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In One Ear: Beach blanket blackmail

Keep those ankles covered!
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 25, 2017 12:01AM

From the Tuesday, Aug. 25, 1885 issue of The Daily Morning Astorian: “A few days since, while the Astoria camp people were bathing in the surf, an amateur photographer went down to the beach and proceeded to make an instantaneous view of the bathers. Just at the critical moment an Astoria belle stooped to arrange her stocking, and as the ‘apparatus won’t lie,’ even for beauty, the young lady looms up in the photograph like Tillamook rock in a storm.

“At last accounts the stooping belle was trying to raise enough coin to purchase the negative. She has offered $13 ($318 now) for it, but the photographer stubbornly demands more, and declares that he will print an unlimited number of photographs if the central figure doesn’t come to time inside of two days.”

The young “belle” was in quite a pickle, as the rules of etiquette and “conduct for a female” were very complicated and strict during the Victorian era. For her to be caught possibly showing her bare ankle in public — much less arranging her clothing — was quite vulgar (

If the photo became public, her family would be disgraced. Worse yet, the young lady’s reputation would be in tatters, and her chances of landing a “proper” husband — a must — would be ruined. Scandalous!


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