(h/t: Shorpy)

Posted by Ellen

Back in 1909, high school graduation day was something like prom night nowadays; it had become so expensive and extravagant that the editors of the New York Times were fussing about it.

A girl's graduation dress might cost $10--$280 today--or even more. At the city's Washington Irving High School, the dressmaking department came up with the idea of dollar dresses--fabric, trimming, thread, buttons, etc., all purchased for less than one dollar total--to be sewn by the graduate herself. Twenty-seven girls in the class of 1909 took up the challenge, and according to the New York Times, all twenty-seven dresses were indistinguishable from the expensive ones worn by their classmates on commencement day.

In 1905 my grandmother sewed herself a wedding dress that looked much like these dresses. Assuming that the fabric and notions must have cost her about dollar, she would have earned the money by selling a hundred glasses of seltzer at a penny apiece, and then washing all hundred glasses.

Living the Dream

20 Dec 2011
Posted by Ellen

This general store in Fort Covington, New York, a border town about 75 miles southwest of Montreal, was the pride and joy of Elsie and Charles J. Clarke, who are pictured here behind the counter in the mid-1920s.  Charles Clarke, who had emigrated to Canada as a boy aboard one of the orphan ships from Liverpool, England, had somehow managed to save up enough money to buy his very own store. A few years later, however, during the devastation of the Great Depression, the Clarkes extended so much credit to their customers and had to conduct so much of their trade by barter that they lost the store.