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History Mystery: “Tacky Party”

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Ohio River Project: "Tacky Party" of Ballard County: MCA.1990ph2.10MCA10

Ohio River Portrait Project: “Tacky Party” of Ballard County: MCA.1990ph2.10MCA10 (Click to enlarge)

Years ago, when KHS staff was traveling through the Ohio Valley to scan personal family items for our Ohio River Portrait Project, we were not prepared for the wonderfully fun items that would come our way. We’re used to the stoic studio portraits, and the pleasant landscapes/cityscapes, but catching a glimpse of silliness in an antique photograph always gives us a huge treat. It reminds us of the human side of our ancestors. They loved parties and having a good time, just as much as we do today. Our special History Mystery treat for today was originally labeled as the “Tacky Party” and contributed by Kathleen Rollins of Ballard County. It appears that many attics were raided to provide costumes for this wonderful party. To the young girls in this photo, they considered the clothing of the 19th century to be “tacky” and worthy of a party in their honor. It makes me wonder – whose attics were raided? Their Mother’s, Aunt’s, or most likely, Grandmother’s attic as some of these dresses appear several decades old in relation to the age of the girls in the early 1900s. Of course, families did not acquire new clothing at the same rapid rate we do under the ease of modern manufacturing. This fact makes dating photographs a tricky business as some of the subjects could be wearing fashions from ten years prior, or even earlier. Not only does out mystery component lie in the style of the clothing worn by these young ladies, but also in their identity, and the nature of this party in general. Specifically, have you ever heard of a “Tacky Party” in your area? Was this a tradition at the turn of the 20th century, or was this a one time event – a creative idea meant to celebrate an occasion – or leftovers from a performance? Please share what you know!  You can contribute by commenting here, or by visiting the catalog entry for this photo in our Digital Collections Catalog at kyhistory.com

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    • Profile photo of Cheri Daniels
      wrote on June 11th, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      Cheri Daniels

      Wow! Thanks for this mention and link! It puts it in the same time frame I think, and suggests a lot of fun – hopefully we’ll see more mentions of this tradition so we can learn more….great find!

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