California Girls – 1890s Style

For most people, the celebration of the California beach girl is a relatively new thing, starting with such songs as “California Girls” by the Beach Boys and the surge of surf and beach party movies that came out during the 1960s.

However, while the Beach Boys might seemingly have been instrumental in securing the image of the California beach girl in the the popular mind, they were not the first. 🙂

As noted in yesterday’s post, interest in sports and outdoor life by both men and women led to the development of specialized clothing to include bathing costume. The attractions of going to the beach as a relief to the hot summer weather was attractive to the point where the 1880s and 1890s, there was a rapid growth of seaside resorts such as Atlantic City and Coney Island. California also had its seaside resorts such as Coronado and Santa Monica. Below is a poem with illustrations from the June 21, 1896 edition of the San Francisco Call:


From the June 21, 1896 edition of the San Francisco Call.

And here’s the poem from the above illustration:

Dance, old sea, for your charmer neareth!
There! She is wrapped in your lace of foam!
Never your summery smile she feareth!
Ha! She is down near the sea pears home!

Rare as the pearl her pink foot presses-
Rare as the pink of the pearls, her charms!
Wave that enfolds her, what fortune blesses-
What bliss- as she sways in the wild wave’s arms.

Happy sea, by our west shore golden;
Seas of the east- do they chafe and reel,
There where naught can the maids embolden
More than their sandal shoons to wet?

Perhaps the verse is not the best but it’s certainly enthusiastic and celebrates the superiority of the California coast. 🙂 In the end, whether it’s fashion, music, or popular culture in general, nothing is really ever “new.” We hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion back to 1896.

Hotel Del Coronado, c. 1890

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