The Fine Arts: Boys' Musical Costumes--Individual American Boy, 1915

Figure 1.--Mothers were especially concerned with dressing their sons elegantly for recitals. This mother may have over done it a bit. This 1915 image is difficult image to interpret, but girls at the time would not have worn knickers--especially for dress up occasions. An HBC contributors confirms that the child is indeed a boy. It comes from the photo collection of the DeYoung museum in San Francisco. The photo has the caption "Boy with a harp, 1915."

HBC does not like to make a detailed assessment of a posted image unless we have a high-quality image allowing us to assess the image in detail. We are making an exception here because some HBC readers have commented on the child here with a harp. Seceral readers have insisted that the chikld must be a girl because og the long hair and hairbow.

HBC like to be conservative in its assessment of old images. Based on the clothing which looks like a tunic worn with bloomer knickers, we would have thought this child to be a boy. The long hair was not unknown at the time for boys, although by 1915 hair this length was much less common for a boy. Hair bow were also not unknown for a boy, although again much less common by 1915. What is troubling in terms of a definitive assessment is the size and way the hairbow was tied. Boys even in the early 1900s did not normally wear hairbows of this size tied in such a conspicous manner. Thus we are unable to draw a definitive conclusion.

The HBC reader who provided this image reported that it comes from the photo collection of the DeYoung museum in San Francisco. The photo has the caption "Boy with a harp, 1915". This would seem to answer the question although HBC can not confiem the attribution.

Another HBC reader reports showing the image of the child a with a harp to someone born 1911. Her reaction was that it would have been scandalous for a girl to be dressed in that manner. She stated that maybe Mrs. Vanderbilt Whitney of the Museum of Modern Art fame would have a photo taken of her daughter in such an image, but she doubted few others would. This does not shed much light on the subject except to say it is more likely a boy but it could be a girl.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 29, 2001
Last updated: November 29, 2001