Thursday, April 24, 2014

1914 Delaware College junior prom group photograph


Every time I look at this century-old group photo, I expect to see Jack Torrance in the front row, grinning and staring into the camera.1 But he's not there, of course. This is just a black-and-white photograph from the 1914 junior prom at Delaware College, which is now the University of Delaware.2

I can't find any specific information about the 1914 junior prom online. It's likely that it was held in late January or early February, probably in the campus gymnasium.

I did, however, find a lot of information about the 1913 Delaware College prom, and I think it's safe to assume that the two events had a lot in common. Here is a lengthy excerpt from a weekly college publication called The Review:

"THOSE who attended the Junior Prom given by the Class of 1914 have pronounced it the best ever held at Delaware. Some who have attended the Proms for over a decade declared this Prom excelled any they had ever seen here. The ideal of each committee chairman and his assistants was perfection. And, truly, each one realized his ideal. The music was charming, the floor was as smooth as glass; but the most striking features were the programs and decorations.

"The Old Gold and Blue effect was carried out very prettily on the programs. The backs were of brass, which shone like pure gold. On the front side the Delaware seal was sunken, while at the lower right hand corner the engraved numerals, '1914,' very neatly added to the finished appearance. The cord was of blue silk. The permanency of the materials will only be excelled by the ever lingering remembrance of this jovial occasion. Our decorations were the most elaborate of any that have ever been produced ... The color effect of Blue and Gold was carried out. There was not a light — with the exception of the 'moon' — which did not shine through a blue or gold globe. The entire top of the gymnasium was converted into a canopy of bunting. From the ridge pole beams it connected with arches formed around the running track. Underneath the track, in the arches, on the beams and the ridge pole, blue and gold lights glimmered without any glare whatever. At each end was a sign made of blue and gold lights; that at the north end blazed forth '1914,' while the south end sign bore the letters D-E-L-A-W-A-R-E. Hanging from a beam in one corner a large globe gave the impression, when the other lights were off, of a full moon. The electrical effect was completed by two large acorns covered with blue and gold lights suspended from the points at each end, which formed the centre of the semicircle of the canopy.

"The walls were decorated with large fraternity and college banners. Spaced between each light on the running track a college pennant completed the wall decorations.3

"At one corner of the hall, situated under a lattice work which was entwined with cedars and laurels, a rustic stand held a barrel containing ice water. The corner was banked with blue and gold bunting. Diagonally opposite to this a 'well,' the top of which was built of huge rocks and covered with mosses and greens, contained the large punch bowl. The entire corner was a mass of laurels and cedars, thus giving restfulness to the eye. Our classmate, W. T. McCall, conceived and worked up this decorating scheme. His only reward was appreciation.

"Our description of the hall simply serves as a background for the chief objects — the girls. From all parts of Delaware and surrounding states came the prettiest of pretty maidens gowned in silken garments. They glided about like fairies until, when in the 'wee sma' hours' the orchestra softly played the strains of 'Good Night, Dear,' we awoke from our dreams to realize that 1914 had eclipsed all other classes with such a delightful Prom.

"Junior Promenade
CLASS OF 1914 OF DELAWARE COLLEGE, JAN. 31, 1913
COLLEGE GYMNASIUM
DANCES
Grand March and Introductory Waltz
To the Class of 1914

1 Two Step — Take Me to the Cabaret
2 Waltz — Venus Waltz
3 Two Step — Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee
4 Waltz — Waltz Caprice
5 Two Step — Hitchy Koo
6 Waltz — Druid's Prayer
7 Two Step — You're My Baby
8 Waltz — Wall Flower
9 Two Step — On the Mississippi
10 Waltz — Vision of Salome
11 Two Step — Row, Row, Row
12 Waltz — Roses Bloom Alone for Lovers
INTERMISSION
13 Two Step — Gaby Glide
14 Waltz — Message to the Honey Moon
15 Two Step — Everybody Two Step
16 Waltz — Dream Love
17 Two Step — Loving Honey Man
18 Waltz — Tales of Hoffman
19 Two Step — Red Rose Rag
20 Waltz — Love's Dream After the Ball
21 Two Step — Waiting for the Robt. E. Lee
22 Waltz — Marguerite
23 Two Step — Ghost of the Violin
24 Waltz — Good Night, Dear"

One of the best things about this prom photo is looking at all of the different people, their outfits and their expressions. Actually, most of their expressions feature closed eyes — the flash for such an indoor photograph must have been bright and blinding.4

Here are some magnified portions of the photograph...





Footnotes
1. Here's a neat piece by Devin Faraci about how they created the photograph that was used at the end of Kubrick's The Shining, in the days before Photoshop.
2. You might also be interested in this 2011 post: Photos of the University of Delaware, circa 1937-41.
3. In the upper-left corner of the photo, there is a William & Mary pennant.
4. Either that, or this is the largest memento mori group photo in history.

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