Bad Girls

Admit it. You came here first didn't you?

She said nothing. She was thinking of what it would be like to be a bad girl. People would know about it perhaps. Eddie might tell. Then she'd have to go away to a place where nobody knew her.

Bad Girl by Viña Delmar
(1928 best seller made into play and movie)


But if you came looking for something racy, you ain't going to find it here. Yes, I know there were and always have been much naughtier pictures available, but these postcards represent what people could send openly through the mail.


Created 20 September 1998 - updated 17 September 2001
Click on an image to see larger version


Came across this article in the Milwaukee Sentinel, 24 July 1913:

GIRL HAS X-RAY SKIRT
Men Fight Police Off to Keep Her Out of Jail
ROCHESTER, N.Y., July 23. - Taking the council's failure to consider further the moral efficiency resolution designed to regulate women's dress as a graceful withdrawal from an embarrassing position, Alicia Burnett appeared on Main street here in a diaphanous gown of the latest Parisian style. Miss Burnett was attired in filmy, gauzy, spider web like material that seemed to cling as though she had been poured into it. While women held up their hands in horror, men twisted themselves into all manner of shapes trying to better view the young woman. When four police zealots attempted to reach Miss Burnett through the crowd murmurs arose, and then a roar, which caused them to desist. Several young men finally managed to place Miss Burnett in an automobile, and, making a quick dash, succeeded in getting her out of the danger zone.


Real photo postcard, 1910s
She may not really be a bad girl, but she's certainly posing as one, with her prop cigarette and what appear to be harem trousers.
We are having a high old time.
Postcard, 1910s
Feet propped up on the table? Stockings showing? I think they may actually be lounging in their petticoats! And the various bottles and the seltzer spritzer on the table suggest that they aren't drinking tea. Shocking!! (At least they're not smoking....)
Things are pretty high!
Postcard, 1910s
Aside from the leg up in the air, she could probably pose as a demure young lady in some other postcard scene. I assume she's supposed to be a can-can dancer. Those theater folk! Certainly not a profession for a lady!
The Morning After
Postcard, 1905 copyright
The morning after WHAT? This is about as risqué as it gets. And I don't just have a dirty mind. They don't have wedding bands on their ring fingers. The man's languid (ne'er-do-well?) pose and the way their hats obscure their faces both suggest this is not a respectable couple. And just what in tarnation are they doing under the boardwalk anyway?

From the Pittsburgh Evening Penny Press, 5 September 1884:

"WHAT'S THE USE OF BEING GOOD"
The Query of a Fast Young Girl to the Police Justice
NEW YORK, Sept. 5. - Caroline Thiel, aged 14 years, smiled sweetly upon Justice Ford at the Essex Market Police Court today when she was placed at the bar to answer a charge of truancy made by her father, Adolph Thiel, of No. 186 Forsyth street. The father said that three weeks ago she fled from home and was now leading a fast life. Agent Young last night met her in the Bowery near Houston street and caused her arrest. She seemed to be glad that she had been arrested.

"I'll be looked upon as great when I come out," she remarked, and smiled at the thought.

"Why are you a bad girl?" the Justice asked.

"What is the use of being good," she said. "You don't see a bit of life."

"Young lady," said the Court sternly, "in years to come you'll regret the step you have taken. The life that looks so charming and bright to you now, how long will it last? Think of the day when you will be like that woman there," said the magistrate, pointing to a drunken woman. "She looks old, don't she? Well, she isn't a day over thirty and she looks sixty." Agent Young will try to learn more of the girl's life, and in the meantime she was locked up.


The town of Ansel is no place for a Minister's son
Postcard, 1913(?) postmark
The postcard dealer could have the pennant printed with the name of the town where he sold them. Now are they implying that there are loose women galore in Ansel?
Driven to drink - by a woman
Postcard, 1910s
You were expecting something stronger?
Valentine Greetings
1906 copyright
Raphael Tuck & Sons' Valentine Post Card, Series No. 5

Be careful, men, of the advocate
of woman's rights in the single state
If you marry one,
your trouble's begun--
You'll count for less than half your weight!

Not a bad girl in the sense of the women depicted above, but probably much more frightening to some men. Behind her raised fist, a heart wears a pair of pants and has the message "Back to the background" underneath it.

Uncle Has My Clothes
Postcard, 1910s
One of those little puzzles of material cultural interpretation. According to a British friend of mine, in her childhood "Uncle" sometimes meant the pawnbroker. As far as I can tell from the message on reverse, this card was sent by a Hoosier bachelor to Albert Hendricks in Pine Village, Indiana:
 

Hey U. I have forgotten whose time it is to write so I will send you a card. I have been thrashing wheat. I don't know when I will get to go to Indianapolis for sure. It is some hot down here. I heard from Belle Fri[?] she didnt say anything about Mary. It will come home to her the way she has done. You aught to see my girl down here. I will try and see you this fall or winter. There is [not?] any work down here to do so you know I am loafing. Shake hands with Chas. G[?] for me. Wish we could get married ha ha ans[wer] soon. Chas. W.

Photograph, 1910s or early 1920s
Who wears the pants? These two women apparently dressed for a some costumed event. The woman on the left appears to have on a baseball uniform.

And Some Bad Boys (of sorts)

Real photo postcard, c.1907-1908
These fellows, with their cigarettes and blasé expressions, may be trying just a bit too hard to be hep.
Keep Off the Grass
Real photo postcard,
c.1907-1908
Did these otherwise respectable looking gentlemen steal the sign?

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Copyright 2000 C.M. Brady
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