Boys' Clothing at Home


Figure 1.--Unfortunately, most of us have only dim memories of our pre-school activities. Many American children had a great time playing in their back yards. We say American because Amerivan houses often came with a generous yard around the home. This American boy, we think about 1910, is enjoying his yard and tricycle. We can date the image because it was in the 1910s that overalls/coveralls became popular for children. The overalls suggest that this boy lived in a small rural town.

A younger child's activities are mostly accociated with the home, both inside in the various rooms and outside in the yard surrounding the home. The photographic record is much richer outside the home, because of complications with indoors photography. Of course this is especially true of the 19th century. Even in the 20th century, the complications of indoor photography limited indoor snpshots until after World warII. We have, however, acquired some indoor family snapshots. And in America at least there was the front porch or veranda (back porch) which was a kind of interelated area between the inside and outside play areas. I think the porch is a living space especially identified with America, although we are not entirely sure why. Here there were major differences from country to country. Home archetecture is often very helpful in identifying the location of photographs, in part because homes were often as destinctive as fashion, sometimes more so. And home styles usually do not change as rapidly as fshionand persist longer. They do of course chane along with living styles so there are also chronological differences.

Houses

A younger child's activities are mostly accociated with the home, both inside in the various rooms and outside in the yard surrounding the home. Here there were major differences from country to country. Home archetecture is often very helpful in identifying the location of photographs, in part because homes were often as destinctive as fashion, sometimes more so. And home styles usually do not change as rapidly as fshionand persist longer. They do of course chane along with living styles so there are also chronological differences.

Yards

The photographic record is much richer outside the home, because of complications with indoors photography. Of course this is especially true of the 19th century when even outdoor photography was complicated. With the perfection of simple cameras, especially the Kodak Brownie (1900), Americans and Europeans embraced amateur photogrphy and we begin to see huge numbers ofsnapshots around the home. These snapshots are especially importsant because most of us have only dim memories of our pre-school activities. The home yard was largely a middle-class phenomenon as most middle-class families could aford homes with yards, at least in cities ans subburbs. And here there is an important terminology difference to consider. Americans call the land around a home a yard, both the back and front yard. British readers with carefully cared for grounds make take offence at this. For them the area in back of the house is the back garden. Yard is used for generally neglected areas like junk yards or industrial areas like railroad yard. The yard was not only a recreationl area for children, but was commonly used for raising vegetables and might also have fruit trees. While it was middle-class children who enjoyed outdoor play areas around their homes, working-class children also played outside. Working class children often lived in apartments. Some times this meant streats were the play area. There were, however, other areas. Germany apartments often had interior court yards where children could play and mothers could keep an eye on them.

Porches

The porch was an important of many homes. This is especially the case of Amerivan homes. The front porch in America was very important in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. This was especially the case in small-town America. This changed after the move to the suburbs following WirldWar II. Factors here wee smaller homes and the development of air conditioning. The front porch or veranda (back porch) was a kind of interelated area between the inside and outside play areas. A covered front porch was a wonderful play area for children. I recall a home we lived in during the late-1940s and 50s. It had a great front porch. My friends and I used it to play board and card games and to stage battles with our toy soldiers. We liked it because rules on roughhousing and making noise were not as struict as when plating inside. We cold even play there on a rainy day. A covered porch was a place where peope could catch a fresh breeze n a hot day and to greet neighbors. The photographic record is full of images taken on the family front porch. Some porches were part of the original building. Other families decided to cover areas in front or behind the home after moving in to create a a kind of outdoor living space. We think the porch is a living space especially identified with America. We think that porches were especially popular in the South. We are not entirely sure why we do not see many porches in other countries. Hopefully our readers will provide some insight here. We do not see many examples of front porches from other countries in the photographic record.

Rooms

Many activities are associated with specific rooms. Younger children in the 19th century were often cared for in a nursery. There might even be a school room for wealthy children tutored at home. The center of family life was the Victorian parlor. Families today gravitate to a activities room where the electronic marvels of the fday are often located. The front porch was very important to American families until the move to suburbia following World War II. The bedroom has changed drastically. Once it was a place for sleep. The bedroom for the modern boy has become an entertainment center with a host of high-tech toys, often including a computer. Affluent 19th and early 20th century families cared for their children in nurseries. Nurseries varied greatly from family to family. Affluent families might have day and night nurseries. Affluent children were mostly schooled at home. Patterns varied from country to country. Boarding was more important in Britain than elsewhere. British parents in the second half of the 19tt century began sending boys to prparatory schools at about age eight. American and French boys were more liked to be schooled at home in especiallhy prepared school rooms--an early version of today's home schooling for many of the same reasons. The parlor was often at the center of the 19th century home. Families varied on how the palor was used. Some used it for company and the children often did not have free access to it. In other families it was used more of a family room. In such cases the children were more welcome--but on their best behavior. Interesting features of many Victorian parlors were screens where "scraps" (cutouts), greening cvards, and postcards might be used to decoratte. The Victorians, both children and mothers also loved to keep scrapbooks in their parlors. A variety of items might be included in these scrapbooks, including photographs, "scraps", lettters, postcards, clippings. ptrssed flowers, and much more. The front porch in the days before air conditioning were an integral part of the American home during the warm summer months. A front porch might run all the way along the front of a house and even around the side. They always had rooms. Some were even screened in. The family might adjourn to the front porch after dinner. The adults might chat while they watch the little ones hunting fireflys. It was also a place for the older youngsters to get away from their partents. Boys might visit their girls. The porch faced the street and thus were the site of many neighborly exchanges. While the topic of familily dining practices and how the children were dressed for meals is an interesting one, it is a topic that HBC has not yet been able to address. Modern American children often have their own rooms or at least brothers and sisters each separated in different rooms. Ceratinly the desire of every teenager is to have his own room. Sleeping arrangements have varied greatly over time, in general reflecting the rising affluence of American and European life. This is somewhat different in Japan where housing and thus living space is enormously expensive. Likewise bed clothes have also changed iver time from the once universal nightdress or gown to today's modern pajamas. The bedroom has changed drastically. Once it was a place for sleep. The bedroom for the modern boy has become an entertainment center with a host of high-tech toys, often including a computer. Even in the 20th century, the complications of indoor photography limited indoor snpshots until after World warII. We have, however, acquired some indoor family snapshots.

Summer Homes

It was very popular before the invention of air conditioning for affluent families to have summer houses in the country. Here city residents could go to escape the heat and unhealthy conditions in the llarge cities. This varied from country to country. It was not very common in Britain which because of the northerly lattitudes is not known for particularly hot summers. It was quite common in America which for climaric reasons has much more severe summers and winters than is common in Western Europe. Summers in places like New York, Boston, Washington, and other cities could really be stifeling. And the climate was made even worese in the summer by the heat-island effect of a lage city where the building and pavement absorb heat. It was not just rich people that did this, although the meerly affluent had more modest summer homes. The rich called their summer homes cottages even though they may have seemed more like mansions to the average American. Often the rich wanted to summer together. Perhaps the best known such cluster of wealthy summerv collages was at New Port, Rhode Island. Washington has particularly nasty summers and the swapy areas around the White House were unhealtyy.








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Created: 3:26 PM 4/15/2008
Last updated: 8:30 PM 2/25/2009