Swim Into Summer: Bathing Beauties of the 20th Century
Come and join the Wayne County Historical Society as we Swim into Summer starting Sunday, April 7th, 2013 with our newest exhibit “Swim Into Summer: Bathing Beauties of the 20th Century” at the Kister Building on the campus of the WCHS in Wooster. Most of these items from our Textile Vault have never been on display. Do not miss your opportunity to see them now, as this might be your only chance!
Swimming as a recreational sport dates to prehistoric times, and written references to it are mentioned in the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible, and Beowulf to name a few. The return of the Olympic Games to Athens in 1896 helped to spur the modern swim movement as we know it today.
This new exhibit at the Wayne County Historical Society’s Kister Building explores the history and evolution of the modern Bathing Beauty chronologically from about 1906 through to the 1960s. Each decade has its own dedicated display case featuring the latest fashions and trends of the era. The earliest display case with items from 1906-1910 depicts the trends in sun-bathing and not spending as much time in the water. These fashions looked more towards mainland fashions of the day with women fully clothed wearing large hats to keep the sun off of their heads and faces. In these days, bathing machines were a popular site at most beaches. These small wooden huts allowed women to change out of street clothes and into bathing attire and then would be wheeled or slid into the water to permit wading away from prying eyes. As the next decade rolled on, and with much opposition from a few groups, the styles became more form fitting as women began taking more to the water. By the 1930s display case, the swimsuits are much more revealing in the legs, arms, neck and back areas. New fabric development also allowed for the swimwear to be more comfortable and practical. During this time, the famous Jantzen brand “Diving Girl” image of a woman dressed in a red one-piece swimsuit and hat became the standard for swimwear fashion around the world. The War Years/ 1940s display case features movie star pin-up posters in revealing two-piece suits. The United Stated ordered a 10% reduction in fabric in swimsuits in 1943 due to wartime shortages leading to the two-piece and eventually the more daring bikini styles gaining in popularity. Also during this time, rubber swim caps started to decline in use, as rubber was more importantly needed for the war effort. By the last display cases from the 1950s and 1960s, the care-free post war era was celebrated by the reign of the two-piece and more revealing one-piece options. An interesting fact to note is that during this time, models began appearing on the covers of Sports Illustrated, culminating in the first swimsuit issue in 1964.
In addition to female swimwear, the collection also boasts children’s wear dating back to the 1920s. During this time, it was thought that sun and Vitamin D were good for children’s health, and several clothing makers developed children’s swim lines.
The 1920s case contains memorabilia from Wooster’s first pool, Spring Lake. Located at 509 W. Larwill Street, current site of The Wooster Trailer Park, Spring Lake was a mainstay in Wooster from 1924 to 1951. In a June 12, 2009 Daily Record article entitled “Bits and Pieces Spring Lake Was First Pool”, Harry McClarran noted the history of the pool. The area was built and owned by E. Quimby Jr. in the 1890s as a private park located behind the old Wooster High School. Eventually, the city acquired the land and by 1924 had sold it to Glenn and Faye Drabenstott who were operating the newly named Spring Lake as “the first regulated swimming pool in Wooster and the first cement pool in Wayne County.” The pool was 200 feet in diameter and was fed by a large spring. When the capacity of the lake increased to a million gallons, well and city water were used to supplement the spring. The pool also boasted a water fountain, and a large copper slide that shot riders into the pool with the aid of a two water streams on either side of the sliding surface. In addition to swimming, the lake started attracting campers who used the pool and bathing house. A miniature golf course was later added and movies were shown in atent. After Christmas Run Pool was constructed in 1948, Spring Lake was torn down by Walter Jones Construction in 1950. This made way for the larger trailers that you now see at the site today.Other fun items to see at the exhibit include advertisements, pictures, umbrellas, children’s paper hats, magazines, recreational objects, and even pictures of a few of the WCHS’s own bathing beauties (see if you can find them!).
Stop by the Kister Building to see this fun exhibit which ends on July 6, 2013. It will get you thinking about summer during these last days of winter and early days of spring, and hopefully you will leave knowing more about the history of the Bathing Beauty in the 20th century!
Tours are available starting April 6th. The office is currently open on Tuesdays from 1:30-4:30pm. Additional tours are also available by contacting (330) 264-8856, or e-mailing email@example.com.