Friday, January 24, 2014

New Century Publicity

Bessie Clayton, 1908

Marguerita Sylva, 1900

Duchess of Devonshire, 1906

Emma Bunting, 1907

Margaret Robinson, 1900

Georgia Cayvan, 1901

Kathryn Kidder, 1902

Marie Drofnah, 1902

Marie Drofnah, 1906

Mazie Trumbull, 1900

Dorothy Vernon, 1906

Mildred Holland, 1908

Promotional posters for leading ladies of the New York stage in the first decade of the new century, as preserved at the Library of Congress.

In terms of style, only an expert in fashion history would be able to distinguish this group from the earlier, parallel set of 1890s actresses seen here a few days ago.

To me this is one more reminder that centuries (as distinctive containers of manners and experience) never quite fall within the numerical boundaries assigned to them. Considering only the most recent so-called centuries, the eighteenth ran from about 1688 to about 1815. The nineteenth from about 1815 to about 1914. And the twentieth only from about 1914 to 1989.

The puzzling and frantic postmodern period that started about 25 years ago seems to promise the eradication of such quaint traditions as century-measurement altogether.