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Exhibition Blog


FUR AND SOCIAL CLASS

Billy Marino - December 30, 2016

In the post-World War I years women were able to maintain jobs that gave them an expendable income. This new money allowed some middle-class women to afford fashions that used to be reserved for the upper-class, particularly fur. A timeless status symbol, fur was now a part of an expanding market.

Turner, C.W. 1922. "A Flapper Girl." Still Image. Library of Congress.


"Fashion: Inside Facts About an Evening Bag." 1930. Vogue, April 26, 75.

WHAT WAS IN HER BAG? ESSENTIAL FLAPPER ITEMS

Maryse Lundering-Timpano - December 28, 2016

For a night on the town, the flapper had to be ready. According to Vogue, the contents of her purse must include a cigarette case, brocade case, handkerchief, comb, make up compact, cigarette holder, watch, and decorative key. All items, including the purse, were to be in decorated in the latest styles.


PROHIBITION-ERA LIQUOR PRESCRIPTIONS

Lee Hanover - December 17, 2016
After the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, all sale and transportation of alcohol was prohibited. One of the few exceptions to this rule were special permits which allowed distribution of alcohol for medical reasons. Government prescription forms were meant to regulate the alcohol distribution of alcohol by doctors. Alcohol was prescribed as preventative medicine, to cure illnesses,  to work as a stimulant. Pictured are the packaging, prescription forms, and different means of distributing booze during Prohibition.
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Featured in the Janesville Daily Gazette on November 21, 1922.

JUST WHAT IS A BEAUTEBOX, ANYWAY?

Evan Casey - December 10, 2016
Looking for a conversation-starting gift this holiday season? Perhaps a Canco Beautebox, like the two displayed in “Ready to Roar,” will do the trick.

These antique tins feature Henry Clive’s illustrations of Paramount starlets. A quick Google search will locate numerous Ebay and Etsy listings of these collectables available for purchase. Some list them as powder tins, some as candy dishes; others say kitchen tins, or gift boxes.

So what were these ambiguous receptacles intended for?

As the above advertisement suggests, the storage and display options were limited only by the user’s imagination.


Celebration of the adoption of the 18th Constitutional amendment in New York, 1932

THE ROOTS OF PROHIBITION

Brenna Schrader - December 8, 2016

When we hear the word “Prohibition,” we often think of what was briefly taught in high school history class when going over the Amendments – that time in history when alcohol was illegal. The history of prohibition in the United States actually began long before 1920. Local governments had been restricting the sale and and consumption of alcohol for decades.

In 1851, Maine passed the first state-wide alcohol prohibition. Fourteen other northern states became “dry” shortly thereafter. These alcohol bans didn’t stick and only five of these state prohibitions lasted beyond 1865. During the Civil War, nine Confederate states banned alcohol in order to alleviate food shortages.

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Ella Cinders, image from Don Markstein’s Toonopedia

ELLA CINDERS: THE 1920S WOMAN IN COMICS

Nathan Turner - December 7, 2016

Ella Cinders, a long-running newspaper comic, was created in 1925 by writer Bill Conselman and illustrator Charlie Plumb. As the title suggests, the comic was conceived as an allusion to Cinderella, though the comparison only lasted for a few strips. Ella Cinders starts out doing endless housework for her stepmother and stepsisters, but early on moves to Los Angeles to work in Hollywood. While not quite a flapper, Ella is a noteworthy example of a “new woman” in 1920s pop culture.

The story in turn is a product of its time. Ella escapes her life of drudgery by winning a beauty contest advertised in a filmgoer’s magazine. This takes her to Hollywood, where she immediately discovers that the studio that hired her is no longer in operation. Seeking a similar job to maintain her newfound freedom, she eventually lands an interview with a studio executive who she discovers is actually her long-lost father. Finally making it, she explores her film career for the rest of the 1920s.

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GLORIA SWANSON’S PROHIBITION-ERA GLAMOUR

Alan Mattay - December 6, 2016

During the silent film era, Gloria Swanson reigned as Hollywood’s top box-office draw and one of the industry’s highest paid performers. She began her career as an extra but soon became the protégé of Cecile B. DeMille, the Paramount director known for his lavish epics. Swanson cultivated an image of elegance and sophistication with her exotic hairstyles, jeweled headdresses, and ornate gowns. The actress acknowledged that her elaborate costumes were an essential ingredient to her box-office success.

Although Swanson managed to make a successful transition to talkies, she preferred the silent era. When her career in the movies declined in the 1930s she took an extended break from film and pursued work in theater, radio, and later television. In 1950, Swanson made a comeback in Billy Wilder’s noir Sunset Boulevard playing a deluded former silent movie star. Sunset Boulevard continues to be regarded as one of the most important films in American cinema.


THE EXPANDING FUR MARKET OF THE PROHIBITION ERA

Billy Marino - November 30, 2016

With more women buying fur with their expendable income in the post-World War I years, prices in stores became more competitive, and the fur trade itself was forced to become more competitive. “Bargains” such as the ones advertised here reflect how the fur trade was expanding on every level.


Highsmith, Carol M. 1980. “The Rink at Rockefeller Center Is a Popular Cold-Weather Attraction. Paul Manship created the Prometheus Statue in 1934. New York, New York.” Still image. Library of Congress.

 

BEFORE IT WAS ROCKEFELLER CENTER: THE STORY OF TONY’S

John Grygo - November 29, 2016

“It was not considered a violation. Unless you did something else. Unless you had bad liquor. Unless you had the dope. Unless you had the prostitution. But my place was a place where you could an sit down and have the liquor with the bottle on the table” – Tony Soma, 1971

Today if you walk down West 49th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, in the heart of Manhattan, you will be walking next to the historic Rockefeller Center. It’s the home of NBC studios, Radio City Music Hall and a host of entertainment venues that that draw visitors from around the world. But if you took this same walk during the Prohibition Era you would have strolled by Tony’s. Tony’s was a speakeasy and a hotspot for New York socialites, mobsters, actors and politicians.

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THE PRICE OF PROHIBITION-ERA FASHION

Shae Cox - November 28, 2016

Have you ever wondered how much it cost to furnish a flapper with outfits that were the bee’s knees? Scott Pierce suggests that the price tag for an average outfit would send a man reeling. The total cost of the outfit modeled by Clara Bow was $346.50. Considering inflation rates, today it would cost $4380.09. Ouch!


INSIDE PICTURE-PLAY MAGAZINE

Alan Mattay - November 23, 2016

During the 1920s, fan magazines like Picture-Play offered readers a glimpse behind the scenes of the glamorous film industry. Established in from 1915 by New York publishers Street & Smith, Picture-Play offered readers reviews, interviews, fan-written submissions, and gossip about the personal lives of Hollywood actors.

Magazines like Picture-Play benefited from the growing consumer economy of the 1920s. More advertisements allowed publishers to lower newsstand sales and attract more readers. Picture-Play also profited from the development of modern market research which allowed the magazine to target ads to its largely female audience. The magazine’s circulation grew from 127,721 in 1918 to more than 341,000 by 1933.

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Picture-Play Magazine (Mar-Aug 1925)


“Fashion: The New Silhouettes Bring Back the Corset and Demand Well-Fitted Brassieres.” 1921. Vogue, Oct 01, 77-77, 100.

WHAT DID FLAPPERS WEAR UNDER THEIR CLOTHES?

Maryse Lundering-Timpano - November 17, 2016

Corsets could be hidden under the voluminous layers of Victorian-style clothing, but what did flappers wear under their loose, slinky dresses? The image above shows brassieres of the 1920s. A minimal amount of fabric was used to achieve the sleek figure of the era. Different styles were created for different kinds of dresses.


Victor Stiebel (1907-73), fashion design, England, about 1927. Museum no. E.1077-1983. Victoria and Albert Museum.

THE COLOR OF PROHIBITION ERA FASHION

Allen Linnabary - November 16, 2016

The Prohibition Era was a vibrant and experimental time for women’s clothing. As shown in this fashion design from 1927, dark fabrics would be mixed with bright colors and unique designs to help women express themselves and their new, open social lives.


The opening of the 1967 Thoroughly Modern Millie was accompanied by antique 1920s cars and patrons attending in full flapper fashion.

NOSTALGIC MEMORIES OF THE FLAPPER

Billy Marino - November 14, 2016

How do we remember history? How does that memory reflect our present?

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

As F. Scott Fitzgerald penned these final lines of his classicThe Great Gatsby, he captured the nostalgia that was pervasive throughout the 1920s. Much of popular fashion and culture was the result of the appropriation of global cultures. From Orientalism and Egyptian Revival, to the “Charleston,” many American trends looked backwards for the cues to move forward. While the “Jazz Age” took steps to break some cultural barriers, such as the newfound sexual freedom for women, it also looked back and romanticized previous decades for their seemingly ideal forms of culture. The historian Lynn Dumenil wrote, “many Americans of the 1920s embraced both enthusiasm for progress and nostalgia for a perceived simpler past.” 

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CLARA BOW AND THE INVENTION OF THE "IT" GIRL

Maryse Lundering-Timpano - November 10, 2016

Long before Jennifer Aniston became “America’s Sweetheart,” Clara Bow cemented her role as America’s “It” girl with her portrayal of the sexually confident “New Woman” in the 1927 film It.  To have “it,” a woman must be fascinating, but unobtainable.

Elinor Glyn, an early twentieth-century English novelist, was the author of “It.” Her 1926 novella was originally published in Cosmopolitan magazine. Glyn’s works depicted women as independent and in control of their sexuality. Her flirtatious female characters made advances on men without the expectation of marriage. Previous portrayals of female sexuality in American culture were of submissive wives or single women being courted in their parents’ parlor.

In the movie, Bow’s character is an independent woman working at a department store. When she sees a man she finds attractive, the shot zooms in on him, thus allowing the audience to experience the female gaze. This scene marked a departure from prior films because it emphasized the woman’s sexual attraction instead of the man’s.


CARRIE NATION: MOTHER OF THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT

Shae Cox - November 9, 2016

Carrie Nation, best known for her axe wielding, bar smashing, and evangelizing, was the most famous Temperance activist. She described herself as “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn’t like!” The efforts of Nation and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union led to the passage of the 18th Amendment and the prohibition of the sale, distribution, and transportation of alcohol.


A UNLV GRADUATE STUDENT'S INTERNSHIP AT THE CLARK COUNTY MUSEUM

Allen Linnabary - November 6, 2016

Last fall I entered the Graduate College History program at UNLV. For my minor focus, I chose Public History to help develop my interest in museums and museum studies. As a requirement of this minor, all students must complete an internship, typically during the summer. Even though Las Vegas is not a city particularly known for its museums, the institutions that are in the Las Vegas Valley are fantastic places to learn and explore different areas of expertise.

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FUR AND FILM

Billy Marino - November 5, 2016

Being an important piece of any fashionable woman’s wardrobe in the 1920’s, it’s no wonder that fur was often worn by the celebrities of the era both on and off the silver screen. Actresses such as Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Joan Crawford helped to both represent and popularize fur in fashion.


"DOWN WITH THE FLAPPER": THE DEFENDER'S ANTI-FLAPPER CAMPAIGN

Alan Mattay - November 5, 2016

During the Prohibition Era, the Chicago Defender, founded by Robert S. Abbott in 1905, was the country’s most widely circulated African-American newspaper. Abbot viewed the Defender as an “advocacy press” whose central mission was guarding the rights of African Americans. The paper was also a key booster of what it called the “Great Northern Drive.” It promised African-American readers in the South that they could find greater opportunity and equality in the cities of the North.

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THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF WOMEN BOOTLEGGERS

John Grygo - November 4, 2016

Often, nostalgia for the roaring twenties evokes images of a certain type of woman. An image such as the iconic flapper twirling the night away dancing the Charleston or possibly the seductive stare of a silver screen vixen from Hollywood’s golden years.  But absent in such popular notions of women during this era are the stories of women who excelled in the male-dominated profession of bootlegging.  Here are just a few of the women bootleggers who made names for themselves during prohibition. In making whiskey and operating speakeasies, these women challenged gender roles in a way that is rarely examined or recognized.

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PHAROAH FASHION

Lee Hanover - November 3, 2016

Egyptian-themed purses, bobbed haircuts, jewelry, and color palettes came into vogue in the 1920s as a result of the 1917 film Cleopatra and the rediscovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The images above demonstrate this cultural fascination with Egyptian objects. Americans latched on to the symbol of King Tut as Egypt and in response, the fashion industry created textiles, jewelry, and other accessories to meet consumers’ demand to own a piece of exotic Egypt.


Features: Short cuts to chic. (1926, Jul 15).Vogue, 68, 65-65, 66, 67.

FROM THE BOB TO THE WAVE: HAIRSTYLES OF THE PROHIBITION ERA

Maryse Lundering-Timpano - November 2, 2016

The progression of fashion in the 1920s was not limited to clothing. The iconic bob hair cut went from perfectly straight to a desirable wave by the middle of the decade. The new coiffure style was obtained with chemical treatments and molding hair in the front by hand to accentuate the wearer’s face shape.


FIVE FALLACIES OF THE FLAPPER

Evan Casey - October 31, 2016

Halloween is upon us, and with it comes costumes portraying every character and cultural icon from Disney’s forthcoming princess Moana to, well, God. Scary to comical and everything in-between, among the bevy of beauties you will undoubtedly see numerous representations of the Flapper. The average costumes of the 1920s “It Girl” are dripping with fringe and beads, sporting a bob (“wig not included”), perhaps hanging on the arm of a mobster–identifiable by his pinstripe suit, of course—having a footloose and fancy free time.

After a year and a half of studying the fashion and culture of the Prohibition in preparation for Ready to Roar, I assure you, this image is an oversimplification. However, our misconceptions can illuminate realities of the past while exposing the subjectivities of the present. So when you see a “Flapper” this Halloween, enjoy the frivolity, but remember these common myths:

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Charleston dance contest in front of St. Louis City Hall, 13 November 1925. Photograph, 1925. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collection. Groups. N01603.

 

DANCE IN THE 1920S

Salman Mohammed - October 9, 2016

As the tensions of World War I subsided, American women increasingly challenged the social landscape of the United States through dance. In the 1920s, a cohort of fashionable young women adamantly asserted their desires for independence and pushed against stereotypes of women as reserved and modest mothers. These women, known as “flappers,” smoked, drank, danced exuberantly with men, and broke many social traditions. These nonconformists danced late nights and contested social barriers, in the process creating a dance revolution which spread throughout the U.S.

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Hilda Steward, fashion design, London, 1923. Museum no. E.1039-1988. Victoria and Albert Museum.

THE DIVERSITY OF TWENTIES DESIGN

Allen Linnabary - September 21, 2016

Fashion in the 1920’s wasn’t always in the image of the flapper. As shown in this fashion design from 1923, women’s clothes varied throughout the roaring decade.

 


Ralph Roske (right) began instructing his undergraduate history students to conduct oral history interviews with the Las Vegas community in the early 1970s.

TALKING THROUGH TIME WITH ORAL HISTORY

Anthony Graham - September 21, 2016

Examining previously recorded oral history interviews has the potential to provide both a goldmine of quality sources and a large amount of frustration. Previously recorded oral histories can provide sources for in depth analysis with lost-passed generations where conducting an oral history is impossible. Locked away in the sources, the interviewers themselves can also become sources. The Roske collection at UNLV special collections contains the recollections of longtime Las Vegas residents of generations long past. As we researched for Ready to Roar, undergraduates of different generations worked with each other across time to bring the first hand experiences of Las Vegas in the 1920s to the foreground. When UNLV students from today read the oral histories collected in the Roske collection by undergraduate students, in the 1970s they create a three way conversation between millennials, baby boomers, and the lost generation.

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“Cinnamon and Nut Fingers, Little Iced Sponge Cakes, Nut Drop Cookies” from Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen’s Woman’s World Calendar Cookbook (1922)

FUN FACTS ABOUT FINGER FOODS

Shae Cox - September 21, 2016

Do you enjoy browsing through creative bite-sized foods on Pinterest?

Finger foods became a novelty during the Prohibition era thanks to the proliferation of juice joints. Juice joints, or speakeasies, provided their patrons with bite-sized snacks to keep them drinking and dancing all night. These miniature foods were handy: patrons carried food in one hand, and cupped a drink in the other as they mingled. Speakeasies fostered the rise of finger foods throughout the era, a culinary tradition which remains a staple of American cuisine. Since the Prohibition Era, finger foods have become a mainstay of American culture and can be found in homes, at cocktail parties, events, and in restaurants.

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BUILDING A RESEARCH JOURNAL: NEWSPAPER EDITION

September 15, 2016

Historians focus the bulk of a research project on primary resources. Primary sources are based on the written, photographic, or oral testimonies produced during a specific time period. Newspapers are a prime example of this aspect of primary source research. Newspapers actively report, interview, and consolidate information and community events, which were integral to the time periods they operate within. Thus, newspapers covering Prohibition provide a specific lens into the daily lives of people dealing with the consequences of Prohibition.

The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Department of History’s graduate students have teamed up with Honors College undergraduates to identify the key background information for building a research journal on Prohibition and female evening wear; which will be on display at the Las Vegas Mob Museum. Understanding the social environment that these women operated in, is key for identifying how and why they engaged in skirting law and order. This social atmosphere has been realized through research covering newspapers from four cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

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