Crazy Costumes

For some people Halloween isn’t the only time of year to get dressed up, actors, mascots and everyday folks put on costumes all year round.


 James VanDerZee, Dress Rehearsal, 1936, 874.1990

This photo by James VanDerZee depicts an actor dressed in Shakespearean garb, expressively stabbing himself in the chest. The actor’s name was Walter B. Smith, and the verso notes the address of a theater in Harlem. Smith was possibly part of the Negro Repertory Companies, or “Negro Units,” of the Federal Theater Project, a theater company that was very active in Harlem in the 1930’s.

Ernst Haas, Disney World, Florida, 1972, 75.1976

Some people may think Disney World is the “Greatest Place on Earth” but personally, I find this image terrifying. In addition to the Surrealist image of a man dressed as a cartoon character, imagining the social context for a young woman in 1972 makes this image even more sinister.

Unidentified photographer, [Two Unidentified Men Wearing Orphan Costumes], 1875, 83.2004

Finally, one of my favorite pictures in the collection: 2 Orphans. I don’t know the context of this image, and I never want to.

About Emily P Dunne

archivist, artist
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