The unidentified young woman in this photograph is wearing a drop-waist dress and a Marcel Wave hairstyle, hallmarks of the flapper era of the 1920s. The photograph is about the size of a postcard, but it was printed on plain photo paper, rather than postcard stock. It came to me from a dealer in Pennsylvania who often sells photos from resort areas of New Jersey, such as Atlantic City, but I don’t know if it originated there or not.
Early photographs of African Americans are prized by historians because of their relative scarcity and because they can provide insights into the lives of a people who were frequently marginalized or stereotyped in contemporary written sources. When I think of flappers dancing in a club or sipping drinks at a speakeasy, I don’t immediately picture African-American women, but images like this remind us that they participated in the popular culture of the era and in some ways helped to define it. Josephine Baker is a great example.
I like how she uses the vase to create an elegant and graceful pose.