Herbert and Kurt Hender (Germany, the 1920s)

Figure 1.--We first see the boys here. The first picture is undated, but was probably taken about 1921. The boys look to be about 1 and 4 years old. We are not positive who is who, but we believe that Kurt is the younger boy and Herbert the older. Note the teddy bear which ceratinly must have been a Steifel. Image courtesy of the MD collection.

A HBC reader has provided us a remarkable series of photographs showing how Herbert and Kurt Hender were dressed at different ages in the 1920s. Their mother clealy liked sailor suits, although they were not always dressed in them. We do not know much about the family except that they were from Dusseldorf and were a very affluent family. The boys were dressed very smartly and they even had a nurse to take care of them. There is a set of seven photographs showing rgie clothing and hair styles at different times in the 1920s.


Not all these portarits are dated, but they appear to have been taken between 1921 and 1928. Thus they provide a wonderful record as to how an affluent German family dressed their boys during the 1920s. Clearly sailor suits were very much in style.


Theboys mostly wear sailor suits, although Kurt weas dresses as a baby and Herbert in one portrait wears a short pants velvet suit. As all the portraits are taken indoors we are not sure what kind of headwear they wore. In one image, however, we see them wearing soft white sailor caps with their sailor suits.

Hair styles

Frau Hender liked for the boys to have their hair cut in straight across bangs.


Frau Hender clearly liked to dress her little boys in identical outfits and sailor suits appear to have been a special favorite.

Indivual Portraits

About 1921

We first see the boys here (figure 1). The first picture is undated, but was probably taken about 1921. The boys look to be about 1 and 4 years old. We are not positive who is who, but we believe that Kurt is the younger boy and Herbert the older. Kurt is still wearing his baby dress or as I look more closely, a pinafore over a sweater. Herbert wears a very traditional white short pants sailor suit with standard three-stripe detailing. Given the traditional stle the collar and cuff trim are presumably navy blue. It looks like Herbert is very protective of his little brother. Herbert's bang are cut very high on his forehead. Perhaps Frau Herbert or the nurse was just learning to cut boys' bangs.

About 1922

The second picture looks to have been taken in 1922. The boys are about 2 and 5 years old. The portatit is annotated thus: "Herbert and Kurt Hender mit ihrer pflegerin Schwester Erna, Dusseldorf November 24" This means that Herbert and Kurt with their [pflegerin?] nurse Erna. The children are outfitted in similar, but not identical velvet outfits. Hurt has a velvet dress while Herbert has a velvet short pants suit. The trim is identcal large slightly ruffled pointed collars without bows. There is no way of telling, but presumably the outfits are balck velvet. The same trim is repated on the sleeve cuffs. The boys wear white ankle socks and strap patent leather shoes.

About 1922

The third picture has no writing but was obviously taken on the same day as the second picture. Here the boys arre standing so we get a better looks at their outfits. Kurt's dress has a contgarasting white belt. Herbert's suit is a button-on suit with very large bittons. Both boys wear patent leather strap shoes with white socks. The shoes have small decorative bows.


The Fourth picture is dated 15th July 1926. The boys look to be about 4 and 8 years old. They wear identical dark sailor suits and this time are both sporting long pants. I am not sure if this was done for for fashionable reasons or to provide the boys warm winter clothing. Theyblook like heavy wool suits, but the portrait was taken in July. Perhaps mutter was preparing for the winter season. The boys wear patent leather strap shoes and white socks with their sailor suits. They also have their hair cut in identical bangs.


The fifth picture is dated 14th August 1926, a month later than the fourth portrait. The boys look to be about 4 and 8 years old. Here they are pictured in identical white short pants sailor suits. The white suits look more approprite for the summer. This closeup of the boys shows nicely how the scarves are tied. They still have the same identical bangs, although Herbert has a little flair on his at the sides. The front fringe is now lower on their foreheads. Their hair is now the same color.


The sixth picture is undated but looks to have been taken about a year later. The boys would have been about 5 and 9 years old. They wear traditional whote sailor suits, but this time with ling pants. Like their blue suit these long whir pants have cuffs. They are worn with white socks and white strap shoes. This is the only portrait in which the boys are wearing their caps.


The portrait is dated July 1928 and is annotated 'links Kurt' The boys look to be about 6 and 10 years old. They wear matching long pants sailor suits. Although it is July, the suits look more like winterwear. The suits are wrn without dickies. The jackets have very elaborate double cloumns of bittons and there are waistcoats (vests underneath). There are brass buttns on the waistcoats and sleeves. There is an embroidered rank on the sleeve, but I am not sure what that was. I am not sure how long the boys continued wearing identical sailor suits after this portrait was taken, as it is the last one we have. The boys still have their hair cut in identical bangs.


This portraitis undated, but the brohers look about two years older so we estimate that the portrait was taken about 1930. They wear matching casual open-collar white shirts with button-on short pants. Their hair is still cut in bangs, very straight cut bangs. The portrait is also notable for the colored high-top shoes and stripped socks.

World War II

One sad note that we can't help thinking about was what happened to these boys after Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in 1933. We have no inkling of their parent's political outlook. Both boys are of an age that they would have been involved with the Hitler Youth, especially Kurt. Both are also of an age that they would have probably been enducted for military serbice in the early years of the War. Given their social standing they may have even been officers, but theu do not appear to come from a military family.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: August 30, 2002
Last updated: November 3, 2002