HBC Site Focus: American Reader Comment

Figure 1.--

I'm glad to see this new page. I think its a valuable overview for new HBC readers. I agree with the enlarged scope for HBC. As you have emphasized, HBC's pages have evolved into much more than a recounting of the clothing styles over the last 150 years (and to some extent, even earlier). The social life of the child and his role in the family and at school are part of story. Kkeep up the good work. You've made available a large mass of fascinating material, and it provides an important part of the sociological record.

Child's Life: 1930s

As we look back, a child's life in the 1930s, for example, was very different than today. Influences such as television and Little League did not exist. In many ways, it would seem to have been a less-structured time for children of grade-school age. Some of the pictures that you have shown seem to reflect this. Of course in the 1930s, with the depression having such severe consequences, many children had rather impoverished lives from a material standpoint. On the other hand, there may have been compensations that are hard to measure, such as sandlot softball games, and other more or less self-organized impromptu forms of play.

Contrast: Earlier Boys

If we contrast them with the children of the 1890s and turn of the century, we seem to see that some of them, at least boys in well-to-do families, seem to been rather closely regimented. Of course in the photographs of that era, we often see younger boys dressed in elegant Fauntleroy suits and wearing long curls. True, they presumably didn't wear their Fauntleroy suits everyday, but they would necessarily have to put up with the long curls day in and day out. It seems likely that many of these boys must have been highly regimented, and you have to wonder how this affected them. Were they teased by older siblings? How did they fare at school? Were they confined to private schools. Were their activities and playmates losely restricted? It is hard to imagine a boy in long curls playing sandlot softball, but maybe some boys did? Possibly there are stories and comments from grandparents and great grandparents that have been handed down that bear on these issues.

Contrast: Modern Boys

Interestingly, the degree of regimentation for some of today's boys, such as those in affluent suburbs, may parallel in some respects the degree of regimentation for boys of affluent families in the 1890s, although of course the circumstances today are vastly different than those of the 1890s. It might be interesting to explore these parallels.

HBC Comments

About earlier eras, HBC is attempting addressing these issues on pages like Fauntleroy suits and ringlet curls. This kind of information is the kind of thing that ppears in family letters and biographies. HBC has found some pertinent information which we have added to these pages. We hope that HBC readers in their personal reading will report to us any information they may come accross. Cofnerning the modern era, our reader is quite correct. I can remember as a boy in the 1940s and 50s, we were free to do as we wanted. Between Breakfast and supper, the day was ours to do as we wanted and largely unsupervised. All we had to do was show up for lunch. Modern children are very extensively supervised. We are not at all sure what the impact of this will be.


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Created: 5:13 PM 8/11/2005
Last updated: 5:13 PM 8/11/2005