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Lyle Zapato

Octopus Wristlet Fad Of 1915

Lyle Zapato | 2012-02-18.6599 LMT | Retro | Cephalopods | Fashion | Cascadia

I've mentioned the use of taxidermied tree octopuses as hat decorations and octopus-inspired hair-styles, now here's another example of octopuses as objects of fashion. From the April 23, 1915 edition of the Tacoma Times:

Beach Belle Uses Octopus As Wristlet In Weird Sand Dance

Los Angeles, April 23. — Probably the strangest pet ever adopted by the shrinking sex is the little octopus carried by Miss Diana Rico, a belle of the beaches here. Whenever she goes bathing or strolling along the sands Miss Rico carries the tentacled mascot wrapped about her wrist.

This weird creature of the deep gave Miss Rico an inspiration for a new tango step, "The Dance of the Octopus," which created a sensation when she first stepped its sinuous figures on the beach.

When not clinging to the arm of its mistress, the baby octopus creeps about a little tank built especially for it.

Diana Rico
Miss Diana Rico and Her Weird Pet.

While we're there, let's see what else was on the front page of the Tacoma Times that day...

The triple-headline issue of the day was the State Supreme Court deciding that laws regulating jitneys -- small, privately run busses -- were emergency measures and thus not subject to public referendum. (According to Wikipedia, such laws were being passed at the behest of powerful streetcar companies to squelch competition from the nickel-a-ride jitneys.) The editorial board of the Tacoma Times was not pleased:

Supreme Court Jimmies Constitution and Robs People of Their Veto Right


The unbylined writer of the above-the-masthead article was so incensed by this he slipped into ALL CAPS to berate the citizens that they should "JUST GET IT INTO THEIR HEADS THAT IF THEY LEAVE THEIR LIBERTIES UP TO THE SUPREME COURT, THEY WILL LOSE THEM" and rallies them to "STRIKE A BLOW" to "MAKE OFFICIALDOM ... WAKE UP TO WHAT YOUR REAL TEMPER AND POWER ARE". Never let it be said that Tacomans didn't appreciate their jitneys.

In a separate but jitney-related article we're told that the Seattle streetcar company is employing spies to catch jitneys not strictly obeying the law, and are ominously warned that the Tacoma Railway & Power Co. is also considering undertaking this "plan of open hostility". They sound almost as bad as Monorailists!

The other two major, non-jitney-related issues of the day were New York newspaper publisher William Barnes Jr. suing former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt for libel for calling him a "political boss" (Barnes lost) and diseased milk:

"SEATTLE OPENS BATTLE AGAINST DISEASED MILK". Un-pasteurized milk from cows that weren't tested for tuberculosis was being sold throughout Seattle. In the middle of reporting on the "tubercular milk traffic", the screechingly capitalized editorial voice of the Tacoma Times throws up its hands in disgust at the injustice of it all: "AND SEATTLE MILK-MEN CONTINUE TO SOW THEIR HARVEST OF DEATH WITHOUT INTERRUPTION".

Meanwhile, as Seattle delt with diseased milk, Tacoma worried about the "fly menace":

Mayor Will Take Hand In Fly Campaign

Enter the city of Tacoma in the "swat-the-fly" crusade.

Mayor Fawcett announced this morning that he either would appropriate money from the health funds to aid the campaign or would ask the council to appropriate a reasonable sum.

The mayor started the campaign this week by issuing a proclamation asking Tacoma to take up the swat-the-fly fight, and he is industriously following up his fight.

"Now is the time to prevent a fly menace in Tacoma," said the mayor today. "If the school children of Tacoma will make fly traps, the city ought to furnish the materials.

"I think that I have funds in my department for the fly-trap materials. If not, I will ask the council to appropriate money."

The school board will take up, through Director Hoyt, a plan to allow the manual training pupils to manufacture fly traps and work as deputy sanitary inspectors for the health department.

The previous day's paper explained the campaign -- which health department head Dr. H. A. Wall copied from a similar campaign in Portland, OR. -- in more depth, saying the goal was to "virtually rid Tacoma of flies before the middle of summer" using an army of 3000 public school boys. The Times was apparently gung-ho on swatting flies, even putting an anti-fly propaganda cartoon in their masthead:


I don't know who the fly-swatter is supposed to be, but I like to imagine it's the paper's very angry editor and he's picturing the giant fly as either a State Supreme Court Justice or a milk-man.

And speaking of angry Tacomans, if you automobile owners won't stop tearing up Commissioner Woods' gravel roads with your excessive 25 MPH speeding, then there's going to be arrests!


By unanimous consent, the city council today issued a proclamation to automobile owners in Tacoma, warning them that wholesale arrests of speeders would occur hereafter on the Pacific avenue and South Tacoma boulevards.

Commissioner Woods recently improved both roads with gravel. He intends to roll them and spread oil on them this summer. Speeding automobiles have torn up the roads so badly, he declared today, that some action must be taken.

The council decided to put special speed officers on both boulevards, and to arrest any person, irrespective of "pull," official capacity, or prominence, who dares to exceed the 20-mile limit.

Finally, I like their spartan meteorological info box:

WEATHER Tacoma: Fair; State: Fair

Fair enough.

End of post.