Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The White House Closet Affair

by Connie Cortright

When the details of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky were published in 1990s, everyone was shocked that a sexual liaison happened right in the White House Oval Office. Extra marital trysts weren't unique to his Presidency or the White House, as it turns out.

Picture taken from Wiki Commons
Warren G. Harding, who was president from 1920-1923, has the high honor of being "America's Horniest President". He had several mistresses, but the one that caused the biggest stir in the 1920s was with Nan Britton. Four years after the death of President Harding Ms. Britton published a "tell-all" book titled "The President's Daughter"-the first ever public revelation of an affair with a sitting president.  In it she detailed the relationship she had with Harding that resulted in a baby girl. Harding had sent funds to her while he was still alive to pay for the raising of their daughter, but after his death this source of income dried up, thus the book.

The sensational news hit the newspapers and spread across the country. Ms. Britton told the story that started years before Harding was elected as president. While he was still a senator, she lost her virginity to him (he was 30 years her senior) in a New York hotel. The affair lasted over six years, into his presidency. They had encounters in many places including the couch in his senate office building and a closet in the White House described thus: "This was a closet in the anteroom, evidently a place for hats and coats... We repaired there many times in the course of my visits to the White House, and in the darkness of a space no more than five feet square the President and his adoring sweetheart made love." (Bill Clinton wasn't even that bold.)

Ms. Britton found herself very unpopular among Harding's supporters when the book was published. Because Harding was said to be infertile, his backers didn't believe her story. They struck back at her family for many years. In fact, her grandson James Blaesing testifies to the fact that as a small boy he witnessed the harassment of his grandmother. In August of this year, her story was finally vindicated. DNA tests taken by the descendants of Nan Britton and President Harding show that they have common chromosomes, proving that he indeed was the father of the baby born to Ms. Britton.

After Harding died, the truth of his many liaisons seeped out. Britton wasn't the only woman to have an affair with him. It was well known that Carrie Fulton Phillips was paid $5000 per month by the Republican National Committee to keep her mouth shut about her affair with him. Later on it was rumored that he had a fling with his Senate staff secretary and several others. Harding said about himself, "It's a good thing I'm not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I can't say no." The only woman he didn't sleep with was his wife Florence, about whom he said, "there isn't one iota of affection in my home relationship."

Warren Harding wasn't a good model for the rest of the citizens to follow. Maybe he can be blamed in part for the culture of the "Roaring Twenties" when sex, drinking, and gambling were rampant throughout the country. Hopefully, we never have another president reside in the White House close to his lifestyle.

Information taken from Warren Harding Child Sex Scandal and New York Times - Mystery of Warren Hardings Love Life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Milk Door - The Swim Suit Issue

by Connie Cortright

Top story in New York Times: Twenty-one year old Louise Rosine from Los Angeles was arrested yesterday in Atlantic City, New Jersey when she refused to cooperate with the authorities. For her day at the beach, she wore bathing attire that was not deemed appropriate. She refused to roll up her stockings to cover her knees when ordered to do so by a police officer.

This wasn't the actual quote in the newspaper, but the incident did occur in 1921. Such were the regulations that women faced when they wanted to go swimming at the beach. Prior to the 1900s, men and women were required to swim at separate locations on the beach so that they weren't able to see each other. Even if the men did see the women, the swimming suits covered the women from head to toe. As shown below, women had to wear stockings under their knee length suits for swimming. By 1920 they were allowed to show their arms, at least.

Young women in the early 20s opposed the Victorian-era standards that their parents and city officials placed on them. They pushed back and sometimes got arrested for it. Older folks saw these new bathing suits with knees showing as immoral displays of promiscuity. Annette Kellerman was arrested for indecent exposure in 1908 for wearing a form fitting "body stocking" because it clung to her, displaying her shape.

Although, women's attire was more criticized, men's bathing suits weren't exempt from regulations. Before 1920, men's swimwear consisted of a one piece knee-length suit with short sleeves. The fashion world continued to cut back on the sleeve and leg lengths until finally during the 1930s, men were finally seen at the beach without shirts.

Since there were so many rules that differed from community to community, each city had to make the decisions as to what passed muster and what didn't. Beaches were patrolled by "beach censors" searching for people who weren't wearing proper attire. These "guardians of morality" took their positions seriously, often patrolling the swimming area with tape measures ready to fine or arrest women who weren't measuring up to snuff.

Beach censors were most often hired by municipalities to regulate what was worn in public. They sometimes were specifically hired for the job of censorship of beaches and at other times were merely police officers. When the censors determined that the attire was not appropriate, the swimmers would be escorted off the beach - or worse.

Even though beaches often had lifeguards on duty for the safety of the swimmers, these lifeguards never were given the extra job of being a censor. They were two distinct positions of authority on beaches. With time, the culture around swimwear loosened up. By the late 30s and into the 40s, these strict regulations finally disappeared along with the beach censors.

Maybe we should bring them back again with some of the attire that is worn on the beach today.

Did you notice what they wore on their feet while at the beach in the pictures? They were required to wear stocking and shoes. Fashionable ladies wore beach boots that laced up around the calf, resembling today's wrestling shoes. Maybe they prevented sand from spreading into the house when the swimmers arrived home.

Information taken from Skirting the Skirts at the Bathing Beach.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Parents Do the Darndest Things

by Connie Cortright

What do you think this picture is about? It's a picture from the 20s or 30s, but what does your imagination come up with for a caption?

I can't for the life of me figure out why any parent would build a cage for a child suspended out of an apartment window.

Possible options?

Punishment? What would a Child Protective Services agent say about this today?

The only way to get the baby to have some fresh air? Maybe the apartment was so crowded that putting him outside would get him out from underfoot.

It's cooler to sleep in the cage than in a hot apartment? Remember this would be prior to the use of air conditioners.

After doing a bit of research online, I found that the middle option above was the correct answer - fresh air. This contraption was patented in 1922 by Emma Read of Spokane, Washington to allow the parents, who lived on the 22nd floor in a New York apartment, a place to give the baby some fresh air.

It was argued back then that fresh air - especially cold air - would help the child build up an immunity to the common cold. These cages were suspended out of windows to allow parents, who had no backyard, to give their babies that opportunity.

Babies were placed in the cages for nap times or play times during the day. In my mind, any mother who could put her baby in one of these cages high above the sidewalk, without a terrible feeling in her gut, wasn't a very good mother. Maybe after doctors and psychologists told her that it was good for the baby often enough, she'd be able to do it and ignore her subconscious. I'd like to ask my daughters-in-law if they could put their precious children in one of these.

Needless to say, this idea was on the list as one the worst 50 inventions in US history.  I hate to think how many accidents happened before the end of the 30s when these were banned. How horrible.

Have you have ever heard about these cages before?

Information taken from Brief and Bizarre History of the Baby Cage