On 31 March, 1923, the first U.S. dance marathon ended in New York City but began a strange fad with sometimes fatal consequences!
Less than a decade later, in 1932, a young woman dropped dead after dancing non-stop for 48 hours in a dance marathon!
And when the people raided a ballroom during a Marathon World Championship, the promoters simple transferred the contestants, who were still dancing, into a van.
From there they were taken onto a sloop, a small sailing ship, which sailed out of territorial waters and so beyond the area of police control. The plan worked perfectly, until the contestants got seasick.
Marathon dancing competitions brilliantly depicted in the movie “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”, which were the rage in the 1930’s, were more than just tiring, and often torturous, dance sessions.
Contestants had their teeth extracted during these marathons; others got married. A few even went mad!
If you are wondering why so many people bothered to take part in these competitions, it is because the prizes were simple too good to resist – the top prize was as much as $2,000!
You may not think that large enough a sum to entice thousands of people to sacrifice sleep and food for days on end.
But remember, 60 years ago, $2,000 was a lot of money. Plus, these marathons took place during the period when times were hard.
To win or survive almost to the end of a marathon usually meant that one could become an instant celebrity. The rules of these seemingly endless dancing sessions were strict: out of every hour, contestants had to spend 45 minutes in constant motion.
Only 15 minutes were allowed for rest (not sleep), first aid and toilet needs. And this grueling schedule went on for 24 hours a day.
It was pure entertainment for the large audience which often turned up to watch. Many brought presents for their favorite contestants.
Other placed bets on the final outcome. And there were some who simple enjoyed watching the judges mercilessly torture the weaker contestants by speeding the music and flicking with towels at their swollen legs.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest marathon lasted over 30 weeks; however, in 1933, this form of ‘entertainment’ was banned in the USA.
The Mermaid by Howard Pyle is probably one of the famous illustrator’s most mysterious works, as the painting remained unfinished when he left the United States in November 1910 to travel in Europe.
Pyle never returned to the U.S. He passed away just a year later on November 9, 1911 in Florence, Italy.
Howard Pyle was born in Wilmington, Delaware on 5 March 1853.
He became a noted American illustrator and writer, primarily of books for young audiences, his work being characterized by an imaginative and colourful realism and a passion for historical detail.
He illustrated numerous historical and adventure stories for such periodicals as Harper’s Weekly and St. Nicholas.
His own books for children, included ‘The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1883), ‘Otto of the Silver Hand’ (1888) and ‘Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates’.
These, and other books, often with medieval European settings, including a four-volume set on King Arthur, assured his reputation.
In 1894 he began teaching illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry and after 1900 founded a school, where his students included Olive Rush and N. C. Wyeth.
Pyle devoted most of his later years to teaching such outstanding illustrators of the next generation of the American Brandywine School, as Maxfield Parrish, Frank E. Schoonover, Jessie Wilcox Smith and N. C. Wyeth.
Howard Pyle spent the last year of his life in Florence, Italy.
Born in New Ulm, Minnesota, Wanda Gág grew up hearing the fairy tales of her parents’ native Bohemia, in a household filled with music and literature.
Her father was an artist who supported the family by decorating houses and churches, and he encouraged her interest in art. She attended art school in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and won a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York in 1917.
Although first and foremost a printmaker (she had one-woman shows at the New York Public Library and the Weyhe Gallery, and was featured in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, New York during the 1930s and 1940s), her true fame rests with her children’s books.
Millions of Cats won the Newbery Honor Award in 1929, and The ABC Bunny was given the same honor in 1934.
Her art grew out of her Bohemian heritage, yet is distinctly her own, using bold, strong, lines and sinuous forms which make inanimate objects terrifyingly alive, and living creatures — such as her cats, her mice, and herself, whimsically engaging.
In his “Notes on the Spiral Press” Joseph Blumenthal remembered Wanda Gág.
Writing about the calendars they sent to friends of the press in the 1920s (each decorated with six woodcuts by young American printmakers), he recalled that “Wanda Gág made heroes of subjects in our printshop, to the dismay of our compositors and pressmen who thought wheels should really be round.”