Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Not the Nineteenth Century...and Not Ackermann's Repository

This January finds me doing something I don’t usually do—namely, working on a couple of projects at once. One of those projects is a story set in the United States in 1917, just as the country has entered World War I on the Allies’ side.

Now, the cool thing about working on a story set in the 20th century is that there’s even more of a wealth of research material than there is for the 19th, my beloved Ackermann’s notwithstanding. My favorite research medium for details of everyday life in other times is magazines. As with any historical source, one has to be careful. Magazines often portray life in an idealized manner—how their readers want to see themselves and their lives rather than how they really are. But even so, they’re a rich source of the kind of details of everyday life that it’s hard to find elsewhere.

So I’ve accumulated a tidy stack of back-issues of several magazines from the summer of 1917. Mostly they’re magazines that would have appealed to a female audience: I’ve got issues of McCall’s Magazine, Today’s Housewife, The Modern Priscilla (lots of needlework patterns), Women’s World, The Delineator, Ladies’ World, Needlecraft, Collier’s, The Literary Digest, and The Independent. The Delineator is an especial delight with very high production values and many pages of fashions for each month, many in color (hmmm, I sense a Fashion Forecast for 1917 coming up....) Most of them have short stories or serialized stories, and I’ve enjoyed reading some of these. But most of all, I think I love the ads. Especially this one, from the July 1917 issue of McCall's Magazine:

The text reads:

They bow to you--discriminatingly well-dressed American woman! It is a new name--one which we will make it worth your while to remember. In your mind we would have you associate the name with all that is fine in workmanship and all that is graceful in shoes.

Keds for you will cover all daytime occasions--home wear; golf; tennis and all other outside games; for ordinary walking or "hikes"; for yachting and riding wear; and plenty of other styles just as prettily suitable for wear with morning frocks and daintiest house gowns, at home or on the country-club porch.

She travels many miles a day--the woman going about her household duties; but she is perfectly content to walk on the journey of loving service when she wears a shoe as pretty as it is comfortable. These trim Keds sum up excellence in their flexibility, durability, and delightful comfort--qualities very desirable to active feet.

The tops of Keds are of the firmest and finest of cool canvas, giving these shoes full elastic support. Then they have rubber soles which make them delightfully flexible and durable. No shoes are more comfortable or prettier for warm-weather wear.

Ask at your shoe shop to be shown Keds. They mean style, service and economy for all the family--styles for husband and kiddies included.

Yes, Keds were introduced to the world in the summer of 1917. I totally had to have my heroine wearing a pair of her new, deliciously lightweight shoes in their honor...and who would have guessed that the Keds brand has been around for nearly a hundred years? By the way, check out the fashions in the illustration: oh, those risque bathing suits!

I’ll be featuring more ads in future posts...including the shocking truth about ladies’ blouses. Stay tuned!


Leandra Wallace said...

That's awesome, lol! I had no idea Keds was such an old name. I loved my Keds when I was little, they were super comfy.

QNPoohBear said...

I love magazines from this period. I drooled over The Delineator at the art school library and on Google, drooled over McCall's online and Harper's Bazaar on microfilm. I knew Keds were available back then but I haven't seen that type. I've seen pictures of basketball shoes made by Keds.

Marissa Doyle said...

It's eye-opening how many brands from this time ares till around today--from Cream of Wheat to Bissell carpet cleaners. I'll have to do a post on those.