Date: Sun, 5 Jan 1997 23:23:40 -0500 From: "Barry A. Popik" Subject: Gay Nineties Who named the Gay Nineties? That was 1890-1899, not 1891-1900. (The new century begins January 1, 2001, and you can find that on your "words ending in -gry" websites.) The answer to the "Gay Nineties" is simple, but a bit surprising. The Gay Nineties were not called that in the 1890s, nor the 1900s, nor the 1910s. The name, as far as I can tell, dates from 1925--a quarter-century later! The Dictionary of Americanisms, pg. 687, col. 1, has "gay...(4) Nineties, the 1890's, so called from the fashions and manners of the time." The first cite is a rather late "1937 MITCHELL _Horse & Buggy Age_ 81 Such a street was Washington Street in Hartford during the elegant Eighties and gay Nineties." The New York Public Library's CATNYP (their computer catalog--you knew that name was gonna surface somewhere) shows: Corday, Rene, FROM THE GAY NINETIES; TOE DANCE (c. 1930). Hanes, Ken, THE GAY GUYS GUIDE TO LIFE: 463 MAXIMS, MANNERS, AND MOTTOES FOR THE GAY NINETIES (1994). THE GAY NINETIES: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY GAY FICTION, edited by Phil Willkie and Greg Baysans (1991). Dietz, F. Meredith, GAY NINETIES COOK BOOK (1945). Black, Jennie Prince, I REMEMBER: A SHORT AND INTIMATE SKETCH OF THE DIGNIFIED SEVENTIES, THE ELEGANT EIGHTIES AND THE GAY NINETIES IN OR NEAR THE HUDSON VALLEY... (1938). Bowers, Claude Gernade, INDIANAPOLIS IN THE "GAY NINETIES" (1964). Desmond, Shaw, LONDON NIGHTS IN THE GAY NINETIES (1928). Pennoyer, Albert Sheldon, THIS WAS CALIFORNIA: A COLLECTION OF ENGRAVINGS REMINISCENT OF HISTORICAL EVENTS, HUMAN ACHIEVEMENTS AND TRIVIALITIES FROM PIONEER DAYS TO THE GAY NINETIES (1938). UNLEASHING FEMINISM: CRITIQUING THE LESBIAN SADOMASOCHISM IN THE GAY NINETIES, Pat Parker, et al. (1993). I went to NYPL's Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library and found some songs and shows with a "Gay Nineties" title, but none were before 1925. William A. Grew and Harry Delf made a movie by that title in 1929. In 1946, Bobby Gregory did a "Gay Nineties Polka." RLIN's Eureka provided what I believe to be the answer, but I'll discuss the others first. Seven titles came up originally: Bill Hardey's songs of the gay nineties (1938). Everybody's favorite songs of the gay nineties (1934). Gay nineties (19??). Gay nineties (19??). Roaring twenties, Gay nineties (1977). Gay nineties by Colby Dixon Hall (1961). The gay nineties by Maynard McFie (1945). Other titles (not mentioned in NYPL's CATNYP) include: Gay nineties costume ball (Palm Springs, Calif., The Desert Inn, 1949). Gay nineties fun; a gay nineties entertainment by Arthur Le Roy Kaser (c. 1945). The gay nineties in America: a cultural dictionary of the 1890s by Robert L. Gale (1992). Gay nineties medley arranged by Bill Holcombe (c. 1980). Gay nineties medley: for expandable flute choir by Rickey Lombardo (c. 1986). Gay nineties melodramas; a collection of old-fashioned melodramas of the gay nineties period by Lawrence Martin Brings (1963). Gay Nineties Memories (music) by Bowman (19--). The Gay Nineties, or, The Unfaithful Husband (movie) produced by Warner Brothers (1929). The Gay Nineties (19--), various songs such as "Ta-ra-ra- Boom-der-e," "In Good Old New York Town," "Little Annie Rooney," "Strike Up The Band," "Mr. Captain, Stop the Ship," "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me A Bow-Wow," "Kentucky Babe," "Hello My Baby," "White Wings," "The Bowery," "Throw Him Down, McCloskey," "After the Ball," "The Band Played On," "Put Me Off At Buffalo," "Silver Threads Among The Gold," "While Strolling Through The Park One Day," "Kiss Me, Honey," "Daisy Bell," "With All Her Faults I Love Her Still," and "The Sidewalks Of New York." (This may be from the "Metropole gay nineties song folio," published 1948.) In LISTENING TO AMERICA, Stuart Berg Flexner writes on page 284 "In the Gay 90s, _to be gay_ meant to take liberties, and a _gay woman_ was a prostitute, while in the 1920s a _gay dog_ was a woman chaser." In his I HEAR AMERICA TALKING, Flexner devotes pages 162-163 to "The Gay 90s," stating: THE GAY 90s is a term that became popular in the not-so-gay Depression years of the 1930s, when people looked back with nostalgia to their parents' lives or their own youth of the 1890s. Since then the Gay 90s has been considered the period when _the Elegant 80s_ relaxed and everyone enjoyed friendly, informal manners and fashions. In the 1890s, _gay_ not only meant happy and carefree but informal, and _to get gay_ with someone meant to take liberties, to be a little too brash even as Victorianism receded. (...) Yet, despite this usual mix of good and bad and rich and poor, the 90s probably were happy, carefree times for most Americans. A great many people did relax and enjoy themselves, there were exciting and pleasant things to do and, mainly, many people seemed to _think_ they were happy--something later, more sophisticated Americans have found it increasingly hard to do. The Chicago Tribune, 23 September 1956, page 10 of Comics Section, has an advertisement for GAY 90's TOFFEE FUDGE Sealtest Ice Cream. "Special Offer! Gay 90's decals! Bright! Colorful! See package for details!" A barbershop quartet sings "Sing a song of Sealtest/ Toffee Fudge for me!/ Rich 'n' thick 'n' creamy../ a flavor harmony!" "Not even grandma made ice cream like this! Sealtest Gay 90's Toffee Fudge Ice Cream--old-fashioned toffee laced through and through with fudge. You've never tasted anything like it. At Sealtest dealers only. More people enjoy Sealtest than any other ice cream." The earliest citation--probably our answer--is a book called THE GAY NINETIES: A BOOK OF DRAWINGS by R. V. Culter (Gadern City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1927). The book has interesting sketches of 1890s culture, and begins with a foreword by Charles Dana Gibson: FOREWORD IN THE spring of 1925, Richard Culter came into the _Life_ (the old Life--ed.) office with three drawings of scenes and people in the eighteen nineties. He submitted them to Robert Sherwood, the editor of _Life_, Frank Casey, the art editor, and myself, in the hope that they might develop into a series under the general heading, "The Gay Nineties." We liked Mr. Culter's drawings enormously--I can't imagine that anyone would fail to appreciate the perfection of his draughtsmanship or the complete truthfulness of his subjects; but we frankly doubted that "The Gay Nineties" would appeal to a wide circle of our readers. Nevertheless, we published the three drawings--and have continued the series in _Life_ ever since. It proved to be one of those rare features--so eagerly sought for by all harassed editors, and so infrequently found--which are characterized, in the jargon of our trade, as "sure fire." Doddering, decrepit veterans who have lived to the ripe old age of thirty-five, enjoy Mr. Culter's drawings because they reflect, so honestly, the costumes and customs of their dear, dead youth. Children who have been born in this century relish "The Gay Nineties" because of their archaeological interest--much as children of my generation were fascinated by the reminiscences of the Civil War. Mr. Culter has the ability to reflect life in terms of humor, and he has succeeded in representing the Gay Nineties as really gay. Look through the pages of this book and study the people that Mr. Culter has drawn; even though you survey them from the eminence of 1927--even though you laugh heartily at their ludicrous attire, their ridiculous headdresses--you will come to the conclusion that they must have had a thoroughly good time. Which, if memory has not utterly failed me, they did. Charles Gibson (signed) On 29 January 1929, the New York Times ran this on page 29, col. 2: R. V. Culter Dies in Florida. MIAMI, Fla., Jan. 28 (AP).--Richard Vincent Culter of New York, magazine illustrator and originator of a number of humorous sketches, died here today. That's it. No age. No specified illness. No indication if he moved to Florida or was just visiting. No indication also that he coined "the Gay 90s." The New York Herald Tribune, 29 January 1929, pg. 23, col. 5, had this: VINCENT CUTLER (sic) MIAMI, Fla., Jan. 29 (AP).--Vincent Cutler, of New York, magazine illustrator and originator of a number of humorous sketches, died here to-day. Richard Vincent Culter or Vincent Culter--whoever you are, wherever you are--thanks for coining "the Gay 90s."