** American boys first communion suits : 1920s

Individual American First Communion Suits (1920s)

Figure 1.--This postcard-back portrait shows an unidentified American boy with his First Communion prayer book. He wears a shirt and tie, short pants, black long stockings, and high-top shoes. It is undated, but the AZO four square stamp box dates it from the mid-1920s. We think it was probablt taken during the 1920s, but the early-30s is a possibility. Notice the obviously urbsn setting. He is probably a second generatioin immigrant boy.

We see American boys in the 1920s wearing all kinds of different outfits for their First Communion. Many of the boys like the 1910s wore suits, modtly dark suits. We also see boys wrearing blouses and tieds with both bows and ties. Ties and shirts were becoming more common, but a number of boys wore blouses, especially in the early years of the decade. We note boys wearing either short pants and knickers. Knickers were also common in the 1910s, but short pants were an innovation. We do not see many boys wearing either knee pants or long pants. Boys commonly wore long stockings which were considered more forman than knee socks. High-top shoes were still common, but by the end of the decade we begin to see more loe-cut shoes.

Unidentified Siblings(about 1920)

This American cabinet card portrait has no accompamying information. It is a new style cabinent card appearing around the turn-of-the century, many of which did not indicate the studio or the location. The boys look to be wearing Norfolk jackets wuthout the pleating and with knickers and black long stockings. They have bpw ties which cover their collars. Their little sister wears a white junior wedding dress and veil with white long stockings. The clothes and the style of the mount suggest it was taken round 1920. It could be the late-1910s or early-20s. We would guess the early-20s because the boys are wearing low-cut shoes. It looks like only the girl is doing her First Communion, but her older brothers were photographed with her. The children look to be about 6-11 years old.

Unidentified Children (early 1920s)

I think we may have posted this image elsewhere on HBC, but cannot yet track it down. When we do we will make the appopriate links. All that we are sure about is that it is a group of American children doing their First Communion. We are not sure who the four children are or their relationship. The girls are dressed similarly, but the boys are dress quite differently. One boy wears a black suit white the other a white suit. The portrait is undated, but we would guess the early 1920s. The late 1910s is possible, but the early 1920s seems more likely to us.

Frank Sinatra: New Jersey (1923)

This New Jersey boy will be instantly recognizable to every American. He is from Hoboken and had his portrait taken I believe in 1923 at 7-8 years old. He wears a dark single breasted, above the knees knickers suit. He has a large Eton collar with a collar and sleeve bow.

Unidentfied Twins: South Bend Boys (1923)

This first communion portrait shows two unidentified boys. As they are addressed identically, thery are presumably brothers, apparently fraternal twins. We know they were from South Bend, Indiana. And because of the placard we know it was 1923. The boys war white sailor tops, note they are not blousewith white knee pants, long stockings and shoes. Here they are holding flowers. They look to be about 8 yeras old, a little older than thev age for modern first communions. We cant't read the studiuo name, something like Polo???. These would haver been special first communion outfits, not what the boys generally wore when dressing up, especially the white long stockings.

Unidentified Church (1924)

A HBC readerv found this first communion photo in an antique shop in Madison, New York not far from Colgate University. It is marked 1924 on the back but with no designation of location. I suspect it comes from the northeast--either upper New York state or New England. Most of the items in this shop is from this area, we were informed. The children (about 8 or 9 years old) comprise quite a large class of first communicants--obviously from a substantial Catholic church, which probably indicates a city such as Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Boston, or Manchester, New Hampshire. Both the boys and girls are dressed entirely in white--white dresses or white short trousers suits with white long stockings and even white shoes. Such clothes would seem to indicate a reasonably well-off community who wanted their children to look good in the picture. But of course the clothes were also dictated, I suspect, by the conservative traditions of the parish or diocese. In a few cases you can detect the white supporters under the boys' shorts. The boys seem to be carrying red glass votive candles mounted on brass stands.

Cleveland Brothers (mid-1920s)

Here we see three boys, at lesr two of which look to be brothers. We think they are doing their First Communion , but we are not positive. Notice the rosaries and missals. It is unusual for three brothers to do their First Commumion together because of age differences. They biys look to be about 7-12 years of age. They wear matching single breasted jackers suits, butonaires, full-cut knickers, and long stockings. We think that the low-cut help date the portarit to the mid-1920s. The pirtait was taken by the Corlet studio in Cleveland, Ohio. It came with an art deco paper frame tand. .

Unidentified Polish-American Boy: New York (1926)

This photo shows a boy posing at his First Holy Communion in 1926. It is in a tri-fold holder. He wa a boy from a Polish immigrant family. He wears a dark knickers suit, a popular choice for First Communion because it could be wrn for other occassions. Notce the commemorative pollow. The embroidery reads, "Moja Pierwsza Komunia 1926 SW." We are not sure what the first two words mean, perhaps a family name or village/town in Poland. Komunia is of course Communion and 1926 is the date. The portrait is by W.A. Grzelak at 1114 Broadway, Buffalo NY. Almost certainly he was born in Poland and his parents in Poland.

John Czechatowski: Polish-American Boy (1928)

John Czechatowski had his first Communion portrait taken in 1928. The candle he holds was epecially common in German First Communion portraits. There are several interesting aspects to the portrait. The name is obviously Polish. American Catholics in the 1920s were primarily Irish or Eastern/Southern European ethnics. Poland was of course a predominantly Catholic country. His family would have migrated in the late-19th or early 20th century. We do not know where he was from, but probably a large mid-Western industrial city. He wears a greyish knickers suit with black long stockings. The suit easily could have been worn in the 1910s, but the lw-cut shoes are a good inicator of the 1920s. This colorized studio portrait was printed in post card format. The white border is another indicator of the 1920s although e see some from the late 1910s. Hehas a rather severe hair cut, cropped close on the sides.

Unidentified Boy (late-1920s)

This postcard-back portrait shows an unidentified American boy with his First Communion prayer book (figure 1). He wears a shirt and tie, short pants, black long stockings, and high-top shoes. Ty looks like button-on sxhorts wuith a self belt. The snazpshot is undated, but the AZO four square stamp box dates it from the mid-1920s. We think it was probablt taken during the 1920s, but the early-30s is a possibility. The high-top shoes and long stockings were more common in the 1920s than the 30s. Notice the obviously urbsn setting. He is probably a second generatioin immigrant boy.

Unidentified Polish Boy (1929)

This framed portrait shows a Polish-American boy in his First Communion suit in 1929. We know he is Polish because he is posed next to a pillow with sewn expression 'Pamiatka 1929'. That means suvenir or keepsake in Polish. Notice there is also a candle on the table. They were commonly used for First Communion in both Poland and Germahy. The portrait measures about 9 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. The studio was W.A. Grzplak in Buffalo, New York. The photographer also seems to be Polish, a good indicator of how Poles and other immigrant groups were beginning to eter te economic mainstream. Poles settled in large numbers in the industrial cities of New York, Pennsylvania, and the Midwest. The boy wears a double-breasted knickers suit. Notice the sleeve commemorative sleeve ribbon. The knickers were standard for Anerican boys at the time. He wears long stockings with his suit. Knee socks became more common in the 1930s.


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Created: 9:22 PM 5/3/2010
Last edited: 4:29 AM 3/9/2020