Girls of Summer

I detest hot weather and we’ve had a long stretch of it, so instead of extending my energies outdoors I have been lingering indoors, working on a couple of academic projects and watching old movies and Wimbledon. It’s been an unusually passive July Fourth long (long) weekend, though not an unpleasant one–perhaps I’m living vicariously through images on the television and computer screens–and not breaking a sweat! Anyway, for some time I have admired the work of two very different artists who captured the girls of summer in very different, though equally charming ways: Hamilton King’s “Sports Girls”, issued as a series of oversized cigarette cards promoting Turkish Trophies and Helmar Cigarettes before World War I, present the idealized (ironed!) view, while Boston photographer Leslie Jones captured many real sporting girls in the interwar era and after, most of whom seem rather sweat-less as well.

Girls of Hamilton King 1

Girls of Hamilton King 2

Girls of Hamilton King 3

Three of Hamilton King’s “Sport Girls” , Series T7-6, 1913, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Leslie Jones, long-time photographer for the Boston Herald-Traveler, was not an artistic photographer but a working one, who covered both everyday life and the big regional events from 1917 to 1956. There’s a large collection of his photographs on the Boston Public Library’s Flikr photostream, and also here. All of his work is amazing, but I find his coverage of sporting events particularly interesting, because it focuses more on the athletes and their surroundings as much (or more) than the action: Jones’ girls of summer are real women, smiling and completely in context.

Girls of Summer Betty Nuthall Jones 1930s

Girls of Summer Jones Marblehead 1940s

Girls of Summer Genevieve Peabody BPL

Leslie Jones’ photographs of Betty Nuthall at Longwood Cricket Club, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1930s,Yachting girls during Marblehead Race Week in the 1940s, and champion sculler Genevieve Peabody of Salem, 1920s. Boston Public Library and © Leslie Jones.

There were several national women’s golf tournaments at the Salem Country Club and the Kernwood Country Club in Salem in the 1930s, and Jones was there, but he was also sent to Revere Beach, just north of Boston, on the hottest days in July and August, where both casual groups and the “peek-a-boo” girls frolicked in and out of the water. I absolutely adore the center picture below, taken in July 1919:  it reveals Jones’ ability to put his subjects completely at ease.

Girls of Summer Helen Hicks

Bathing Girls Revere Beach Leslie Jones 1919 BPL

Girls of Summer Peek-A-Boo Bathing Girls Revere Beach Jones 1920

Champion golfer Helen Hicks at Salem Country Club, 1932, “Bathing Girls” at Revere Beach in 1919 and “Peek-A-Boo” Girls on Revere Beach in 1920, all Boston Public Library and © Leslie Jones.


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