Friday, May 8, 2015

MY GRANDFATHER, ALL DRESSED UP...

It’s a Ward Flexible Album; a 7x5 black leather book with “steel gray leaves,” made from Ward’s “puro” paper, and is “guaranteed not to discolor the photographs.”
         
It belonged to my grandfather, Gardner Sabin Gould (1886), and it’s full of wonderful old family photos, some taken at the family summer home in East Boothbay, Maine: Gould kids on sailboats, on the public dock in East Boothbay, lined up on the back steps of the summer house, paddling around in the icy waters of Linekin Bay.
          There are shots of picnics on the rocks, pine woods in the evening, two of the older boys in a small rowboat, the two youngest—Margaret and Howard—sitting on a boulder near the house, proudly displaying their new shoes!

And then there’s this damaged shot – sunstruck, ripped at the edges – of my grandfather, walking barefoot along the pathway beside the seawall...

...wearing a dress!

I wasn’t quite sure I was seeing it correctly, so I rummaged around in a desk drawer for my magnifying glass and took a good solid peek.
          It’s a dress, all right.
          Plain as day.
          It’s below knee level, but not as long as I thought it might be for the turn of the century; it’s belted – it’s actually quite classy, but not so classy on him...my best guess is that it belonged to his cousin Jessie; she had quite a sense of humor and might very well have dared him to wear it.


Jessie’s or not, here he is, striding right along, skirts swinging—my grandfather, in 1900s drag!

22 comments:

  1. When you mentioned your grandfather, I originally thought he was one of the boys in the background! Did men ever wear skirts for swimming?

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    1. No dresses for men when swimming...this was clearly a gag of some kind...would love to know the details! Or, now that I think about it, maybe not...

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  2. What a surprising find that nust have been! With no accompanying commemt or label in the album, you can inly guess at why he did that, allowed a photo to be taken, and sved it in the family album :-)

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    1. Who knows, Jo? But four generations later, people are still laughing!

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  3. There appears to be a band of a different colour around the bottom of the skirt which to me suggests a gym outfit or a woman's Victorian swimming costume. And yes, some men did wear skirted costumes in the victorian era and if you google you can find the occasional image of a man in a skirt worn over knee length pants. though most men seemed to wear striped all-in-ones. I definitely wouldn't discount a swimming costume, man's or women's, though the flared skirt might suggest a woman's costume. So perhaps your grandfather's clothes are not so out of place after all. But are you sure it is your grandfather. To me it looks like the back of a woman who has two plaits. What is that dark mark going from behind the left ear aross the left shoulder ?

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    1. It's identified as "Man" in the photo album (we called our grandfather Man), so it's definitely him. And the other photos of the boys show them in black wool one-piece suits (including Man)...so if it's a swimming costume, it's a woman's. The shadow over the shoulder? Who knows...

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    2. Thanks. Nice to know it was identified in the album. I don;t suppose there any women in the album in swimming costumes as that band around the bottom was common on swimming costumes.

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    3. I went back to check on that...and, sure enough, there WERE women in that album. But they were in the water, submerged! Couldn't see the bottom band!

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  4. I wonder whether he knew the photo was being taken at the time>

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    1. Odds are, Bob, that he DID; he had a wonderful sense of humor (they all did, it seems) and so donning a woman's clothing for kicks would be running true to form!

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  5. Your Grandfather . . . and dressed up he WAS! I kept looking and thinking, "either she posted the wrong picture or he's that little boy walking in front of the lady." Oh I'm sure he was a barrel of laughs! Too funny! Wow.

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    1. And to top it all off, he's got GREAT legs!

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  6. I had to look several times before I realized she was a man. He was courageous as I think it was quite a stunt in those days. It's the kind of photo that will always be cherished, no matter how badly damaged.

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  7. That's clearly a woman's swimming costume & it looks like he had to leave it partly unfastened in the back so it would fit. But you can pretty much tell he's a man by that well-muscled left arm swinging backward. That picture really is a hoot!

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    1. It's one of those photos that nobody quite believes...and we all love it for its novelty (and bravery...). He was a delightful man (my mother always said she married my father to get HIS father in the bargain!).

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  8. It's too bad no one is alive who knows the story behind the photo, Deb. The photo by itself is wonderful, knowing your grandfather's personality, but to have the story would add another dimension.

    That's a beautiful wrap-around porch in the background!

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    1. My cousin Bob might have more information on the story...and since he's a follower, he might just add the information here! I agree about the porch -- lots of the houses in that area have those wrap-arounds...but they're monsters to paint!

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  9. If it's not a swimming dress, it's surely short for the time. Love the insight into Man's personality.

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    1. He was sweet, Wendy! He used to take us out in the back yard to my grandmother's rock garden, have us watch the ants work; follow a particular ant back to its home...we loved it!

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  10. This is fantastic. What a treasure to have this photo. He sounds like a delightful, kind and fascinating man.

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