Bathers, bathhouses, and the law in 1921…

Part of a July 25, 1921 New York Times newspaper came in with a recent donation and in it was this interesting snippet:

“Fully 500,000, according to police estimates, visited Cony Island yesterday, and of this number probably 150,000 took to the surf in the morning. By noon not a bathhouse was available. A line of 3,000 persons was waiting at the Municipal Bathhouse early in the morning, and grew in size with the hours. Anticipating the lack of bathhouse facilities, Jacob Sander of 317 East 121st Street took twenty of his neighbors to Coney Island in his big moving van. He transformed the van’s interior into dressing rooms by means of a curtain swung amidships, and the party made ready for the water. Policeman Harry Whitlaw of the Coney Island Station noticed the novel bathhouse and told Sander he was violating the law. When Sander protested the policeman tendered him a summons, which Sander refused to accept. Then Whitlaw arrested him and ordered the van containing the bathers’ clothes driven to the station house. Sander was charged with disorderly conduct. The desk lieutenant ordered the clothing taken into the Station house for safekeeping, and later, the anxious group of men and women were permitted to dress in the van, which was guarded by policemen and watched by a crowd of several hundred. Police Chief Treacy of Long Beach is determined to break up the practice of motorists using their cars as bathing houses. This afternoon he and his men made twenty-one arrests, including five or six women and later arraigned them before Justice Cassius Coleman. The men were fined $5 and the women were permitted to go under suspended sentences.”

These bathing beauties are from the same summer but different the same year in a different city - Washington D.C., 1921

Bathing beauties on June 25, 1921 in Washington D.C.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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