Silk Stockings and Socialism: Labor in the Jazz Age

Coming up this weekend at the American Labor Museum in Haledon, New Jersey, is a book talk and signing event with author Sharon McConnell-Sidorick. From the Museum: On Saturday, May 20th, 2017 at 2PM,  Sharon McConnell-Sidorick will discuss her new book, Silk Stockings and Socialism:  Philadelphia’s Radical Hosiery Workers from the Jazz Age to the New Deal (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).  Copies of the book will be available for purchase.  Light refreshments will be served.

Dr. McConnell-Sidorick’s book explores how working-class youth created a radical labor movement in the 1920s and 1930s, starting in a Philadelphia neighborhood and expanding to New Jersey, the South, and across the U.S.

Dr. McConnell-Sidorick notes, “In the midst of the 1920s Jazz Age, the young people flooding into the factories making the iconic fashion item of the flappers – full-fashioned silk stockings – were avid participants in Jazz Age culture, but they also embraced a surprising, rights-based labor movement, headed by the socialist-led American Federation of Full-Fashioned Hosiery Workers.  That community-based movement fused youth culture, labor feminism, and radical politics to build a subculture that forged a dynamic vision for social change, pioneered innovative strike tactics that foreshadowed the sit-down strike, led to the first New Deal housing program, and would have a lasting impact on the American labor movement and New Deal politics.

“It is remarkable that the hosiery workers’ central role in the labor movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s has been overlooked as it has been in the historical literature, notes author Janet Irons.  She continues, “McConnell-Sidorick is the first to fully tell this story, and she tells it masterfully.  For anyone trying to understand the trajectory of the US labor movement in the twentieth century, this book is a vital resource.”

For more information, visit the American Labor Museum site. The museum is located in the historic Botto house, which was an important location for union workers during the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike.

Cable Girls and More: Prime Time for Jazz Age TV and Movies

Cable Girls/Las Chicas del Cable, an original Netflix series about four women working as switchboard operators, is set in Madrid, Spain, in the 1920s.

Set to debut in Canada later in 2017 is Frankie Drake, a series about the only female private detective in Toronto.

Along with her partner Trudy, Frankie and the Drake Detective Agency take on cases of all shapes and sizes. From airplanes and booze running to American G-men, Communists and union busters, Frankie’s fearless sense of adventure gets her into all kinds of trouble, but she always manages to find her way out.

Meanwhile, Z: The Beginning of Everything, about Zelda Fitzgerald, is currently on Netflix. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “jaunty” and “breezy.”

Want a spy movie about the Korean resistance movement in the 1920s? That would be Age of Shadows.

Two “Rather Conservative Bohemians” and the Houses They Built into the Hills of New Jersey

The Habberstads were a beret-wearing couple who, beginning in 1925, built several distinctive cottages amongst the wooded hills and ravines of northern New Jersey. Daisy Alioto tells their story on Curbed. I just wish there were more photos.

Biesterfeldt Site Now a National Historic Landmark


In 1938, Jazz Age archaeologists Duncan Strong and Carlyle Smith excavated this prehistoric North Dakota site. Now, the Biesterfeldt Site has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

According to the Department of the Interior,

The Biesterfeldt Site in Ransom County, North Dakota, is an earth lodge village site culturally identifiable as having been occupied by the Cheyenne Indians ca. 1724-1780. As the only known representative of that relatively brief period in their history during which they pursued a horticultural way of life, the archeological site has the potential to yield critical information on the history of that tribe and various neighboring tribes. Biesterfeldt also has the potential to inform us about the development of Plains Indian culture during a period of intense and dramatic change.

For information on more recent archaeology at the site, see the Archaeological Conservancy.

New Adventurer: Henry Field

As a close relative of the founder of the Field Museum in Chicago, it may not be surprising that Henry Field was able to get a job there in the 1920s. Field earned his keep, however, conducting archaeological and physical anthropological studies in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, and developing two major exhibition halls at the Field Museum. Read more about Henry Field.

Vintage Air Rally and More: Jazz Age News

Beryl Markham would join in: Aviators will be flying 13 vintage biplanes from the 1920s and 1930s on an 8,000 mile adventure from Crete to Cape Town, South Africa this November. They’ll be “flying hot, high, and they’re going to be struggling” says Sam Rutherford. The pilots have received permission to land at the Great Pyramids of Egypt and will fly over many of East Africa’s other landmarks. The air rally will also benefit Birdlife International and highlight the plight of Africa’s endangered vultures. Vintage Air Rally

Shake that penguin: The Art of the Cocktail at the Dallas Museum of Art celebrates the artifacts of cocktail culture, including several pieces of barware from the Jazz Age and a penguin-shaped silver cocktail shaker from 1936. Shaken, Stirred, Styled

Founded in 1920, Eddie Bauer anticipates its centennial by reintroducing some of its outdoor clothing classics, including the 1936 Skyliner down jacket. Down parkas

Jazz Age exhibit at the Fashion and Textile museum in London: Not just flapper dresses

Thanks to the American Film Archive, tourists’ films of Hong Kong from the 1920s to the 1960s – and the movie cameras that could have been used to create them – go on display. On Holiday in Hong Kong

Inspired by a 1923 event, The Age of Shadows is a Korean spy thriller with contemporary movie violence and a Hitchcockian train setpiece. Age of Shadows

1920s-inspired swing/folk/jazz- so there’s gotta be a ukulele involved. Victor & Penny


The Mummy Movie in Pioneers of African-American Cinema

Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled, an all-black silent film from 1918 is included in a new collection of early African-American films (the short is only on the Blu-ray collection, not on the DVD collection). Several silent movies featured mummies as plot devices, but this is likely the only one made by African-American filmmakers for African-American audiences.

TCM recently screened the short, which they summarize as

A young man wooing the daughter of a scientist hatches a get rich quick scheme when he spots a classified ad searching for “a mummy for experimental purposes.” While he wraps up a phony for the scientist, two Egyptian agents (outfitted in a crazy mix of ancient fashion and modern style) tracking stolen relics get tangled in the confusion. Director R.G. Phillips manages the many moving parts of this busy comedy quite deftly, and offers perhaps the last glimpse audiences will see of an African-American scientist on the screen for decades.

The five discs in the Kino Lorber collection include movies from as early as 1915 and as late as 1946.  See the New York Times review for more details: Black Filmmaking Aborning.