Employee Christmas Party at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 1945

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

At a local fancy flea market, the Long Beach Antique Market, I found this photo of an employee party at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The image is much too large for my scanner—18 inches by 9 inches—so I can only post it in pieces.

It must have been a festive event, a celebration of the holiday and also the end of World War Two. A few people in uniforms are visible in the crowd. At the front of the room near the flag and the sparkly Christmas tree stand all the bigwigs.  I’m assuming the men are the owners and managers and a few very important staff like the head chef in his high hat.  Did the three women standing at the front also hold high positions?

What to wear to an employee party, part fun and part obligation?   Although I didn’t do a complete count, here are a few generalizations based on age. Older women were more likely to be in suits, while the younger ones wore dresses.  On average, the older women had shorter hair than the younger ones.  And while hats were scarce on the ground, it looks like older women were the ones wearing them.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

You can also see that the event was segregated, with African Americans far from the front. There are empty chairs between black and white workers to underscore the separation.

But this picture, taken from the back of the room, offers a subversive view of events. While the “important” people at the front are smashed together, those furthest from the podium are visible in much greater detail.  We can see very clearly that the African American women are beautifully dressed, with pearls, furs, and fancy open backed shoes.  In this photo, the intended status order is turned upside down.

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3 Responses to Employee Christmas Party at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 1945

  1. eimear says:

    what an amazing photo!

  2. JS says:

    I wonder if the little boy in the back was employed there or was brought along for the lunch.

  3. Bridget R. Cooks says:

    This is a good one, Lynn! I agree with your subversive assessment of the order of things: the Black employees foreground the composition. Excellent!

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