A Teenage Girl from 1916


A young lady living in Orangetown in 1916 would have lived during a time of great change in our country. There were new ways of traveling, communicating and manufacturing that would have made her confident that progress would improve the lives of all. Tappan in 1910 straddled the waning agricultural era and the Industrial Revolution. Four local manufacturers - one of 'Cereo' breakfast cereal, one of oils and lubricants, one of pipes and one of artificial flowers employed the local population. Eighteen carpenters, nine teachers and seven dressmakers lived and worked in town. With the beginning of the age of communication, three telegraph operators and one telephone operator lived in the hamlet as well as one reporter, four printers, a typist, two stenographers and one department store detective. In 1911 Mr. H.N. Atwood flew his Bi-Plane from Nyack creating quite a stir and beautiful railroad stations were welcoming trains from Blauvelt to Tappan. Some families had telephones, several households shared the same telephone wires called party lines and often secretly listened to one another's calls. The family may have listened to the early recordings on the Victor label of the great American soprano, Lillian Blauvelt of the local Blauvelt clan.


Early films were being shot in Tappan in a rented property by Helen Gardner. A major screen presence during the silent era she established her own production company in 1912 and our young lady may have been selected as an extra for Cleopatra. George W. Springsteen, a local photographer from Pearl River who left behind a rich pictorial legacy, might have taken her portrait. By 1900 more girls than boys were graduating from High School; she might have attended Nyack High School or Tappan Zee High School. Many girls continued their education in women's colleges or state universities that accepted both men and women. The Sunday School Room at the Reformed Church, now the Lecture Room, was wired for electricity in about 1910, and housed the Tappan Library, which was open, 'on such days and evenings as to not interfere with church use' of the space. She might have been involved with the 76 Dramatic Club, performing in plays at the local firehouse that also hosted minstrel shows and dances. Twice a year for a week a popular medicine show set up in an empty lot on Brandt Avenue. Magic tricks, trained birds entertained the crowds. By 1910, six percent of the doctors in the country were women. Our young lady might have pursued studies to become a nurse and may have worked overseas for the Red Cross during World War I. By 1913, women had been working for suffrage for over fifty years and it would not be until August 26th, 1920 that women would officially win the right to vote.


She would have spent her leisure time swimming in the Haring-Outwater Mill Pond. Tappaners skated on the pond during the winter and played games of buck, a kind of hockey. She would have watched the ice cutting and the filling of the ice house. She and her friends would have been interested in embroidery, flower pressing, reading, writing poetry and bicycling, a new rage that introduced the split skirt. Miss Perry would have worn a walking suit, or a tailored jacket and a skirt, with a shirtwaist or blouse. She would have worn a hat and leather dress boots that needed to be fastened with a buttonhook. When war broke out in Europe in 1914 local residents rallied to the cause of democracy serving as troops, buying Liberty Bonds and contributing towards ambulances for the Red Cross.With the onset of World War I her life would change, as would her view of the world outside of Orangetown.