The well-dressed Christmas shoppers of 1910

We don’t know their names. But judging by their elaborate hats, tailored coats, and that thick fur muff one is holding, these two Christmas shoppers are part of the upper crust in New York’s turn of the century city.

News photographer snapped the photo sometime between 1910 and 1915. He was probably on or near Sixth Avenue, one end of the Gilded Age’s posh and stylish Ladies Mile shopping district.

There, Bain took other photos of holiday shoppers, Christmas tree vendors, and wide-eyed kids staring into toy store windows and dreaming.

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18 Responses to “The well-dressed Christmas shoppers of 1910”

  1. thekeystonegirlblogs Says:

    If you want to get ahead, get a hat!

  2. ksbeth Says:

    it was such a fancy time of year

  3. Lady G. Says:

    Sometimes I wish we could all dress like this again (I know we can wear whatever we want, but i mean in general.) Now the style is relegated to Steampunk conventions, theater, historical movies and reenactments. These clothes cut quite a figure.

  4. Greg Says:

    I’m surprised it took so long for society to develop hats that cover the ears. That is an essential hat function.

  5. Shayne Davidson Says:

    “My hat’s bigger than your hat. My hat’s bigger than yours….”

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Imagine how much those clothes weigh. I’ll take a light puffy coat over theirs any day!

  7. Roz Katz Says:

    Mother & daughter no doubt judging by the shape of their noses. Daughter on the left with muff in left hand.

  8. Tom B Says:

    We will always have a class system if we describe well dressed people as ‘Upper Crust’. They could be wife/daughter of a politician, who has lots of money by accepting bribes, that would make them ‘Low Lives’ or gangsters! LOL

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Well, they could be social climbers, or they could be wealthy and elite…we’ll never know. It’s just my observation.

  9. Bob Says:

    While Bain was based in NYC, I think there is a chance this photo was taken elsewhere and reprinted by their news service. The names on the packages are whited out, so that is no help. However, the sign “Forest City Key Wo”[rks?] in the background has the name of a business located on Superior Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. “Forest City” was a nickname for Cleveland I understand.

    • Bob Says:

      To be clear, Forest City Key Works was listed there at the time this photograph was likely taken.

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        I noticed that Forest City Key sign too, but when I looked into it (quickly), nothing popped up. That would be a huge letdown if this was taken in Cleveland!

  10. Bob Says:

    Sorry for the letdown, but I am now certain that this photograph was taken in Cleveland. (I thank you for the mystery, though!) The women are walking past the “Wilshire Building” and the “Marble Building” on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

    1. The Cleveland Directory Co.’s Cleveland (Cuyahoga County, Ohio) City Directory for 1906 lists “Forest City Key Works” at 324 (old 211) Superior Avenue.

    NB. Cleveland streets were renumbered by ordinance in 1905. (http://cplorg.cdmhost.com/digital/collection/p128201coll0/id/388/rec/175 and http://cplorg.cdmhost.com/digital/collection/p128201coll0/id/512/rec/175)

    2. A photo of the “Marble Building” in 1914 shows a storefront above the leftmost entrance reading “Forest City Key Works Expert Locksmithing” !! Note that the facade of the Dollar Hat Store next door matches the storefront behind the two women. (If it is any consolation, the next door store is the “New York Shoe Repair Co.”) https://cdm16014.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4014coll18/id/1927/rec/81

    The Marble Building is described thusly: “Old Marble Block. Built in 1858 at 211 Superior Avenue just east of the Wilshire building and known as French’s Marble Block circa 1860 when it was the site of French and Keith dry goods business. It was the costliest structure of the kind at the time. Construction work covered a period of many months. The entire front of the building was of marble blocks hauled several hundred miles overland to Cleveland. It was considered one of the finest commercial structures in the Middle West. The building was demolished.”

    3. The following web link shows a photo of the Wilshire Building and land maps from the 1890s showing that it once had an address of 201-209 Superior Avenue, and the building next door was 211. http://www.clevelandareahistory.com/2011/04/identifying-your-photographs-wilshire.html

    4. The Forest City Key Works sign in the Christmas Shoppers photo is immediately to the right of the building facade column of the Wilshire Building. The Wilshire Building 1st floor columns have a distinctive, curved shape with a small capital, behind and next to the man with the dark coat and his back to the camera on the left side of the photo.

    5. If you zoom in to this 1893 photo, you can see the column at the first floor of the Wilshire Building and its shorter neighbor to the right which is the location of the neighboring Marble Building in the Christmas Shoppers photo. You can also barely make out some advertising on the column of the neighbor building that is in the same location as the “Forest City Key Works” sign years later. http://cplorg.cdmhost.com/digital/collection/p128201coll0/id/1268

    “Ryder and Marceau, portraitists” were located at “211” Superior in the Marble Building at the time of the 1893 photo, per the book “Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary.” Marceau moved to Cincinnati in the 1880s and Ryder died in 1898, at the end of his 15-year lease on the premises.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Well this is a bummer, but I appreciate you compiling all the evidence. I wonder how this image got mixed up with Bain’s other photos of New York City shoppers?

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