The Outdoor Girls series was published between 1913 and 1933 by the Stratemeyer syndicate (later responsible for Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys etc.). It was very one of the earliest and most popular girls´ adventure series.
The Outdoor Girls of Deepdale (1913)
The setting of this book is contemporary to “Emily of Deep Valley”, between “Carney´s House Party” and “Betsy and the Great World”, “Rainbow Valley” and “Rilla of Ingleside” respectively.
16-year old Betty, Grace, Amy and 15-year old Mollie (“Billy”) decide to form a “camping and tramping club” and go on their first trip around the country in the school holidays.
They walk during the day and spend the nights at various relatives´ places; their satchels being sent from place to place in advance so they only carry with them a small alcohol cooker, some collapsible aluminum cups (and saucers!) and a few provisions for the day – sandwiches, some tea and hot chocolate, evaporated milk and sugar. At one point, it is mentioned that they plan to carry a pocket knife but they never need it – whereas chocolate candy saves the day on multiple occasions.
1912 Evaporated Milk label, Hershey bar and chocolate boxes
The term “hike” or “hiking” is actually referred to as “Suffragist lingo” and the girls, dressed in their drab hiking outfits – with “short skirts” (short for the time; i.e.ankle-length rather than floor length) that allow for easier movement and have pockets -, are asked repeatedly if they are Suffragist campaigners. They pay a little more attention to their dress when still in the vicinity of their hometown in case they encounter someone they know, though.
Many of the farms they pass in the countryside have telephones but use horse carts to drive around. When a sum of money has to be transferred quickly, they do it via telegraph.
The girls meet a peddler boy (plus a highly unusual – for the time – little girl who claims to have “two mothers”, much to everyone´s bewilderment).
Grace has a slightly younger brother. The boys wear hats in public, and one of them even has a cane (though it is considered rather silly by the others). On one occasion, they take the girls out for a soda or ice cream soda as a treat.
It is mentioned that all of the girls can swim (though one of their male acquaintances can´t).
Sears Catalogue page, 1912; three young girls ca. 1912 (found on Pinterest)
The Outdoor Girls at Rainbow Lake (1913)
Betty is given a motor boat by an uncle and the girls decide to go on a cruise along the river and to Rainbow Lake, eating and sleeping on board most of the time,though they later stay at a readymade camp on an island. They need to take a chaperone (mother or other married woman) along for this trip.
They travel light, using their smallest steamer trunks for luggage, and take 2 sailor suits each for wearing aboard, one nice shore dress and one “rough-and-ready suit for work and play”. They buy some chewing gum (only to chew aboard where no-one can see them).
On their first short trip, they stop to get a refreshment at a grocery store on shore, and drink soda from the bottles with straws. The girls are also very fond of crackers and olives.
1912 soda bottle
The book contains various seafaring lingo (galley, marine clock, etc.). They get some fishing tackle and a little brass lantern in preparation for their trip, and Grace learns how to tie various kinds of sailor knots.
They take part in (and win) a regatta with a boat pageant, and attend a dance at the yacht club. Even though it is an informal dance, there are dance cards.
It is a hot summer and the girls use scented talcum powder against the effects of heat and on their noses. Women (young ones especially) at the time did not yet use make-up, though it slowly started to become more popular. A fresh, clean, youthful look was the ideal; and powder was used to cover minor blemishes, spots or freckles and reduce “glow” (sweat) as it was considered vulgar to show such bodily functions in public. History of face powder History of deodorants
The girls always carry handkerchiefs and at least one is always looking for hers (so they don´t just keep them tucked away in a pocket or purse somewhere).
Grace has an accident when the horse she is riding is frightened by a speeding motor car.
One evening, they go to the moving pictures.
The Outdoor Girls in a Motor Car (1913)
This time it is Mollie who gets a motor car. She wears goggles to drive it. Mollie invites her friends “to mote” (a term that is not heard any more these days). They go on a tour across-country similar to their hike, only they drive, and again, they take a chaperone.
The girls carry smelling salts and camphor as a remedy to revive someone feeling faint.
And they have a vacuum bottle – what we nowadays know as a thermos bottle – filled with chocolate (cold in summer, hot in the winter adventure that follows). The Thermos company was founded in 1904 and was the leading manufacturer of vacuum bottles. At the time the books were written, Thermos encouraged the synonymous use as free advertising, later on they would try to protect their trademark but the term became a generic term nevertheless. The author obviously preferred to stay on the safe side, though.
The Outdoor Girls in Winter Camp (1913)
It is winter, and the girls go skating on the frozen river. Grace is wearing a fur neckpiece over a maroon sweater (plus gloves).
Skaters in 1913
They get the chance to spend some time in a (currently abandoned) lumbermen´s camp where they will stay in a log cabin and get their supplies – canned and fresh – from a local grocer´s . They take at least two warm cloth dresses and an extra skirt; with skirts of sensible length and leggings (rather than boots) below those; some fur pirees to wrap in and “Tam O´Shanter affairs or caps“.
In 1912, what was referred to as “leggings” were essentially spats or footless boot shafts that you wore over your shoes – not the footless tights we know today.
They are tempted to wear bloomers as they do in school gym – “more and more girls are wearing them” – but they don´t want to be see in public. They fear any “rough lumbermen” that may be about might not understand.
They do not take any light or elegant dresses like they did on their cruise – while there areexpected to be little “affairs” (events, parties) among the lumbermen and residents, they are not expected to dress up. They are later invited to some private parties at country homes.
They travel to the camp along the river – on an ice boat. They spend their days skating, or tramping in the snow, using tennis racket-like snow shoes when the snow is very heavy.
A box of Walford´s candy is mentioned but I could not find any proof that this was an existing brand.
The Outdoor Girls in Florida (1913)
This is the last volume that appeared in 1913. The girls spend the rest of the winter at an orange farm in Florida.
They switch orangeade for their standard drink, chocolate.
There are few little details about everyday life in this volume. When Grace has cried, Betty advises her to “take my chamois and give it a rub… it´s only nice, clean talcum, you needn´t think it´s powder.” (Powder, i.e. make-up, was still a no-go on young girls). Chamois is a very soft pliable leather (now made from sheepskin or lambskin) that was used to apply powder (among other uses).
The girls talk about what clothes to wear.
They need two sets of clothing – one to wear during the journey (it is freezing cold in Deepdale, New York) and one to wear when they get there (it is hot and they need light things). Amy´s aunt is making her some pretty voile and white muslin dresses for the trip. Since Betty takes along her motor boat, the girls will bring their sailor suits to wear.
Left: 1914-1918 white day dresses – right: 1913-1915 summer tea dresses