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May 25, 2022

50 Vintage Found Photos of Beach Life in the Early 20th Century

In the early 1900s, people began to accept women and men could swim together or at least swim at the same time and on the same beach. Bathing rolling machines became less popular and soon began to disappear. Clothing still covered most of the body, for men and women, but attitudes in England and the United States began to relax, with continental Europe already having been relaxed about swimming decades earlier.

The Olympics of 1912 were influential in public swimming, as that was the first time women were allowed to compete in a swimming competition. This helped to make the public seeing swimming by women more acceptable, including at the beach. Swimming was now seen as part of an exercise for a healthy life and both sexes were now taught how to swim in formal lessons and classes.

The 1920s had begun to loosen swimwear rules for women as well, where it became more acceptable for women to expose themselves somewhat more than they could publicly in the 1800s. However, arrests were still common through the 1920s and early 1930s for indecency even when women and men wore long, by modern standards, single-piece swimsuits.

People in the 1930s, particularly as the Depression made other activities more expensive, began to see the beach as a pleasurable and affordable place to visit, with movements against any more socially conservative attempts to prohibit the mixing of sexes in using the beach.

These vintage photos were found by Gail Durbin that show what beach life looked like from between the 1900s and 1920s.

Edwardian group on the beach, circa 1900s

Letting their hair down, circa 1900s

Very relaxed Edwardian group, circa 1900s

Edwardian family at the beach, circa 1900s

Edwardian group on the beach, circa 1900s

Written on the back: 'Isle of Wight, 1904'

On the beach in Egypt, February 25, 1906

A sand castle competition at Hastings, 1907

Having a good time on the beach, Germany, 1907

A day at the beach, circa 1910s

An impressive sandcastle in Bridlington, circa 1910s

Another impressive sandcastle, circa 1910s

Building an ambitious sand castle, circa 1910s

Casual shot of bathing machines, circa 1910s

Edwardian group on the beach, circa 1910s

Group at Margate Main Sands, circa 1910s

Group in front of a boat, circa 1910s

Group of Edwardian children paddling, circa 1910s

Having a good time despite the long skirt, circa 1910s

Middle class Edwardian family on the beach, circa 1910s

On the beach, circa 1910s

Paddling in shallow water, circa 1910s

Relaxing on the beach, circa 1910s

Toot! Toot! from Scarborough, circa 1910s

In the sea at Margate, 1913

Sandcastle building competition in Hastings, September 1913

Family holiday at Ilfracombe, circa 1914

Happy family group in Margate, 1914

On a beach in Aberdeen, 1914

Family group on the beach, 1915

On the beach in Margate, 1915

Family holiday at Ilfracombe, 1917

'Clifford, St Leonards', circa 1920s

A day at the beach in Great Yarmouth, 1920

A happy swimming party, circa 1920s

A smiling bunch of women swimming, Southend-on-Sea, circa 1920s

Bathing group in France, circa 1920s

Building a sandcastle, circa 1920s

Casual group in the sea, circa 1920s

Digging in for summer, probably the north German coast, circa 1920s 

Group in front of bathing tents, circa 1920s

Group waving on the beach, 1920

Large group in the sea, circa 1920s

Lovely curls and smiles, circa 1920s

On the beach near Westgate, Kent, circa 1920s

On the beach with the dog, circa 1920s

Stylish beach attire, circa 1920s

Three school boys in a family group, 1920

Woman sitting in the chair at the beach, circa 1920s

Going for a bathe at Hastings, 1926


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