The other day I was delighted to discover a copy of American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture deposited in my mailbox. Written by former fellow and architectural historian Alice T. Friedman, this beautifully illustrated book argues that American architecture of the late 1940s was profoundly influenced by the culture’s fascination with “glamour.”
During her month long research fellowship here at the Wolfsonian some years ago, Professor Friedman mined our collection for visual images that supported her intriguing thesis. Without wanting to “steal her thunder” or rely on items reproduced in her own fine book, I thought that I would revisit the idea of “glamour” in the library collection, and see what I else I might find.
As part of our Miami Beach Greyhound Race Track archive, the library holds a large collection of original black & white publicity photographs of Hollywood stars and beautiful women in bathing suits or “chic” outfits, often posing with the sleek greyhound pups and racers. These “glamour shots” were used to promote the race track in its heyday.
We also possess a number of brochures and programs promoting Broadway producer and nightclub owner, Billy Rose (1899-1966). He gained fame for constructing an enormous dinner theatre club, the Casa Mañana, featuring the infamous striptease artist, Sally Rand, who also performed at various world’s fair venues in the mid-to-late 1930s. Billy Rose also orchestrated the Aquacade shows at many of those same international expositions. (The brochure for Casa Mañana pictured below was donated to our collection by Vicki Gold Levi).
Of course, glamour was used to promote more than architecture, race tracks, nightclubs, and shows. Once glamour entered the American lexicon and became entrenched in American popular culture, advertising firms began the work of transforming a myriad of consumer products into luxurious “fetishes” to be ogled and admired for their beauty.