Not a real 1920s photo of dancing flappers

This photo is used all over the internet, generally described as an 1920s photo showing some typical flappers.
Even renowned websites used it and I wouldn’t be surprised if it made its way into a few books or documentaries.

Here for instance, it’s used as a cover illustration for a book about youth culture before the 1950s.
I couldn’t find it being credited.

And here the photo is used to illustrate the decadence of the 1920s in an Daily Mail article;

The photo is also being sold on Ebay, where they generally “forget” to mention that it isn’t really from the 1920s.

But this photo does not show 1920s flappers, the photo is not even from the 1920s.
It is actually from an 1954 musical called ‘The boy friend’.
And although it shows flappers, it’s more the 1950s idea of what flappers looked like and then translated into what would look good on stage.
The photo is not a realistic, authentic depiction of 1920s people and 1920s fashion, it is not a valid historical source for flappers, 1920s fashion, or the 1920s.
The only validity this image has as a historical source is one related to the vision of the 1920s in the 1950s and 1950s musicals…

As a historical consultant and researcher I’ve found this picture many times during my work and I always felt something was ‘off’ but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
It just didn’t feel right.
So after a lot of searching, I finally traced the source and was glad to be proven right.

Let’s hope this avoids some people from using the photo as a source.

Sources;
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boy_Friend_(musical)

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Disclaimer;
Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.

If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.


One thought on “Not a real 1920s photo of dancing flappers

  1. I have stumbled upon your website today. You may be interested in the photo at https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/42432421467151226/ and many other pages on the internet. I was using this in my lessons around 30 years ago long before the term ‘fake news’ appeared as an example of how we cannot rely on such images.
    The engraver was charged with producing an image of the newly completed Bridgewater Canal aqueduct. Of course without a boat it looked like any other bridge so the engraver put one in. However since he had never seen a canal boat (we are talking 18th century and Britain’s first canal) he engraved a coastal fishing smack. Many of my 9-year-old pupils were clever enough to realise that the towrope attached high up the mast would have probably capsized the boat but this iconic image is still in widespread use in school history books and, of course, the internet.

    Like

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