well as reading your color--umm, black and white commentary. ;-)

  3. Very interesting photos, Anita! I know some of the fashions and hairstyles of some movies from the early 1930s have surprised me with how "modern" they look.

    1. I know, eh. It's so easy to say the director used creative license when he may have done extensive research and then chose the lesser known facts.

      Thanks, DeAnna. :)

    2. Well the ones I mean were MADE in the 1930s, so I know they were authentic, if unusual. ;)

    3. Gotcha. Didn't quite catch that one on my first read, so I'm glad you came back to explain. :)

  4. Great photos, Anita! I always love seeing what you find, as well as reading your take on it. Nicely done!

  5. Marvelous photos, Anita. I came across some really old photos at a local thrift store a couple of weeks ago. I wish now I had purchased them. I lamented that someone's past was relegated to a dusty box in a thrift store, but I left them there. I think another trip is in order. Thanks for your article.

    1. You're welcome, Linda.

      Yes, old photographs are a treasure. My MIL saw a box of old photos in a dumpster after someone cleaned out the room of a deceased member in the senior's complex where she lives. So sad to think that someone might have been blessed to have them. No matter how you look at it, old photos should be preserved for the history they contain. Good to know you're thinking of doing that. :)

      So nice to visit with you although I am sorry I was so late. Anita.