The Rediscovery of Swimming
Swimming is rediscovered by the British during their researches in Polynesia during and subsequent to the 1700s (H185110). Ocean swimming matures as a sport in Europe in the following century; the Europeans remain quite ignorant of the fact that the Hawaiians have already invented the sport of surfing (WH188510, SI187810).
The first seaside resorts in England, at Brighton, Margate, and Blackpool, date from the 1730s, and reflect a changing attitude toward the ocean as a place of relaxation, contemplation, and rejuvenation. The first American beach resorts emerge in the last half of the 1700s. They are Newport, Rhode Island, followed by Cape May and Long Branch, New Jersey. In France the North Sea resorts include Trouville and others.
The Bathing Wagon
This is not to say that Puritanical attitudes against bathing do not remain strong. These social considerations are addressed by Benjamin Beale, a Quaker who lives at Margate Beach, who, in 1750, invents the bathing wagon. The bathing wagon is an enclosed, shed-like cart on wheels that is rolled into the ocean so that a bather may emerge directly into the sea (TF187410). Sometimes the bathing wagon is drawn into the sea by a man, in other cases a horse does the pulling.
By 1820 the bathing machine's popularity spreads from Brighton (E182001) across the English Channel to budding resorts at Trouville, popular after 1837 (TF184510, TF186340) and Dieppe in France. The remarkable machines continue to be popular throughout the 19th century (E188101) and even into the 20th century, and can be spotted in many photographs. Inside one of these portable dressing rooms one could be naked, or misbehavingly entertain visitors, an opportunity Quaker Beale overlooked.
The boom in beachside resorts in America begins in the 1820s and is documented by the Hudson River School painters (AB188610). As the century progresses subways and railroads make the beaches of Far Rockaway (RB186910, RB189010, RB190110), Long Island Beach (AB187410, AB187910, AB188020, AB188110, LB188210), Coney Island (CI188010, CI188020), Fire Island (FI190010), and even the Hamptons at outer Long Island (HB187410, HB188010, AB189210, SB189210, AB189410), accessible to urban masses in cities like New York.
In 1854 Atlantic City opens five great hotels and establishes itself as a major resort. Its innovations include a great ocean pier to walk out over the ocean, the invention of the boardwalk in 1870, and the first public life guards, in 1892. As with Coney Island, it is railroads which unite Atlantic City with New York and Philadelphia. And in Florida it is again the again the development of the railroad which--in this case--snake southward along the Atlantic coast and connect to St. Augistine, Palm Beach, Miami, and eventually, Key West. This marks the beginning of the Florida resort industry in the 1880s. In California the ocean is both closer yet colder; one of the most famous Victorian resorts is the Cliff House, south of San Francisco (CH0010).
In Europe the pattern is similar. Harbor and promenade developments on the French Riviera begin when Cannes. the famous seaside resort on the Côté d'Azur is founded by British statesman Lord Brougham in 1834. Brougham assisted in planning its harbor and later (in 1868) its famous seafront promenade. In later years Cannes is where the bikini is announced and where, in 1950s, the international film festival attracts starlets by the thousands who doffs their bikini tops in front of hordes of paparazzi. But that is getting ahead of our story.
On the north coast of France, ocean resorts begin to flourish after 1850. One of the largest resorts flourish at Trouville (TF186010, TF187010, TF187020, TF187510), famous for it long pier, constructed between 1885 and 1889 (TF188910, TF189810, TF190030, TF190040). Ocean piers are also developed in Italy (E188601).
Sport and Sociology
Swimming as a sport also becomes important. Amateur swimming associations are formed in England in 1869 and in America in 1878. In 1875, a 27 year old Englishman, Matthew Webb, becomes the first person to swim the English Channel; by 1896, swimming is part of the Olympic Games.
Swimming instruction is sometimes aided by the use of "swimming machines" (SA189301, LM189995).
Despite the bathing wagon, swimming and bathing in the ocean at the end of the 1880s remains socially complicated. Beaches are often sexually segregated. The greater distances invite the introduction of the spyglass, akin to today's binoculars and telephoto lens, for viewing members of the opposite sex (fig. 1-4). But many aspects of Brighton, here in the 1880s (BB188810), would look familiar to today's visitor to Coney Island, complete with an amusement part, children playing, and vendors selling food.
Early Swimming Costumes
The swimsuit has a relatively recent origin and a known history. Morphogenesis occurs during the latter part of the 19th century as swimming becomes a sport, recreation and therapy.
In the late 1800s the male's standard swimming costume is the fairly practical exercise leotard (fig. 1-6), also called a rowing leotard. It is usually made of wool, and although it is sleeveless, open-necked, and bare-legged, it covers the crotch as well as the nipples.
Women's swimsuits look much like the street clothes of this Victorian era; indeed, swimsuits will follow the silhouette of street clothes for many decades. The bathing dress longsleeved bustled (AB188610) appears on the beach by the middle of the 1800s, although society ladies may find this cumbersome to wear in water. And wading is hard to do with ones shoes on.
By 1850 a more specialized attire emerges. One direction is the bathing dress longsleeved bloomered (aka the BDLB), which at first glance resembles a long-sleeved dress with pantaloons (C1850A). And although only the face and hands remain exposed the big advancement is that the number of layers is drastically reduced, and foundation, especially the bustle, vanishes. Swimming suddenly becomes practical.
What happens next is an explosion of eroticism which, if nothing else, reveal to the bikini scientist just how difficult it can be to read the strata of history--especially when one lacks all the facts.
Still, the big picture is clear: women bared their arms. Debate continues to rage as to whether two species emerged or if the variations are simply intra-species. The two-species interpretation is adopted here because this advances the storytelling about the species which subsequently evolved. This story is very revealing, so let's unpeel the onion carefully!
Two species, the bathing dress middie bloomered and the bathing dress shortsleeved bloomered evolve a shortened sleeve, baring the forearm and elbow:
The bathing dress middie bloomered species (aka the BDMB) resembles a long tunic overlaying pants, or bloomers (LL187301, E187601, E188101, LM0060). It is a silhouette that will remain popular well into the first decade of the next century.
The bathing dress shortsleeved bloomered (aka the BDSSB) species (C189001, BB0120, LM0565, BP0610, PC0720) resembles a short-sleeved version of the bathing dress longsleeved bloomered (BDLB). One would think that the BDSB would evolve first, being a simple shortening of sleeves, but in a curious artifact of history the long tunic and pants emerges first, around 1870, with the shortsleeve version of the bathing dress bloomered emerging after 1890, and remaining a mainstay throughout the oughts (1900-1905, 1905-1910). It is suggested that the BDSB represents a backlash, if not a conservative swing against even more revealing forces at play; these too will be discussed in subsequent pages.
As hemlines inch upward after 1890 it should be obvious that next least-bare zone is the ankle and its upward extension, the calf, and that these hot spots remain covered with only a single layer of hose. But wading and water apply serious pressure toward exposing this critical erogenous zone (E188501, E188601)!
The modern reader needs to understand these rules clearly--and that ladies who do not adhere to them are clearly pushing the limits of ladylike behavior (TR189301, NYC1900A).
Meanwhile at the Art Museum
In contrast to our image of the Victorian swimsuit and its exposures are the costumes and exposures found in Victorian and French painting of the period, and of photographs following the invention of the camera in the mid-1800s. Unlike the first photographs, paintings are rich in color, and both are rich in detail. Unlike the public displays of the beach, the painters like Jean-Léon Gérome explore the Arabian harem (JG186610, JG187610, JG188510, JG188610, ), the mysteries of Egypt (E185110) and the middle east (AM600BS), and Greek mythology (JI181010). Some of this work such as Edwin Long's "The Eastern Favorite" demonstrate that the bikini line is well-understood by the Victorians (EL188010).
The sensuality of bathing is also a theme discovered, especially the quiet moments of topless or nude bathing (PF190010), and sometimes with voyeurism one of its subtexts (WM185210).
Pinup photography is also invented during the last half of the 1800s, and with it documentation of the music hall, dancers, and of celebrities like the famous "belly dancer" Little Egypt (LE189310). The pinup genre and the swimsuit will collide and erupt after the turn of the century, although precursors to it, like this underdressed lass on the beach (MM189510), are already in the wind. The penny picture postcard, introduced after 1870 first as a photographic print or an engraving, and after 1880 as a printed halftone, is popularized first in France, but quickly become a major vehicle for distribution world-wide.
1730s--First seaside resorts in England, at Brighton, Margate, and Blackpool.
1736--Scottish minister John Wesley laments the repeal of witch laws by Parliament.
1740--Birthdate of Marquis de Sade, who will later write novels glorifying sexuality, sexual depravity, and sadism, a word coined in his own name.
1742--Boucher paints Bath of Diana.
1750--Benjamin Beale, a Quaker who lives at Margate Beach, England invents the bathing machine, a small individual locker room on wheels drawn into the sea by a horse so that a bather may emerge directly into the sea.
1750--Wife auctions become popular in England. Wives are led to the marketplace in halters and stand while they are auctioned, often because of adulterous behavior. The practice declines after the Divorce Act of 1857.
1750-1800--Newport, Rhode Island, followed by Cape May and Long Branch, New Jersey, beome the first American beach resorts.
1770--Lazzaro Spallanzani artificially inseminates a dog.
1772--British abolitionists succeed in getting slavery declared illegal in England.
1777--British explorer Captain James Cook observes Tahitian islanders surfing at Matavai Point; the following year he observes Hawaiian surfers at the Sandwich Islands.
1780--In Europe high fashion ladies adopt necklines that leave their nipples exposed.
1791--French writer Marquis de Sade publishes his first erotic novel, Justine; it debunks Christian moralism and introduces a sexuality of pleasure and power. Sadism is defined.
1792--The Guillotine is invented as a "painless" method of execution, and the first victim, a highwayman named Nicolas Pelletier, is beheaded.
1794--Germany passes a law requiring all mothers to breast-feed their children and for welfare women to nurse the needy.
1818--Thomas Bowdler expurgates Shakespeare and publishes a "family" edition in the United States. Henceforth, "to bowdlerize."
1820s--First anti-abortion laws are passed in the United States forbidding abortion after the fourth month of pregnancy.
1820--The bathing machine is popularized on both sides of the English Channel: at Brighton in England, and at Dieppe, in France.
1820s-1830s--In America the great seaside resorts on the East Coast emerge.
1820s--In America painters of the Hudson River School create the first paintings documenting American beach scenes.
1821--Christian missionaries in Hawaii attempt to exterminate surfing, claiming it is an immoral form of amusement.
1823--The Anti-Slavery Society is founded in America.
1828--Public baths are (re)introduced at Liverpool in England, reviving a tradition popular in antiquity but banned by the Christians in 1538.
1830--The New York Herald sensationalizes the murder of prostitute Helen Jewett, creating an early media sex circus.
1831--French Eugane Delacroix paints Liberty as a bare-breasted woman, symbolizing the new era.
1832--American Ben Franklin writes a monogram on how to prevent drowning.
1833--Rhode Island becomes the first state in America to ban public executions.
1834--The inquisition is abolished after 360 years.
1837--Publicity posters advertise beaches at on France's north coast.
1838--British statesman Lord Brougham aids in developing the harbor at Cannes and it becomes the first popular seaside resort on the Côte d'Azur.
1839--Vulcanized rubber is introduced for condoms.
1840s--Development of Coney Island begins. As the century progresses railroads make the beaches of Coney Island and even outer Long Island accessible to urban masses in cities like New York.
c. 1845--First photographs of nude women appear. They differ from paintings in that one is confronted with the fact that nude is a real woman.
1846--The English pass the Baths and Washhouses Act to regulate and encourage the establishment of public baths.
1846--In the Treaty of Bhairowal the British influence Sikh legal code to forbid suttee (the self-immolation of widows on their husband's funeral pyres), infanticide, and forced labor.
1849--The safety pin is invented.
1850s--The beach pier is developed as a place to walk out over the ocean.
1850s--Ballooning skirts and widening necklines and shoulders reach their extreme in the horizontal direction.
1851--The wet collodion photograph process makes possible multiple prints from a single negative and the mass-produced photographic pin-up is born.
1851--French photographer Felix Jacques-Antoine Moulin and his agent are arrested and convicted for the production of nude photographic pictures, one o
1852--First stereoscopic daguerreotype of nude models appear, and the stereo craze takes off.
1853--Frenchman Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri introduces the "cart-de-viste" photographic format for portraits. It measures 2.25 x 3.5 inches.
1854--Atlantic City opens five great hotels and establishes itself as a major resort.
1855--In America the University of Iowa becomes the first state university to admit women.
1857--The Society for the Suppression of Vice in England begins a vigorous campaign against the depiction of the nude body, especially in painting and photography.
1858--English drygoods merchant Charles Frederick Worth becomes the first professional male designer of female clothes, commencing the rise of male couturiers, hitherto the domain of couturière.
1860--The inflatable undulating artificial bust is patented.
1860--Harriet Beecher Stowe warns parents "that certain parts of the body are not to be touched except for the purpose of cleanliness, and that the most dreadful suffering comes from disobeying these commands."
1866--The Victorian decency wave gathers momentum with the obscenity prosecution of Charles Swinburne's Poems and Ballads.
1866--The Black Crook, the mother of all burlesque shows, opens at Niblo's Garden in New York. Marie Bonfanti, the ballerina star, wears flesh-colored tights later called "fleshies" that make her appear to be nude, and becomes the first pin-up star. The 3200 seat theater also obtains fame for introducing the can can.
1866--Across town actress Adah Isaacs Menken wears coryphees in Lord Byron's play Mazeepa, creating a sensation at the Broadway Theater in New York.
1867--Former Confederates establish the Klu Klux Klan to assert white supremacy and curb activities of emancipated blacks.
1868--Construction begins on the seaside promenade at the French resort of Cannes.
1869--First amateur swimming association is formed in England.
1869--The coryphees craze brings "naked dramas" to New York theaters, with the women all wearing skin-tight flesh-colored tights.
1869--British vaudeville dance star Lydia Thompson brings her British Blondes to tour America, dances in flesh tights.
1869--Wyoming in the United States becomes the first state to grant women suffrage (the right to vote).
1870--The picture postcard is introduced into the mail service.
1870--First women serve on American juries in Wyoming.
1870--An Atlantic City railroad conductor named Boardman invents the first boardwalk, a wooden walkway laid parallel to the ocean so people would track less sand into railroad cars. The original boardwalk is a mile long and eight feet wide.
1872--French poet Paul Verlaine abandons his wife and child and embraces a violent liaison with a 17 year old Arthur Rimbaud, who arrives in Paris and seduces his mentor.
1873--Englishman J. Trudgen popularizes a swimming stroke that bears his name. Modern analysis of the swimming stroke begins.
1873--Anthony Comstock, a religious fanatic "exposes" Voltaire and urges laws be passed banning obscene literature from the mails. The Comstock Laws in the United States usher in an era of sexual repression and censorship of sexual ideas, including information about birth control.
1875--Smith College becomes the first women's college in America.
1875--A 27 year-old Englishman, Matthew Webb swims the English Channel from Dover to Calais. The feat takes him 21 hours and 45 minutes. He wears a red silk swimming suit.
1878--First amateur swimming association formed in America.
1878--Construction of the famed casino at Monte Carlo on the French Riveria.
1880--The halftone is perfected, enabling a photograph to be printed with normal printing processes.
1880--Émile Zola writes Nana, the life of a courtesan, and the work is banned in England.
1880--Blue jeans are introduced.
1880s--Feet emerge. Hemlines rise to the ankle, as women express a new sense of freedom.
1880s--Railroads connect Palm Beach and Key West, and mark the beginning of the Florida resort industry.
1882--Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is banned in Boston.
1882--Juan-les-Pins, located between Cannes and Antibes, is founded as a beach resort.
1883--James Whitcomb Riley writes "Old Swimmin' Hole", one of the oldest American poems about swimming.
1883--American painter John Singer Sergeant paints Madame X, showing her in a stately evening gown that is fully uncovered above the bust and which sports no shoulder straps.
1883--The ankle is revealed in the theater.
1884--Chandonnet makes the first synthetic fiber, rayon, by drawing nitrocellulose into a filament thread.
1885--Construction begins on a giant ocean pier at Trouville beach, on the north coast of France.
1885--Hawaiian Prince David Kawonanaokoa visits California and is the first person to surf there.
1885--Harvard University commences a program to shoot nude posture photographs of all incoming freshmen. This practice continues until 1940.
1885--French orientalist Gerome paints views of Harem Baths.
1886--In Germany Richard Krafft-Ebing publishes Psychopathia Sexualis, a treatise on sexual aberrations.
1887--The first cellular cotton fabric, Aertex, is developed.
1887--Americans introduce the term g-string into the English language.
1887--Muybridge shoots the first moving image of nude male and female figures. In one of his clips, a nude woman pours a bucket of water over a nude companion.
l889--French corset maker Herminie Cadolle invents the modern brassière, aka the soutien-gorge, as a health aid to support the bosom without constricting the diaphragm.
1890--Frederick Leighton paints Bath of Psyche, another nude bath depiction.
1890--Murderer William Kemmler is electrocuted in a new Westinghouse electric chair in Auburn, New York.
1891--In England painter Lord Leighton exhibits Andromeda, a painting of a naked woman chained to a rock, continuing the debate between "high art" and "lewd depictions." As with most Victorian nudes, Andromeda is depicted with a shaven pudendum.
1891--The first version of Oscar Wilde's play Salome appears in France. In the years that follow this Biblical story about the beheading of John the Baptist in exchange for dancing the "Dance of the Seven Veils" will be banned in England, the subject of an opera, and a theater sensation in America.
1892--Atlantic City employs the first public life guards.
1892--Francis Bellamy composes the original Pledge of Allegiance as an expressionism of national unity, "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
1893--Little Egypt bring the belly dance to America, introducing it as the "cooch" at the Chicago World's Fair. Also know as hootchy-kootchy dancing, it will evolve into the bump and grind dance later popular in burlesque, and is a foundation for many movements in modern dance..
1893--In Chicago dancer Fatima performs the Serpentine Dance of the Veil at the Colombian Exposition, with the transparency of the veils aided by electric backlights.
1893--New Zealand is the first nation to grant women the right to vote.
1893--Whitcomb L. Judson launches the zipper at the Chicago Exposition.
1894--George du Maurier publishes the novel Trilby, in which a young artist's model of promiscuous character becomes mesmerized by the masterly Svengali, who takes her as his lover and transforms her into an opera diva. The novel touches an international chord, popularizes the bohemian life style, and launches a debate between the clergy and the permissive aspects of society. The book has been repeatedly made into plays, movies, and TV shows.
1895--In London the Princess of Wales attends a theatrical adaptation of Trilby and complains that Trilby's bare feet are exposed on the stage. None the less, the play continues.
1895--Thomas Edison employs a motion picture special effect in his movie The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots to depict a beheading on screen.
1895--English dramatist Oscar Wilde is convicted of homosexual offenses and sent to prison.
1896--Swimming becomes part of the first Modern Olympic Games in Athens, but women are barred from competition.
1896--Thomas Edison makes a 30 second moving picture recording of a kiss, between May Irwin and John C. Rice.
1896--Adolph Sutro opens the world's largest public baths just north of the Cliff House in San Francisco.
1896--In America, National Geographic magazine show a photograph of a topless Zulu bride and her bridegroom, their first publication of bare breasts in a mainstream magazine.
1897--George Méliès makes Aprés le Bal--le Tub, the first film with female nudity.
1898--English censors ban Havlock Ellis' monumental Studies in the Psychology of Sex.
1899--British film distributor Cecil Hepworth convinces a pastor to screen a print of the Serpentine Dance by explaining it depicts "Salome dancing before Herod," thus ushering in sex-in-cinema under a biblical pretext.
1900--Women participate in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. The first American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal is Margaret Abbott in Golf.
1900--Australian Richard Cavill adapts the crawl stroke from South Sea Islanders. He introduces it into England in 1902 and from there it migrates to America.