Marie Concannon, head of government information for the University of Missouri Libraries, has been awarded the 2023 NewsBank/Readex/GODORT/ALA Catharine J. Reynolds Award from the Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association. This award provides funding for research that would make a contribution to the field of documents librarianship. The prize will be used to fund a student position in the library’s Government Information department to help expand the “Prices and Wages by Decade” web guide.
GODORT stated, “The Awards Committee is excited and impressed with your website and research project Prices and Wages by Decade, and acknowledges the immense value it offers to researchers everywhere.”
The “Prices and Wages by Decade” guide points to retail prices and average wages in primary source materials, mainly government documents. The research guide has found fans across campus, the state and the world since Concannon created it in 2012.
Concannon has received two previous awards for the “Prices and Wages by Decade” guide from the Reference and User Services division of ALA.
The University of Missouri Library no longer receives tax forms from the IRS or the Missouri Department of Revenue for public distribution. All forms and instructions are available from the government websites. The Daniel Boone Regional Library has a tax help page that provides guidance. The University Library does have books and journals about personal finance and taxation available throughout the year.
If you are currently conducting research using federal government websites, the MU Libraries urge you to work ahead and collect any needed information before midnight on September 30. Some faculty and students with deadlines for publications and other projects were significantly inconvenienced during the 2013 and 2019 shutdowns because many government agency websites went offline for a significant period of time. We encourage you to prepare for this loss of access to information that is pertinent to your research. For more information or assistance, contact Marie Concannon, head of Government Information and Data Archives.
In the pre-internet age, most government information was distributed through the U.S. Government Printing Office, and public and college libraries throughout the United States were responsible for providing public access to that information.Today, most government information intended for public distribution is posted directly to the internet. Publication patterns in this digital environment are not as predictable, and the responsibility for preserving information has become considerably more unclear. Today historians who seek information in libraries sometimes learn that information, which was once available on a government website, was deleted before it could be saved.
To study the extent of this problem and help propose solutions, the University of Missouri Libraries joined a small group of libraries led by Martin Halbert and Robbie Sittel of the University of North Texas to form the PEGI (Preservation of Government Information) Project. Funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, PEGI worked for two years, meeting with government agency representatives, industry leaders, library administrators and others to define the scope of the problem and chart pathways forward. The University of Missouri Libraries are proud to have been part of the founding PEGI Project team (link: https://www.pegiproject.org/project-team).
The final report “Toward a Shared Agenda: Report on PEGI Project Activities for 2017-2019” received the Margaret T. Lane/ Virginia F. Saunders Memorial Research Award. This award is given annually to an author or shared among collaborative authors of an outstanding research article in which government documents, either published or archival in nature, form a substantial part of the documented research. University of Missouri librarian Marie Concannon was a co-author on this report.
Summer officially arrived a couple of weekends ago, and with it the promise of many hot, sunny days — days just right for a nice dip in a cool body of water. As you gather up your swimming gear for a trip to your favorite secret swimming hole, backyard slip ‘n slide, or social distancing pool, we invite you to consider what that swimming kit would have looked like in years gone by with the help of a government document.
Published in 1969, Women’s Bathing and Swimming Costume in the United States is a paper from the Smithsonian Institution’s Bulletin series. In it, costume historian Claudia B. Kidwell traces the evolution of the bathing costume and, later, the swimming costume, starting in the late 18th century. At the same time, she sheds light on history of the sport itself.
In the late 1700s and into the 1850s, long linen or flannel bathing gowns were worn by bathers such as Martha Washington when they went for therapeutic plunges in mineral springs (p.6-7). These loose gowns resembled the chemise, an undergarment also worn at the time, but were usually in dark colors to better hide the figure. Some had weighted hems or were belted to keep them in place when entering the water (p.14-15).
Next, from the 1840s to 1870s, came the bifurcated bathing dress featuring pantaloons under a long overdress or combination of blouse and skirt made of woolen, linen or serge fabric. This style gave bathers more freedom to frolic in the waves on the seashore. Some of the ankle length drawers, or bloomers, featured suspenders, while others were belted. Straw bathing hats, a hooded bathing mantle or cloak, and manila or cork slippers completed the ensemble (p. 16-20).
Starting in the 1880s and into the first quarter of the 20th century, the princess style bathing dress was to be found worn by beach-goers. A combination blouse and drawers with a removable skirt, this style allowed even more activity in the water. The skirt could be taken off while swimming, then modestly buttoned back to the waist when out of the water. Serge and mohair fabrics in dark blue and black were commonly used. Sleeves began to shorten during this time, and the use of knitted bathing tights instead of drawers or knickerbockers appeared in the 1890s. Waxed linen, oiled silk, or rubber bathing caps, sometimes covered by a bright turban, protected the hair (p.21-23).
By 1917, there were a two main options for bathing suits: a loose straight suit with no waistline worn with a belt or sash at the hips or the short-sleeved surplice suit with a skirt and bloomers. A third option, the knitted jersey suit, was reserved for expert swimmers (p.26-27). And with the growing popularity of swimming, such swimming suits all but replaced the prior bathing costumes in the 1920s (p.24).
The earliest swimming suits for women appeared in the 1880s; called “bathing jerseys”, they were form-fitting tunics that reached mid-thigh, featured high necks and cap sleeves, and were worn over trunks and stockings or tights (p.24). Knitted one-piece, skirtless swimsuits of the style typical for men were worn by pioneering women swimmers in the late 1900s and 1910s (p.26). By the 1920s, one- and two-piece knitted swimming suits were available; they were worn with stockings and satin or canvas slippers and accompanied by a beach cloak or wide-collared bathing wraps, colorful beach hats, and parasols (p.28). Necklines and armholes grew lower as the decade progressed and by the 1930s, when having a sun tan became popular, “swimming suits covered less of the bather” (p.30).
In the 30s, colorful suits featuring novelty effects were produced as swimsuits became stylish as well as functional. The introduction of man-made fabrics and elastic yarn were important innovations in the emerging swim suit industry. The 1940s saw the first bikini arrive in the U.S. from France, while in the 1950s swim suits were designed to sculpt and control the figure with the help of the skillful use of fabrics and plastic boning (p.31-32).
As shown in this highlight of Ms. Kidwell’s interesting look at the history of swimwear, the bathing and swimming costumes worn by our ancestors mirrored the changing social acceptability of swimming over the years. So as you put on your goggles this weekend, give a thought to those who used to swim swathed in yards of fabric or in itchy wool suits!
Boy tells girl “Jes’ you wait, Susie—I got six seventy-one saved up. Soon as I get nineteen dollars I’m gonna git me seventeen white collars and a swell suit; then I’m gonna git a job as office boy in a bank and git a four thousand dollar bonus an’ buy you that there Soudan.”
The caption, above, to this cute 1920 cartoon from Cartoons magazine (vol.17 no.3), provides a unique opportunity to showcase our Prices and Wages by Decade research guide. The guide, which helps researchers locate primary sources showing historic retail prices and average wages, links mainly to government reports, but also includes catalogs and newspapers when relevant.
This ambitious young man mentions a number of figures that we could take a closer look at with the help of Prices and Wages: the prices of a swell suit and white collars, wages of office boys, and price of a sedan in 1920. To start checking his numbers, let’s head to the 1920s page of the guide.
First, for suits and collars, the 1920 Montgomery Ward catalog link found under the Merchandise tab of the Prices section sounds promising. Sure enough, the index tells us that ‘collars’ can be found on page 388 and ‘youths suits’ on pages 320 to 322. There are plenty of both collars and fine suits for our young hero to choose from!
Next we move over to the Wages section to see what we can find for office boy earnings. The link for teenagers’ wages in Detroit, 1922 may be a good place to start. It takes us to the publication Occupations of junior workers in Detroit, which shows the 1922 pay of office boys as $6, $12, or $25 per week depending on hours worked per week (p.22). An entry from the 1921 Official Publication of the Central Trades and Labor Council of Greater New York and Vicinity shows another figure: “As office boy…His compensation is at the rate of $300 per year, and he is paid $25 monthly” (p.47).
Finally, the big ticket item—the sedan. Back on the Prices side, there is a Travel and Transportation tab containing a link for car prices for 1920-1924 in annual editions of the Handbook of Automobiles. Selecting the 1920 edition, we are taken to a digital copy at the HathiTrust digital library; from here we can either browse by our favorite automaker or search for the word “sedan” using the ‘Search in this text’ tool located at the top right-hand corner of the reading pane to find price listings. Some sedans are indeed priced around $4000 or higher.
What do you think, was our young friend accurate with his financial planning?
“Of the 3,293,335 inhabitants of Missouri, 1,687,813 are male and 1,605,522 female, which means that there are 105.1 male to every 100 of the other sex.
In scarcity women have the best of it from the cradle to the grave, the men outnumbering them at every age and social stage, there not being enough to go around if every male, regardless of age, took unto himself a wife. As the age of matrimony approaches, Missouri population statistics show, females become more scarce, until single males from 15 to 45 years and over finally outnumber the other sex 141 to each 100.
With the male population at 1,687,813, a total of 1,171,394 are from 15 to 45 years old and over, leaving 519,419 who are under 15 years. Of the males over 15 years, 56.9 per cent, or 665,938, are married; 37.2 per cent, or 435,219, single and on the available list; 56,518 whose wives have died; 7,020 who are divorced and 6,699 who, for some reason, would not give their marital condition.
Only 2,982 of Missouri’s army of 1,099,015 maids and matrons over 15 years old refused to give information covering their marital condition. Those married number 550,819, or 60.1 per cent of the female population considered here. The single ones count up 308,184, or 28 per cent; of divorces there are 8,558 and of widows, 118,472.”
Oh, the timeless tale of the “selection of a soul mate.”
Want to know more? Current data on marriage rates in Missouri can be found in the Vital Statistics reports of the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, available for download on their website.Historic editions of Missouri Vital Statistics from the 1960s to the 2000s are available from the University of Missouri’s Economic and Policy Analysis Research Center.
This week is New York Fashion Week, a grand tradition in the world of fashion that can trace its roots, interestingly enough, to World War II. Started in 1943 as “Press Week,”, the goal of the event was to “boost American fashion during the occupation of France” (Fashion Week Online, History of Fashion Week).
And American fashion may have needed such a boost—at the time, the industry was operating under production restrictions established to save material for the war effort. Of these restrictions, the War Production Board’s cloth-conserving Limitation Order L-85 received the most attention.
As stated in a WPB press release dated April 8, 1942, Order L-85 proposed to “make possible the production of at least 15 per cent more garments out of the same yardage of cloth” by curbing extremes in dress style such as “long, full skirts and sleeves that would waste missions of yards of material.” It established maximum lengths and sweeps (circumference of the bottom hem) for coats, dresses, suits, jackets, and skirts that apparel manufactures had to adhere to. It also eliminated the use of fabric-heavy elements such as French cuffs, balloon sleeves, and patch pockets, prohibited the sale of ensembles of more than two pieces for one price, and more.
Room for creativity and self-expression was also addressed in the press release: “The order does not mean the standardization of women’s clothes. Within the limitations fixed in the order, fashion designers, dress manufactures, and housewives are free to use their ingenuity in creating whatever fashions may strike their fancy.”
In adapting to these limitations, the fashion industry put their ingenuity to good use. According to the February 1, 1943 issue of Vogue, “No law compels us to wear clothes as narrow as these. L-85 allows much more generous measurements. Of our own free will, we’re wearing them. Voluntarily, a group of American designers have pledged themselves to use less fabric than L-85 allows—in order to save every yard. For the more fabric saved today—the less chance of shoe-string rations tomorrow.”
The article Hemline of Battle from the April 18, 1942 issue of Business Week summed it up by saying that Order L-85 limited “the amount of yardage that may henceforth go into milady’s gown,” causing a “shortening of hemlines and narrowing of silhouettes.”
And there you have it, a glimpse of the American fashion situation at the birth of New York Fashion Week. Hopefully this historic context will further your appreciation of the collections today’s talented designers will present over the next few days.
While leafing through the pages of the Wall Street Journal this holiday break, the obituary of Robert N. Gordon caught our eye. The article, with the fascinating headline “College dropout made name as tax maven,” gives insight into Mr. Gordon’s success:
“Mr. Gordon, who was founder and president of New York-based Twenty-First Securities Corp. and whose bedtime reading included the tax code,…would exploit inefficiencies or errors or inconsistencies in the tax code wherever he found them.”
Impressive bedtime reading, but it served him well.