Friday, September 18, 2009

Swimming at the Hague

Morris sent this card from the 'S Gravenhage (the Hague), the Netherlands in 1910.

Here is the message:

The Hague August 9
All are well and having a delightful trip. Weather is perfect. Wish you were with us.

On the front of the card are horse-drawn bathing machines and frolicking bathers. Bathing machines were carts with roofs and walls of wood or canvas, designed to preserve the modesty of bathers of the opposite sex, who were not supposed to see each other in their bathing garments. Although the carts were also used by men, their use was more strictly enforced for women. The carts were usually either pulled by horses or attached to pulleys. Whatever the case, the bathing machine was supposed to block the view from the beach of the bather getting into the water.
Instead of wading into the water in her bathing suit, the swimmer ascended the stairs to the bathing machine fully clothed. She would then change into her bathing costume and be pulled out into the water where she could discreetly descend the stairs into the water on the other side. I can't imagine that the women were able to do much swimming though, because the bathing garments of the day were fairly bulky and must have been very cumbersome when wet.
By the early 1920's the bathing machine had become obsolete. Even at the time this picture was taken, it's hard to imagine that modesty was as carefully observed as in earlier years. After all, the woman in the middle of the postcard stands in knee-deep water, wearing a wet bathing suit that clings to her body.


  1. Fascinating. I had NO idea. I'm glad things have changed! Eeeeeegad!

  2. Hey, did you notice that guy in the water with a CAMERA???? Some things never change. Tch tch tch...



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