Easter in 1914 Atlanta

From local newspapers and magazines alone, you might never realize that Easter in 1914 Atlanta had any religious significance whatsoever. Retailers seized the coming of spring to push the latest styles of clothing for men, women and children with nary a word about Christianity or church services. It was all about fabrics, new colors and the accessories the newest fashions required to set them off.

 

Even better for local merchants were new and growing traditions. H. G. Hastings asked, “Will you do your share in the growing and beautiful custom of sending a floral remembrance to a friend for Easter?” People were urged to use the latest technology by calling in their orders, which were available for two daily delivery services. Sweet smelling pots of hyacinths at 25 cents to $1 were considered the best plant for Easter. Al-though Easter lilies appeared in some store advertising, Hastings didn’t suggest them.

 

Commercialization also extended to sweets. City drugstores had apparently endless supplies of sugar candy rabbits, ducks and chickens. Were these the forerunners of our Peeps? The major chain of Jacobs Pharmacies promised a free bag of Easter Candy Eggs to every customer at its 11 stores. There were also large candy rabbits, Kewpie Doll candy and beribboned baskets filled with candy eggs for 10-25 cents. For adults, there were the Grand Opera Libretto chocolates, Whitman’s and “$ a pound” boxes at the elegant Peachtree Street stores of the local Nunnally Candy factory, whose motto for the holiday was, “To please you pleases us.” While getting sweets, you could also buy Easter flowers at a Nunnally store across from the ritzy Piedmont Hotel.

 

Flowers, candy and other gifts, however, meant nothing if you didn’t have new spring clothing and accesso-ries. This applied to men and children as well as ladies. Men were urged to get new suits, shoes and especially hats, which seemed to change yearly in accepted styles in a time when everyone wore them daily. Even little boys had to have the latest Norfolk jacket with matching knickers.

 

Women were really the ones who had to be careful. Colors, styles, materials, lengths of skirts and jackets, and hats changed almost every year at this time. You could make all the right choices for your Easter suit or dress and ruin it totally by failing with the accessories. High’s Dept. Store declared that its silk dresses for April came in “finest chiffon taffeta, poplins, faille, Jap Crepe, and bengaline—plain, self and elaborately lace trimmed, long, medium and short sleeves—1, 2 and 3-tiered skirts and others in bunched effects, corkscrew and ruffles.” And that was only the silk dresses, which further required appropriate gloves, shoes, hat decora-tions, stockings for the newly exposed ankles of the shorter skirts that year, face powders, perfumes and other makeup. It was a minefield of possible fashion faux pas.

 

And where did all this clothing mania end up? Easter Sunday church service, of course. After the major At-lanta churches downtown and along Peachtree and Whitehall ended their services, there was an Easter pa-rade as Atlantans marched along the pavements to their waiting carriages or grand automobiles in the Atlanta Easter of 1914.

 

– Dick Funderburke