1880-1919

In the Good Old Summer Time

The last two decades of the 19th-century and roughly the first two of the 20th offer us a glimpse of a world very different from our own. Even while partaking of the relaxed atmosphere found in towns located on the shore people continued to abide by formal rules of decorum that were part of the Victorian world. This formality was upheld, in no small part, by the prevailing styles of dress which varied little between the city and the sea.

Click here to download the PDF for the full exhibit description, 1880-1919.
Developed by Guest Curator, James Hanley

Indicates what can be viewed at The Bryan Museum

Please scroll through the timeline below.

Indicates Galveston History

1880
  • Boardwalk Rolling Chairs

    Boardwalk rolling chairs or sometimes called rolling push carts were made popular in Atlantic city dating back to the 1880s through the early 2010s. You can still find some variations of the push cart to this day in Atlantic City but their popularity was diminished due to city regulations in 2010.

    *On view at The Bryan Museum
  • Men's Swimwear

    From the 1880s through the first two decades of the 20th century, men’s swimwear changed very little. Although there were variations it is generally a one-piece form-fitting short-sleeved garment resembling long underwear with horizontal stripes. The legs on these suits extend down the thigh to just above the knee.

  • Men’s “Athletes”

    “Athletes”, a red pair of short hit-cut trunks, were commonly worn over the stripy stockinette shorts by men to cover their private parts, especially after coming out of water.
    Image: Men’s bathing shorts and matching ‘athletes’

  • Electric Pavilion

    Nicholas Clayton's Electric Pavilion

    The Electric Pavilion stood on the site currently occupied by the Moody Civic Center and boasted the first electric lights in Texas. It was owned by the street railway system and burned down in 1883.

    1881
  • Carbon Arc Light

    Adams-Bagnall Arc Lamp

    This outdoor street lighting is from Galveston’s Electric Pavilion. These lights used a large exterior globe to provide weather protection to the smaller interior light source. The globes were either clear, like this example, or opalescent.


    *Object on view at The Bryan Museum

  • Beach Hotel

    Nicholas Clayton's Beach Hotel

    The Beach Hotel was a seasonal resort in Galveston, Texas. Designed by architect Nicholas J. Clayton, it was built in 1882 at a price of $260,000 ($6.89 million in today’s terms) to cater to vacationers. It was destroyed in a mysterious fire in 1898.

    1882
  • Women's Swimwear

    Women’s swimwear were adaptions of the clothing they wore in their everyday life. Since these swimsuits were made of scratchy wool, they were uncomfortable and hot in warm weather.

    1890
  • Zipper Development

    In the United States, W. L. Judson develops a zipper.

    1891
  • Women's Bathing Suits

    Women’s bathing suits were mostly made of wool and cotton. These bathing outfits were heavy when dry and became heavier when wet. They included a full set of undergarments, corseting, an overdress, bloomers, stockings, and a hat. The hat was frequently in the form of a turban or mop cap.

    1895
  • Mens Bathing Suit Ad

    Mens Bathing Suit Ad

    Bathing Suits offered in the Montgomery Ward & Co. | Spring and Summer Catalog

  • Ladies Bathing Suit Ad

    Page From An 1897 Jordan Marsh Catalog

    1897
  • Life at the Beach

    Midland Beach Boardwalk Staten Island NYC

    1899
  • September 8, 1900 The Great Storm of 1900

    1900
  • Kodak's Brownie Camera

    FIRST CAMERA ENABLED PEOPLE TO TAKE SNAPS

    The beginning of the 20th-century was a time of remarkable technological advances. Due to the introduction of the small, portable, inexpensive Brownie camera, by Eastman Kodak, enabled people to take “snapshots” for the first time in history.

    * Object on view at The Bryan Museum

  • Bathing Machines

    Since undressing in public was deemed improper, bathing machines became popular. These machines provided bathers with a convenient space to disrobe and stow their belongings. These carriages or wagons served mainly as changing rooms, principally used by women.

  • Keeping Private at the Beach

    A swimmer would enter the bathing machine while it was parked on the beach and change into their bathing suit. They were rolled or drawn into the ocean by either horses or men. Once the bathing machine would be dragged out far enough into deeper water, the swimmer would emerge from the opposite door and dive into the ocean, far away from the prying eyes of those on the beach.

  • Dippers & The Bathing Machine

    A particularly interesting feature offered at some locations were women attendants called “dippers” who served as assistants to the lady in the machine by helping her into the water (often by just pushing her out of the carriage). Dippers had to be strong because they were also charged with getting them employers back into the machines after they were through paddling around.

    Little actual swimming took place under the circumstances. Since a swimmer’s wet clothes could easily add twenty or more pounds to her weight, dippers needed to be able to shoulder this added bulk in the form of soggy swimwear. They also needed to be watchful and make sure the lady they were serving did not get sucked underwater and drown in her heavy clothes.

    A small flag was usually raised by the occupant of a bathing machine to signal that she wanted her carriage to be pulled back to the shore.

  • "In the Good Old Summertime"

    In the Good Old Summertime
    “In the Good Old Summer Time” is an American Tin Pan Alley song first published in 1902 with music by George Evans and lyrics by Ren Shields.

  • The Male Swimsuit Evolution

    Men’s swimsuit in the 1900s was made of black-and-white striped taffeta. It featured a sailor-style collar, black silk stockings, and black leather sandals. Although photographs show men sporting beach slippers, they appear to have worn them less frequently.

    1902
  • Women's Bathing Accessories

    Women accessorized their bathing suits with bathing slippers. These slippers were necessary on stony beaches to protect from cuts caused by broken glass, oyster shells, and pebbles.

  • Bathing Slippers

    These slippers were commonly made of twisted straw or felt, and they had laces. Women would sometimes make them look more stylish by adding ribbons, bows, or braids. Due to popularity, these were continued to be worn commonly through the 1920s. You can often see these paired with stockings rolled partially up the calves.

  • September 1902
  • Love at the Seaside

    After the turn of the century, we immediately begin to get to see the lighthearted joy of vacationers at the beach.

  • Socializing on the Beach

    Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1890-1910

    1904
  • The Bathing Hour

    The Bathing Hour

    Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1900-1910

  • July 1904
  • Annette Kellerman, Swimsuit Pioneer

    An incident that served as a catalyst for a significant change in the design of women’s swimwear:

    Annette Kellermann, a world-renowned athlete, was found wearing a one-piece bathing suit that hugged the contours of her shapely body. As a result, she was arrested on Boston’s Revere Beach. She had designed a bathing suit for herself is known as “figure suit”. The police released her after she agreed to cover up with a cape until she enters the water. Annette Kellermann is credited as the first woman to wear the modern bathing suit.

  • Bathing Costumes

    Bathing costumes continued to grow lighter and more comfortable during this period.

    1909
  • Bathing Fashion Acceptance

    Between 1910-1919, new optimism and liberal attitudes towards started becoming accepted. The American public was more accepting of changing morals and decorum. As a result, magazine covers started reflecting this change.

    1910
  • Swimwear and the Movies

    The Water Nymph, or The Beach Flirt, starring Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett, and Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle of 1912.

    This short movie features Normand diving and cavorting in the sea in a figure-flattering tight one-piece bathing suit. Due to movies like these, attitudes were changing quickly regarding more revealing swimwear.

    1912
  • Bathing Suit Regulations

    The American Association of Park Superintendents published its official “Bathing Suit Regulations,”

    The requirement of men’s suits to have a skirt that covered the shorts and for women of the era, stockings were still a customary part of the bathing suits. These strict rules began changing in the1920s, as evolving social norms allowed men and women to spend time together near the water and show a bit more flesh.

    1917
1919