Sunday, October 13, 2019

Vintage Burlesque Dancers

Showgirls of the '90s - the 1890s

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

I've always been fascinated by early photography. A hotbed of photographers was in my neighborhood around Union Square, New York City. There even were photographers in my building. It was "early Hollywood," and when the filmmakers developed what we know as "Hollywood" ca. 1910, they came from the area around 5th Avenue and 14th Street. So, while the vintage photos of old-time showgirls here are 100 years old or older (with a few exceptions), they have a connection to the present day.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

The practice back in the day was for photographers to pose burlesque dancers in various classical scenes. So, you get pictures of ladies dressed up in scenes from mythology, such as Cupid, or in scenes from old plays.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Some of the shots are scandalous even for modern times, so those are cropped so as not to offend anyone.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Some of these shots are taken from old postcard collections. Others come from "coffee table books" released by publishers such as Gustave Pellet. The models were often taken from the nightclubs of late nineteenth-century Paris.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

However, New York, San Francisco, and a few other cosmopolitan cities in the United States also had their share of showgirls. Burlesque came to the United States when Lydia Thompson brought her troupe, the "British Blondes," to New York City stages in 1868. These models are the next generation from that original group.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
This appears to be from the 1920s, with the model sporting a classic flapper hat.
Dr. Charles H. McCaghy, professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has collected many of these photos and is considered the dean of old burlesque photos. His collection is the Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance from Burlesque to Clubs.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
This one also is from the 1920s.
Not a lot is known about these photos. Even the names are sometimes unknown. I've added the names whenever I could.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Jennie Lee.
Burlesque is believed to extend back to 17th-century Italian theater. It was used as an interlude between acts or shows. The word derives from the Italian "burla," meaning a joke, ridicule or mockery.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque was featured in London from the 1830s to the 1890s. Some London theaters, including the Gaiety and Royal Strand Theatre, eventually featured it as the main event rather than just one of many acts.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Eliza Blasina.
Burlesque died out in both England the United States early in the 20th Century. However, it remained one of the most popular attractions in Paris into the 1940s and beyond. German soldiers during the occupation made it a point to visit the Folies Bergère and other shows featuring burlesque.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Louise Montague.
Among other things, these photos show how standards of female beauty have changed over time. For instance, the ladies usually are more voluptuous than later models.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

The models also often wear garb that is usually associated with men. Ladies of the day would wear dark skirts with hats on the street. A woman going out in a form-fitting outfit was unheard of. So, these models were very free-spirited.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Australian swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman.
Even one-piece swimming suits were cutting-edge around the turn of the 20th Century. The idea was to hide the female form as a form of modesty.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Josie Gregory.
So, the practice in these photos is to not show the models in their normal clothes, but dressed in what at that time would have been considered outlandish fashions. For instance, Mexican costumes that probably weren't seen on the streets in Mexico, either, were popular.
Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Leontine.
But, for the most part, the women were in showgirl outfits in pastoral scenes created in the artist's studio.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Vernona Jabeau.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Miss Farrington.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Rose Hamilton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Gussie Crayton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Elvira Viola.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Nellie Page.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Ida Florence, "The California Prize Beauty."

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Eliza Weathersby, as Gabriel, in Rice & Goodwin's opera bouffe, "Evangeline," probably during a performance at Boston Museum, 1877.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Carrie McHenry as Jako in Bohemian Gy-url [sic], Colville Opera Company.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Pauline Hall.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Ella Chapman.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Miss Darcey.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Minnie Marshall.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Alice Atherton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Jessie Barlett-Davis.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Sylvia Gerrish.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Gracie Wilson.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Jennie Dickerson.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Viola Clifton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Adah Richmond.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Clara Davenport.

2019

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