When I talk to readers of My Year in 1918,* they often say, “My favorite thing about your blog is…” I wait eagerly for their next words: “the razor-sharp, witty writing,” maybe, or “your profound understanding of the era.” But in my heart I know what’s coming:
I don’t blame them. I love the pictures too.
It’s a beautiful August morning in Washington, D.C.,** and I’ve decided to use those pictures to imagine myself into an equally beautiful summer morning in 1919.
Like the woman in this Pears Soap ad, I wake up, turn my cheeks to the first clear rays of dawn, and say, “I am beautiful!”
Then I roll over and go back to sleep for a few more hours.
When I finally get up, I take a bath, then dust myself with talcum powder, which is quite the thing in 1919.
I’ve read all the horror stories about women who lack daintiness,
plus I don’t want to mess up my dress,
so I dab on some deodorant powder. I get dressed
and have a nice healthy breakfast,
with orange juice made from this recipe from Sunkist: “Just squeeze juice from an orange.”***
Over breakfast, I flip through my August magazines,
stopping for a moment to wonder whether that’s a woman or a parrot on the cover of the Ladies’ Home Journal.****
But there’s no time to linger–there’s tennis to play,
and beaches to relax on,
and romance in the air!*****
Meanwhile, back in 2019, the morning has come and gone, and so will the afternoon if I don’t get a move on.
Enjoy what’s left of the summer, everyone!
*That is, friends who read the blog. It’s not like I’m recognized on the street.
**I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true:
***If you’re wondering, like I was, why Sunkist was explaining such an obvious concept, it’s because orange juice wasn’t very popular yet. There was a huge oversupply of oranges early in the 1910s, leading to the chopping down of 30% of the citrus trees in California, and the citrus industry was desperate to find more uses for its product. They turned to advertisers, who came up with the slogan “drink an orange,” which debuted in 1916.
****Unlike this more recent woman-parrot optical illusion, I’m not sure whether this one is intentional.
UPDATE 9/5/2019: After an extensive search, I identified the artist as Carton Moore-Park, whose name is, um, written under the cover illustration. (As Moorepark, which is how he signed his paintings, but he’s referred to elsewhere, including in this undergraduate thesis, as Moore-Park or Moore Park.)
None of Moore-Park’s other paintings of birds for the Ladies’ Home Journal (or, as it turns out to have been briefly and ill-advisedly named, the New Ladies’ Home Journal) show signs of being optical illusions, so I guess the parrot was just supposed to be a parrot.
*****Again with the powder!
Great to hear from you again—and read your witty writing! I’m looking forward to the 20s, when popular culture really starts taking off. Some of the most remarkable modern writers began in that era. But perhaps some of the elegance of the early century will be lost.
Thanks, Lars! I do have mixed feelings about moving on to the 1920s. One thing I like about the 1910s is that the decade is less familiar to us. But I’m sure there will be plenty to discover in the 1920s as well, beyond our stereotype of flappers and Gatsby-style parties.
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