When I was doing the research for my articles on Ellen Tilton Holmsen, I happened upon what I thought was an interesting advertisement for Levi’s Jeans.
Let me set the scene.
I found the ad in the Newport News in the summer of 1950. Now, Newport, Rhode Island is one of the tonier places on the east coast, similar in nature (but in a different state) to the Hamptons, where Ellen Tilton Holmsen was orinally based.
In fact, after Ellen got her divorce, it appears that her ex-husband, Nicholas Holmsen, mainly had custody of their two children, Tatiana and Alexander, and moved to Newport. So, I happened upon the advertisement because it was on the same page as a story about Tatiana getting into a fender bender.
Here’s the ad:
Obviously, that picture is there because that Newport store thinks it will help sell Levi’s in Newport. Yes, it’s a standard picture (I found that it was also used in Hamilton, Ohio), but my point is that it gives us a view of how a successful rancher out west was perceived in 1950:
The rancher wore boots — his daughter went barefoot.
And that was OK, and probably even expected.
Of course, this was during (and after) the time that Ellen was getting making headlines for going barefoot in Reno and Hollywood, but my suspicion is that what we are seeing is the urbanization of the country. The early part of the 20th century was a time when, while women and kids, and even some men, still went barefoot in rural or small town areas, it had pretty much disappeared in the cities.
And I think this advertisement, coupled with Ellen’s experiences, illustrates that quite nicely.