September 1911, Memphis

This posting is a bit of odds and ends — some cultural tidbits of 1911.

Baltimore Dairy Lunch, Detroit. restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com
Baltimore Dairy Lunch, Detroit. restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com

On September 7, 1911, Jessie wrote in her journal, “Got some lunch at the Baltimore Dairy. It was grand.” The Baltimore Dairy Lunch was one of the first chain restaurants in the U.S.  Founder James A. Whitcomb started the restaurants in the late 1880s in Baltimore and Washington D.C., and  within 30 years most big cities had a Baltimore Dairy Lunch.  They were quick lunch counters where patrons made their orders and carried their lunch to their seats, one-armed wooden chairs (patented by Whitcomb) that discouraged long, lingering lunches.

Jessie’s older brother Bud (Frank) left Memphis for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on Monday, September 11, 1911. By the next weekend he was back home with a case of typhoid fever. As the 20th century progressed, cases of typhoid fever became less frequent, thanks to the introduction of vaccines and improvements in public sanitation and hygiene. But in 1911 typhoid outbreaks were still occurring. This was, after all, the decade of Typhoid Mary, a healthy carrier of the pathogen living in New York. She worked as a cook and is thought to have infected 51 people, 3 of whom died. Back in Memphis at the end of September 1911, Bud seems to be recovering.

Central High School, Memphis
Central High School, Memphis

On September 18, 1911, school starts again in Memphis. Jessie went to Memphis High School. (You can see a picture of Memphis High in my posting of April 20, 2015, Debating Societies, Tally Ho Rides & the Birdmen Return.) This year a new school, the successor to Memphis High, opened and was called Central High School. On September 19, 1911, Jessie notes that “The desks haven’t come yet so we have to sit on the floor in the classrooms. Just like a circus. We cut up to beat the band.”

On September 23, 1911, Jessie, Winnie, Alma and Alta Mai go see the musical or comic opera Madame Sherry at the Lyceum. Jessie can’t get the song Every Little Movement out of her head!

The Lathams bought a new house on Overton Park Avenue and will soon move there. On September 24, 1911 Jessie writes, “Auntie, Swayne & I went out to see our new home on Overton Park Ave. It is beautiful.” The farmhouse where they had been living was Granny Swayne’s house, formerly her father Col. E.H. Porter’s country house. Granny died in early January, so perhaps the Lathams needed or wanted to move so that Granny’s estate could be settled. It is likely that they wanted a smaller and newer home closer to downtown Memphis. Of course I don’t know this since Jessie never wrote about that in her diary. Incidentally, the address written at the top of the photo below is incorrect. Jessie was a very old woman when she went back through many of her old pictures, writing on some of them, and she confused the number with an address from later in her life.  The address of the Latham’s soon to be new home was 1759 Overton Park Avenue.

Latham's home on Overton Park Avenue, Memphis
Latham’s home on Overton Park Avenue, Memphis

Riverboat Cruise, August 1911

Kate Adams
Kate Adams

Toward the end of the summer of 1911, Jessie and about 20 friends and relatives went on a riverboat cruise to Arkansas City and back. Jessie’s mother and cousin Mary chaperoned, and for some reason there were only 5 girls on the trip and the rest were boys. The boat was the Kate Adams, a luxury riverboat that ran from Memphis to Arkansas City twice a week. There were three Kate Adams, the last of which burned at dock in Memphis on January 8, 1927. These riverboats were 240 feet long and had staterooms on the upper deck. There was also a large dining/dance hall with electric chandeliers surrounded by a promenade deck. The lower deck was used for storing cotton and other cargo. Memphians called the last Kate Adams, which was built in Pittsburgh in 1898, the “Lovin’ Kate.” According to the diary entries Jessie wrote for August 21-24, 1911, it seems there was a lot of dancing, eating, and merry-making, but not much sleeping.

"On our way to Arkansas City in 1911 [on the] Kate Adams.
“On our way to Arkansas City in 1911.”
 

"Monty and my green dress."
“Monty and my green dress.”
Jessie, summer 1911
Jessie, a few days before the cruise, August 1911.

A Day in the Life…

Val & Jessie
Val and Jessie

“Sunday, August 6, 1911: Miss Anna was [not] able to come to S.S. this morning. Was so sorry. Miss Mamie taught us. Went to church. I tried to rest after dinner but in walked Val Williams, then Evan & Billy. I played & they sang. Mil came over and we took lots of Kodak pictures. I declare, Val is so sentimental. As they were leaving in came Everette Holmes — he is so cute. We saw an auto burn up. Everette acted a perfect monkey. E.S. then came. I finally got a little supper. Went to C.E. and church with Evan. He, Mil, Noble B., Billy, L.W. were over. We had a time. More good water-melon and hot tamales. The feast was sure good. It had its effects though.”

Swayne Latham 1911
Swayne Latham 1911

A perfectly ordinary day for 16 year old Jessie, but one that she and her friends documented in part with photographs. So we get to see her good friend Mil, a photo of her 13 year old brother Swayne driving the auto, a good look at the Lathams’ automobile, some of Jessie’s other friends  and a nice view of their clothing. Most of the photos appear to have been taken outside Jessie’s home. I hope you enjoy this look at a day in the life of Jessie Latham.

Mil and Jessie
Mil and Jessie
Jessie
Jessie

 

"Four little blackbirds sitting in a row" Jessie Latham, August 6, 1911
Mil, Everette, Jessie, Val
Everette and Jessie
Everette and Jessie
13 year old Swayne at the wheel!
13 year old Swayne at the wheel!
Val, Jessie, Mil and Everette
Val, Jessie, Mil and Everette
"Val and I." 8/6/1911
Jessie and Val
The puncture
The puncture
The joyriders
The joyriders
Grinning Jessie
Grinning Jessie
Jessie
Jessie

Road Trip! July, 1911

The start of the road trip.
The start of the road trip

On July 19, 1911, Jessie, her mom, Swayne, Bud and Jessie’s friend Kathleen left on a road trip to Mississippi. They were going to Tupelo to visit Antoinette, or Aunt Nettie, a dear friend and college roommate of Jessie’s mother, and to tour Mississippi. Incredibly, they did not have a single flat tire on the trip, but they did have a couple of “narrow escapes.” The roads were terrible, sometimes impassable, and of course there were no motels. The first mishap occurred on the first day, way out in the country in Mississippi. The road was so bad that the car ended up stuck in a ditch. They got help from a family that had a farm nearby who gave them a delicious country dinner, put them up for the night and helped them pull the car out of the ditch the next morning. The family had five children, all Vs:  Vera, Vesta, Velma, Victor & Virgil Luke. And finally, on the way back to Memphis near Grand Junction, Tennessee, late at night out in the middle of the woods, the car became hopelessly stuck in the sand. They walked until they found a house. It was a beautiful old colonial home with (as Jessie points out) hand carved woodwork throughout. The very nice people by the name of Pulliam gave them a late dinner, put them up for the night and helped them get the car out of the sand the next morning. Sandwiched in between these events was a lot of family, friends, fun, food and frivolity.

Red banks along the way. Kathleen, Swayne, Jessie (L-R)
“Red banks along the way” L-R Kathleen, Swayne & Jessie
The first accident
“The accident”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessie & "Black Maria"
Jessie & “Black Maria”
The Luke family
The Luke family

 

 

 

 

 

Jessie on a mule at the Luke's
Jessie on a mule at the Luke’s
On the way again
“On the way again”

 

 

 

House party in Tupelo. Bud has his arm on Swayne. Jessie is 2nd from left.
House party in Tupelo. Bud has his arm on Swayne. Jessie is 2nd from left.
"It's only brother." Bud between Jessie & ?
“It’s only brother.” Bud with Jessie &

 

 

 

 

 

"The coming lawyer." Bud, Swayne to his right.
“The coming lawyer.” Bud with Swayne
House Party in Shannon, Miss. Jessie in middle.
House Party in Shannon, Miss. Jessie in middle

 

Early Summer in Memphis, 1911

Riverside Park c1910, historic-memphis.com
Riverside Park c1910, historic-memphis.com

 

Richard Armistead (?)
Richard Armistead (?)

So far Jessie’s summer has been filled with joy-rides in the “machine,” visits to East End Park, band concerts and picnics. Richard Armistead, Jessie’s first boyfriend, is mentioned more frequently in her diaries. He is a year older than Jessie and goes away to school, returning home on holidays and the summer. On June 18, 1911 Jessie makes this cryptic entry:  “…Richard came. Sure was glad he got here. We fixed things up a trifle better. There were lots of stars out. I wish I had some-body by the neck. I might forget some things but not others.

I thought it was interesting that the vaudeville show that Jessie saw at East End Park on June 27th included opera singers (!) and also an apparent Annette Kellerman knockoff, Lottie Mayer, the Diving Venus. She gave a diving exhibition and seems to have worn a swimming costume very similar to Annette Kellerman’s costume with the black tights. Later in July the Oklahoma City Daily Pointer reported:  Tights of ‘Diving Venus’ Shocking to Chautauqua, “If the management of Piasa Chautauqua had known what and how little Lottie Mayer, the “Diving Venus,” was going to wear when she gave an exhibition there yesterday, the show would have been canceled and the Piasa Chautauqua would have been saved a shock.

July 4th included a picnic at Riverside Park given by C.E. (I don’t know what C.E. is, but I believe it may be connected with her church. Jessie goes to C.E. every Sunday evening.) Many of the kids, including Jessie, went down to the park on a boat. In the bottom picture is Miss Anna (on the left) with Jessie (on the right) and some other girls on the boat. She is their Sunday School teacher and also works at the courthouse. All the girls seem to love her.

"A picnic at Riverside"
“A picnic at Riverside”
'Miss Anna and her girls" (Jessie on R)
“Miss Anna and her girls”

Annette Kellerman, 20th Century Woman

Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman

On March 11, 1911, Jessie wrote in her diary, “Went to the Orpheum with Douglas. It was the best bill that’s been there this year — ‘Twas grand. Antoinette (sic) Kellerman the ‘perfect woman’ was there. She sure was a beaut. Did some classy diving too.” Jessie misspelled her name, probably because she had some very dear family friends named Antoinette. Annette Kellerman was named the “Perfect Woman” reportedly by a Harvard professor who compared the measurements of the Venus de Milo with those of 3000 women, and proclaimed her to be that perfect woman.

She was an amazing woman in many ways.  Kellerman (1887-1975) made her name as a swimmer and diver in her home country of Australia. Her parents, both musicians and teachers, were having financial problems, so Annette and her father set off for London. She began to do swimming exhibitions, swimming several miles in the oily Thames, swimming along the English coast from town to town. She went to Europe and did the same, racing 17 men in the Seine and coming in third. In 1905 she became the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel. She tried and failed 3 times, reportedly saying that she had the endurance but not the strength.

Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman

Nevertheless, these attempts brought her great publicity, and she soon came to the States to perform in a giant glass tank in White City, Chicago (a huge amusement park) and the Hippodrome in New York.  She performed underwater ballet, something totally new, and became a sensation. Her grace and skill in the water combined with her beauty and personal charisma, as well as the fantasy themes of her productions, eventually made her the highest paid vaudeville star in the U.S.

Annette Kellerman, A Daughter of the Gods
Annette Kellerman, A Daughter of the Gods

She also was a pioneer in her silent film career, becoming the first major film star to appear totally nude on screen in A Daughter of the Gods. In one of her films, she choreographed a scene with a large number of actors to perform with her underwater, thus creating the art/sport of synchronized swimming. In 1911 she starred in The Mermaid and became the first screen siren/mermaid with a mermaid costume that she actually swam in. Kellerman made quite a few movies after that with an aquatic theme. She became one of the most powerful women in the silent film industry in the control she exerted over almost every aspect of the films she was in, from script to location to lighting and costumes.

The Mermaid, Annette Kellerman 1911
The Mermaid, Annette Kellerman 1911

Kellerman also wrote several books on physical fitness and health, but she felt that the most important contribution she made to the world was her invention of the one-piece form-fitting swim suit for women. For hundreds of years women had effectively been banned from swimming because of the bulky and cumbersome attire they were expected to wear. Swimming is very difficult in woolen skirts and pantaloons. At the turn of the 20th century competitive swimming was just becoming popular in Australia, and it was not unusual for women swimmers there to wear the men’s swimming attire – a one-piece jumper with shorts to the mid-thigh and a tank top. This is what Kellerman wore for her swimming and diving exhibitions, and it was shocking to most of the rest of the world. In fact, on a U.S. beach she was arrested for public indecency for wearing such attire. To make her swimsuit more ‘respectable,’ she took a pair of black tights and sewed them to the bottom of the shorts, making the first unitard. This was her famous one-piece swimsuit. Pretty soon all women wanted a form fitting bathing suit. Seeing the demand, and ever an astute business woman, she designed a line of bathing suits with the close fitting short unitard underneath and a close fitting tank top that went to mid-thigh or the knee. These suits became known as Annette Kellermans.

Jessie in an Annette Kellerman, 1920
Jessie in an Annette Kellerman, 1920

Annette Kellerman was truly an amazing women. An athlete, actress, author, life-long vegetarian, inventor, business woman and visionary, she was an important part of the women’s revolution that was going on at the time – getting the right to vote and freedom from restrictive clothing.  Through her career and life, she pushed all women forward toward greater personal responsibility and freedom of choice in all aspects of their lives. There has been much written about Annette Kellerman. For a good introduction to her life, check out the Australian official website page dedicated to Annette Kellerman.

Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman

Kellermanposter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s Fashion, Spring 1911

Georges Barbier illus. for Paul Poiret, 1912
Georges Barbier illus. for Paul Poiret, 1912
Paul Poiret coat 1911
Paul Poiret coat 1911

On March 10, 1911, Jessie and her mother went shopping. Jessie got a tan spring hat, a tan silk pongee coat and a tan silk dress. Of course, I was curious as to what kinds of dresses and hats Jessie might be looking at, and it turns out that this is right at the beginning of a revolution in women’s fashion that is still in effect today. In freeing women from the very restrictive undergarments that had been worn during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, some fashion designers, and especially Paul Poiret (1879-1944), went in the opposite direction. “Requiring less restrictive undergarments and conforming more to the natural shape of the body, Poiret’s designs of 1908–11 are regarded as pivotal in the transition from the rigidly corseted silhouettes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras to styles providing greater freedom and comfort in dress that would characterize twentieth-century fashion.” This from the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s online exposition on Paul Poiret’s work. Check out this link to view the Metropolitan Museum’s Paul Poiret Collection. Poiret, who was the most important French designer of the first two decades of the 20th century, made clothes that were loose and sometimes draped. Ironic, since he is the designer responsible for the brief fashion craze over hobble skirts. He designed harem pants for women. Unheard of! No doubt Jessie’s new clothes were not designer duds from Paris, but you can see from some of the following images that the empire waistlines were already part of the trend toward less restrictive dresses.

Les Robes de Paul Poiret by Paul Iribe
Les Robes de Paul Poiret by Paul Iribe
1911 Paul Poiret (?)
1911 Paul Poiret (?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hats 1911
Hats 1911
Hats 1911
Hats 1911
Edwardian dress 1911
Edwardian dress 1911

 

The Big Doll

Jessie with the Big Doll
Jessie with the Big Doll

In January 1911, Jessie was 16 years old. She was really past the point of playing with toys too much, but every once in a while she mentioned the big doll. On Christmas Eve Jessie said, “Hung up my stocking and my big doll’s too.” On January 5, 1911, the family spent a quiet evening at home and Jessie “dressed my big doll up pretty.” Since she started writing in her diaries after she received the doll, I don’t know how she got it or from whom. When Jessie had her own daughter (my mother Frances) she gave the doll to her, and when I was a little girl they gave the doll to me. I never had a formal ‘giving’ of the doll to my daughter Jessie, nor did I realize until after my Jessie was grown that I should have taken a photograph of her as a child with the Big Doll. Nevertheless, I’ve done it now! There is now a portrait of Jessie (21st century version) with the Big Doll, and the doll will move into her care eventually.  As you can see from the photos, the doll’s hair has changed through the years.

Frances with the Big Doll
Frances with the Big Doll
Jenny, Vic, Frances & Karen with the Big Doll
Jenny, Vic, Frances & Karen with the Big Doll
Jessie & the Big Doll, 2015
Jessie & the Big Doll, 2015

 

Granny dies, January 1911

Mary Porter Swayne
Mary Porter Swayne

Granny came back home on January 8th. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the house where Jessie and her family lived was Granny’s house. It had been her father’s, Col. E.H. Porter’s, country or farm home. (See the post, Late November 1909) Granny, whose name was Mary Porter Swayne, was Jessie’s maternal grandmother. She seemed to divide her time among all her children and their families, and had just returned home from spending Christmas in Gates. Within a few days Granny fell ill, and 2 weeks from the day she came home, she died, probably from a stroke. She was 77 years old. There really was no good treatment for strokes in the early 1900s. Granny was unconscious most of the time, but a nurse was hired to stay with her, which I am sure was a luxury that many people could not afford. On Monday, January 23, the day after Granny died, they had the funeral at the Old Brick Church (whose land the Porter family had donated many years earlier) and burial at Elmwood in the Swayne family plot. The grandsons were the pallbearers.

chafingdishadOn a lighter note, Jessie’s father gave her a chafing dish for Christmas. That seems to have been one of Jessie’s favorite presents, and, in fact, there was a chafing dish craze going on at the time. College students, bachelors, society dames, teenagers, housewives — everybody seemed to use the chafing dish or know someone who did. Chafing dish recipe booklets were published. Perhaps the renaissance of the chafing dish was brought on by the increasing availability of convenience foods, but the chafing dish itself was an ancient method of heating or slow cooking foods and sauces. Welsh rarebit and fudge may have been the most popular dishes fixed in this early 1900s chafing dish craze. Jessie and her friends had many chafing dish parties in which they usually made fudge.

chafingpartyrosemaryhallc1914
Chafing dish party, Rosemary Hall, c1914
College dorm chaing dish party. Mt. Holyoke
Chafing dish party, Mt. Holyoke College, 1906

Debating Societies, Tally Ho Rides & the Birdmen Return

Memphis High School, 1909; historic-memphis.com
Memphis High School, 1909; historic-memphis.com

In the back of her 1910 diary, Jessie wrote:

“I belong to the —

1. Merry Maids Club of which I am president

2. Ellen Clapp Auxiliary of which I am treasurer

3. Junior Beethoven

4. L.H. Club of which I am treasurer

5. Basket ball team or club of which I am “captain”

6. Literary Society of which I am secretary

7. Debating Society

8. Amateur Musical Club.”

High School annex c.1910; historic-memphis.com
High School annex c.1910; historic-memphis.com

Jessie was busy, and as the end of the year holidays and parties approached, her life seemed to speed up.  As for the Debating Society, Jessie wrote on November 11, 1910, “The decisions are getting quite monotonous as the affirmative wins every time.” On the day before Thanksgiving 1910, the Debating Society met at the High School for its final debate of the year. The opposing sides would argue either in the affirmative or the negative. The topic: “The Thanksgiving turkey is more important than the Christmas turkey.” Jessie spent the night before plotting the argument for the negative, and was the champion of the evening, winning the judges’ decision.

A Tally ho, c1905
A Tally ho, c1905

The next day, Thanksgiving, was an exciting whirl of activity for Jessie. Football games were popular on Thanksgiving, even in 1910. Jessie’s high school team was playing a game and she was chosen as a sponsor for one of the players, and so was in on all the activities for the day.  Beginning early in the morning, the players and the sponsors met at the High School and all rode together in a tally ho to the game. After the game they rode in the tally ho all over town giving their “yells.” They ended up at a big supper given by the football team, followed by a show at the Orpheum. No mention of a Thanksgiving turkey with her family. She’s a busy teenager!

Il Trovatore, 1910; virtualmuseumofcinema.org
Il Trovatore, 1910*

Going to musical and theatrical performances, either with friends or her mother, was an important part of Jessie’s life. In early November she saw the famous soprano Bernice de Pasquali, whom she thought “perfectly grand.” About a week later she saw Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore peformed by the Aborn English Grand Opera Co.  It was performed in English and Jessie loved it. In December she saw the play The Traveling Salesman with the comedian Frank McIntyre in the leading role. “It was grand… Frank McIntyre was the funniest thing.”

Charles K. Hamilton c1910
Charles K. Hamilton, c1910*

On December 16th, Jessie, her mother, Sara and her mother Mrs. Campbell went to the Fairgrounds to see the return of the Birdmen, as many people called the aviators of the new flying machines. Cosmopolitan magazine called them “Wizards of the air” for their daring feats. One of the aviators who took part in the December Aviation Exposition in Memphis that year was C.K. Hamilton, known to some as “the crazy man of the air.” He was a daredevil and became famous for thrilling the crowds with his stunts. That year in Memphis, Hamilton set a speed record of 79.2 mph, besting his own record of  64.6 mph. Check out this article from General Aviation News for more information about C. K. Hamilton.

Satin evening shoes, 1910s
Satin evening shoes, 1910s

December 18, 1910 was Jessie’s 16th birthday. “My birthday! Just think, I am 16 to-day and — never been kissed.” She celebrated by having a dinner party with all her girlfriends. Most of her friends gave her handkerchiefs and books. She received some little gold pins from Swayne and Granny, a book from Bud and a gold necklace from her father. Her mother gave her a pair of blue satin dancing pumps with silk hose, a party hat and a cloak.

Christmas came and went with a swirl of parties and shopping. But when New Year’s Eve came, Jessie turned down all invitations to go out. Instead, her whole family stayed home and welcomed the New Year in.

1911HappyNewYear

 

*Photo credits: Memphis H.S. and High School Annex photos – historic-memphis.com; Il Trovatore – virtualmuseumofcinema.org; Charles K. Hamilton – General Aviation News.