At the turn of the 20th century, there was a great cultural and societal shift. As the Victorian era ended in 1901, the Edwardian era of King Edward VII and Art Nouveau, ushered in a new era for women. Sharon Hope Weintraub, the author of ‘Bawdy Bisques & Naughty Novelties’ is quoted in a 2008 article saying, “I was fascinated by the wide variety of figurines and the creativity and workmanship that went into their manufacture. I was also intrigued with the way the bathing beauties reflected the loosening of moral, cultural, and sartorial restrictions on women between the 1890s and the 1920s.”
Art Nouveau was a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century. It took inspiration from natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers. This trend was reflected in the fashions of the time as well. Corsets were being discarded. In this atmosphere of Art Nouveau, where nature is celebrated, so too was the human form celebrated.
Social and political change also brought more freedom for women. WW1 saw more single women working as men were on the battlefield. Bicycles gave women a new level of transportation independence. In 1920, women won the right to vote.
Free moving clothing allowed for more athletic endeavors. Changing fashion also meant more relaxed dress of bathers in this period; less clothing that covered a woman’s shape also allowed for swimming. A new appreciation of the female form gave birth to the bathing beauty.
These little bisque pieces of art also represented the growing appreciation of vacationing by the sea. What began in the 1890’s as a naughty item, soon became souvenirs of fun times spent on the beach, or at countless other summer vacation sites. They were purchased by a new generation of adults who rejected the stiff rules and mores of Victorian etiquette. This period lasted until the 1930’s.
Bathing beauties are all bisque figures that have a bathing suit either painted on or are made of fabric. The fabric used was a light netting or lace that often has disappeared over the decades. That is why many bathing beauties are naked. However, these women wear bathing caps and matching ballet type bathing slippers, indicating they also once wore a fabric bathing suit.
The first example is a somewhat rare example. Galluba and Hoffman was a leading manufacturer of these ladies. These figures have a dome head and wear a mohair wig. It is very hard to find the wigs still intact. They are most likely to be reclining and have no base. The poses are more complex, with limbs extended away from the body. A makers mark may be incised on a part of the figure that was covered by the fabric suit. The example shown was most likely manufactured about 1915.
Most of the beauties in my collection have painted swim suits, and painted hair with a bathing cap and matching bathing shoes. The factory of Hertwig & Co., was one of the biggest manufacturers of bathing beauties of this type. They are the most common beauties to be found. Pink pre-colored bisque would be poured into a mold. Hertwig would use one basic mold to make different size ladies, with added or subtracted materials. So, these figures are found with wigs, and a multitude of different bathing suit colors and styles. Some have suits made of the rough “snow” material similar to snow babies. Arms were molded separately, and legs were often manipulated so that they could be sold in several different poses. Some bathers appear standing on a base, often with the name of the vacation spot printed on it. Most of these figures are part of the 5000 series mold mark, and were mostly made in the late 20’s into the early 30’s.
Some of the most difficult bathing beauties to find are ladies emerging from sea shells, or laying on top of a turtle. Most often, they ended up at the bottom of an aquarium, where they languished until the aquarium was thrown out or given away. Many of these are from the 1930’s and were cold painted. This means the paint was added after firing, and the paint easily wore off. Care should be taken when cleaning them. You may inadvertently wipe the paint off along with the dirt.
Other souvenirs incorporated the bathing beauty into a utilitarian souvenir for vacationers to buy. They are found as pin cushions, lamp bases, vases, match holders; or posing on top of candy boxes, pin dishes, powder and trinket boxes. The pictures shows a Bathing beauty created by atop a cushion that creates a porcelain powder box, with the Sitzendorf Porcelain Factory makers mark. Desirability is based on scarcity and quality of the piece. The quality of facial painting is very important. Like pin cushion dolls, the more limbs extended away from the body and the more complicated the pose; means that it required multiple separate molded parts. They are more likely to be broken and damaged.
Thanks to our guest blogger: Miriam (Mickie) Feiden. Check out her web store: https://www.icollect247.com/yesterdaystoys
Nobody writes anymore. In fact, kids are not even taught to write anymore and in another generation, we will only talk via computer. In our small rural area, it was not unusual for friends to travel by train to a town 30 miles away and send a postcard back to a relative. We have an old postcard book full of vintage postcards mailed from one small town to another. Postcards were sent, enjoyed and kept. So why should we collect postcards?
They are simply a piece of affordable art that connects us with history in many ways. From a heavy paper to leather and even linen, these were mailed with postage stamps and were delivered as something special. They can be touched, looked at, admired, take up little space, inexpensive and even comical. You can research a lot of history, such as fashion, architecture, historical events, artists and more. Even Santa Claus’ history can be seen in postcards.
Do you remember summer vacations…every stop for gas you went in and got a souvenir postcard. Every place you went there were souvenir postcards. How about your city or town, I bet there were postcards of events and buildings. My small town had stock postcards with their town name printed on the bottom. I know that as there were not meadows and sheep, in the town we lived. In fact, I recently found them in a paper notebook from an elementary school report I had to do on my hometown.
You do not have to be a history bluff to enjoy postcards. You just need to enjoy times past. Why not collect holiday postcards and put them on a postcard display during the season. On icollect247 there are over 2400 different postcards for sale. Here are a few of my favorites which are currently for sale on http://www.icollect247.com. You can use the search function and just type in postcard.
If you are short on space and short on money, then how about collecting small advertising pinback buttons? These were small token giveaways left by the handfuls from salesmen who visited the local country stores. Remember there were no radios, no television and no Facebook. The best way to get someone to buy your product was to put a picture of your product on a small lapel button. Remember also that not everyone could read and so putting a picture of wringer washing machine would sell the piece.
Small pinbacks were produced by Whitehead and Hoag, Bastian Brothers, Parisian Novelty and The American Art Works. You will often these names on the sides of the pins. Everything was advertised on them including beer, whiskey, soda, stoves, paint and just about anything that could be sold. In many cases they looked like small oil paintings, as the colors are deep and resolution wonderful.
These can be found priced from $5.00 to $95, depending on the advertisement. If you want to narrow your search, you could look for the ones with a theme. Colors are deep and selection are wide.
Find over 300 different of this great celluloid pieces on www.icollect247.com. Currently the only website that is only vintage and seller’s guarantee their listings as old is icollect247.com.
I was following my wife through a “junk store” several years ago when all of a sudden I found something that peaked my interest. She would take me to several antique stores on weekends and I went along for the ride but never really had any interest in the available items until the day when I saw what appeared to be a miniature license plate. For the first time, I spoke up and asked the store clerk a question. Until that moment, he had to think I was a deaf, dumb mute whose only job was to carry around my wife’s wallet! I asked, “Was this plate for small cars?” That is when he explained to me it was a bicycle license plate.
This peaked my interest because I am an avid road bicyclist. I ride on average 5,000 to 7,000 miles a year and I ride all over the East coast. The first thing that I found funny about this plate was its sheer weight. It was made of metal, was about six inches long and two inches wide and even had a reflector on it. You see, high-end road bikes made today are carbon fiber. You can spend hundreds of dollars more for a gear or a tire just to save a few ounces in weight. Having to bolt a plate to my bike would send me into shock! I bought that plate because it was cheap and intriguing and because I wanted to learn more about it. Little did I know that was the beginning of me becoming a collector.
Read the complete article, written by John Summer, in our Volume 11 magazine. Check it out at AntiqueBackRoads.com. Use the tab “Back Issues” and look for Volume 11.
Looking to add a little bit of class to your mundane kitchen? How about some vintage counter ware? This great looking Borden’s malted milk glass jar would look great on your counter. You can use it for just about anything you would want. Cookies come to mind…must be close to dinner, lol. But really, cookies, wrapped candy, chores for the kids (too funny), etc., you could use it for lost of things and bring a vintage feel to your home!
For example, a Malted Milk Jar would be perfect to hold breakfast bars or other snacks. The jar is extremely heavy and with a metal, top will not chip the glass.
Or how about this late 19th-century wooden rack mounts to a wall and has three tiers that fold up when not in use. The tiers have open bottoms with rungs for hanging drying herbs and milk glass finials on the nail heads that attach the rungs to the end brackets.This decorative copper four cup teapot would dress up a shelf and dates from the nineteenth century. Has unusually ornate brass handle brackets with a dark wood handle.
My favorite pieces in my kitchen are my Prayer Ladies. These were made in the late 1950s to early 1960s and come in blue and pink. Easy to keep clean and are always a reminder that God is there in my kitchen.
Using vintage pieces in your home gives it a warm, fuzzy feeling, as well as useful. The pieces above as well as fresh to the market pieces are available at the “Only All On-Line All Vintage Marketplace” – icollect247.com.
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