Monday, April 24, 2006

Sandwich Island Girl 3

Craig Lockwood recently wrote in, addressing the subject matter of the Police Gazette, itself:


... In case anyone's interested in upping the level of arcane-interest in publications such as the Police Gazette, (there were several and were euphemistically referred to as "Gentleman's Periodicals" ) in doing research for my latest book last year, I had the chance to visit and do extensive work at the home library and archive of a True Crime and Boxing author named Johnson.

It's an impressive floor-to-rafters lifetime accumulation that occupies a small house and garage. He has loosely cataloged this enormous assemblage of photographs, late 19th and early 20th Century contemporary journalism, and books relating to his subjects of interest, including most if not all of the published issues of the Police Gazette during it's period(s) of publication. (Judging by what I looked through, there may have been several incarnations over many decades.)

Socially and culturally, the Police Gazette and its subsequent imitators were roughly the equivalent of a combined Ring Magazine-National Inquirer-Playboy-True Detective, typically in a tabloid or digest format. The subjects were those aimed at titillating a very sexually inhibited and repressed Victorian male audience, and it was a table-top staple of the neighborhood saloon, barbershop, and athletic club---all bastions of the younger male middle-class and skilled tradesmen.

Scantily clad---well, by the mores of the times, scantily clad---women were featured at every possible opportunity. These magazines---and there were several---saw publication well into the middle of the last century. This was certainly the case during the early 1940s when I was a kid, and first saw this genera of publication in the Laguna Beach barbershop. The word my mother used to describe them was "racy," which translated to "interesting" to a pre-adolescent boy.

As can be imagined by reading the pages of the Star or Inquirer today, the level of journalism found in these periodicals was inspired by a combination of rumor, innuendo, and extrapolative falsification, with as much emphasis on females in "unusual" situations as possible.

While it may be interesting to speculate about an un-named possibly Polynesian young woman surfing in Atlantic City at that time---and certainly it is not beyond the bounds of reason that such a person might have---ascribing much validity to anything one of these magazines reported would be like placing equal credence on a headline such as : "BRITTANY RIDES PIPELINE ON HAWAIIAN VACATION, LOSES BIKINI!" would seem premature.

If memory serves me right, Robert Louis Stevenson visited and wrote about Hawaii and seeing surfing about this time. His adventures in the South Seas were widely published and commented upon during the late 1880s. I seem to recall that something about his travels---letters or other correspondence---were published in Harper's during the same period.

It might prove interesting to do a little literary detective work, i.e., an analytic comparison between the Police Gazette's piece's details and those of R.L. Stevenson's.

Craig Lockwood

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