Vintage Photography and Film Gallery

Historical Photograph Archive

Following are photographs collected from numerous sources depicting mostly young men and boys swimming, playing at the beach, lake or river completely naked and often with clothed females present.   We have made every effort to assure these are authentic, untouched historical photographs.  

Disclaimer:  The photographs and videos below were obtained from recognized and established historic photo and video archives such as the U.S. Library of Congress, the
Swedish National Archives and various historic archives.   They are all available in the public domain.   These historic materials are presented to educate and make a point.   The nudity featured is in open public places and is innocent, and, no photos or videos have any sexual orientation. 

Vintage Photo - Early 20th Century
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The photo to the left is of unknown origin, probably taken in the late Edwardian period.  In it we observe 17 boys and girls frolicking in a river as they are watched by family and friends.  The age of the boys appear to range from about 8 through 13, and the two girls present appear to be a bit older.  As can be seen, every boy is completely naked whereas the girls wear their bathing costumes.  

This provides indisputable proof that in many communities, not only was it standard that all boys swam and played completely nude, but that it was also not uncommon for girls of their age (although clothed) to swim and play with them.    It also should be considered when debates emerge about whether during the early 20th century females were allowed in the pool areas when public schools or boys associations conducted swim classes for the boys while requiring all boys to be nude.   Although the frequency of females being present can be debated, this photograph suggests that if such a scene could take place in public, then in at least some of these institutions, sisters and coed students may indeed have been allowed to be in the pool areas while the boys swam and competed naked, as well as providing some evidence that female instructors may have taught the boys their swim lessons in some cases.

1900 - The Bathing Lake, Victoria Park, London
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This public swimming park saw first use in 1845 and according to a Lieutenant Colonel that witnessed it, as many a 25,000 users were counted in its waters during its heyday.  The park was 300 feet long with a concrete bottom and diving boards.   As can be seen here, virtually all boys that used it did so completely naked.   With an adjoining park, females were often on the periphery and banks watching the males enjoy themselves, and it was reported that at times children of both genders enjoyed its waters, which given the photos below of Trafalgar Square below, it is probable that the boys did not don their bathing suits despite the presence of girls playing with them.  If one looks closed, females in dresses can be seen on a pier in the background watching the boys.

Trafalgar Square, London - 1919
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In the two photos to the left and right, we see young kids playing in the cool waters of the famous Trafalgar Square in 1919.   If one looks closely to these photos, it is clear that the many boys enjoying the water are almost all nude whereas the girls are all clothed.   The crowd watching attests to how even in large urban settings, boys swimming and playing naked with female siblings and friends was both common and expected.  In the photo on the right, the older boy on the right who appears to be about 11 years in age is surrounded by girls as he dresses, and it can be seen that he is fully nude. 

Trafalgar Square, London - 1912
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The photo below shows Trafalgar square a few years prior to the above photos.  The girls are wearing the ultra-conservative dress that evolved during the previous Victorian era, which marks a high degree modesty and concealment of most of their bodies.  The boys are enjoying the fountain in the same manner they would have enjoyed any river or seaside beach, fully nude and while in the immediate presence of girls their age.
  Of course, such display of nudity today, including any photographer that would photography the boys in such a way, would immediately be assailed upon by the authorities and the "morality police" of our politically correct society.  But a century ago, it was both acceptable and normal for boys to be seen au natural at many beaches and watering spots throughout our western societies.  

Dancing Ledge, Dorset, England - Early 20th Century

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In the early 20th century, the rocky shore at Dancing Ledge was a popular gathering area used by girls and boys of a number of local preparatory school.   As the photo to the left reveals, all boys - without exception, enjoyed the shore completely naked.  Also shown in the photo are a number of women, and in the background there appears to be families gathering, including girls around the same age, yet none are nude.

 Early 20th Century Photo (source unknown)

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Here we see a naked boy around 11 or 12-years-old at a public beach.   As reported in some of the news articles and journals of the day, it was not uncommon for boys up to 15 or 16 years in age to be found enjoying the seaside in the nude and in a mixed gender setting throughout the Victoria Era.   One woman writes of her experiences in witnessing this, as well as her favorable position towards males practicing such nudity here:

Traveller's Journal - 1882

Vintage Photo - First Half of 20th Century (date unknown)
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The photo to the left shows a shoreline with boys and girls enjoying the water.  What is poignant about this photo is the nude boy in the background.   A girl about his same age turns to look at him, and as she does, he hides his genitals in embarrassment.  This photo is of importance as it evidences what we have read in many accounts written by those that were boys during that era who had objected to being forced to be nude in such settings, particularly because they were embarrassed having their genitals on display for the world to see such as shown here.

Vintage Photo - Date Unknown
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Another photo of boys swimming on a lake shore in the early 20th Century.   There are many newspaper accounts and stories that told of how women and girls would often walk by such lake fronts and rivers as boys of all ages and even sometimes grown men swam in such state with the general response being the boys were unconcerned of their presence.   In one such story an adolescent boy said "the girls were upset because they couldn't play in the river under the bridge with the boys because we didn't wear trousers, but when we told them they could swim with us and they joined in, there was never anymore fuss.  Of course the girls always wore their suits."  

Some objected to such "indecent" exposure and called for laws banning such practice whereas others, including many of the same females that witnessed it, were in favor of letting the men and boys enjoy it nude.  Ultimately, it lead to the creation of ordinances that prohibited it altogether.

Boys Swimming in River at Bronx Park, NY - 1922
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In the photo to the left, a group of naked boys at various ages swam in the river that is part of the Bronx Park and next to the famous historical Bronx Zoo.   The photo evidences that during this period, boys swam nude at many public swimming areas, even in the US.

Mid-20th Century Photo (source unknown)
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The origins of this photo are unknown.   What is noteworthy is that this group of people are at a public beach and the three boys in foreground, one of whom appears to be about 10 or 11 years of age, are all naked, although all older males wear bathing suits.

Vintage Photograph - 1940s

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In this photo, we see several children playing on a backyard slide.   As can be seen, the girls are wearing pants to protect their modesty.   The boy, however, is completely naked.  Again, society deemed very appropriate dress for the respective genders during this era. 

Vintage Photograph - 1919

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So accustomed were boys to swimming in the nude at public swimming areas that these two boys thought nothing of walking down this open road completely naked to get to their swimming spot as opposed to waiting until they arrive to undress. 

Boys Swimming in the Outdoors with Girls
(date unknown)
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A number of the stories posted in our "Stories" section recount times in the early-to-mid 20th century wherein the writer talks about days wherein all boys that swam in nearby creeks, rivers and ponds did so in the nude.  In the second part of the three-part video documentary presented on our "YMCA/Schools Videos" page, the opening scene from the 1960 Walt Disney movie "Pollyanna"  shows a group of boys skinny-dipping in a river showing them completely naked from the back side.  Bear in mind this movie was intended to be seen by the entire family; thus, seeing boys completely naked at a river bank was considered a normal experience for anyone regardless of age or gender as late as 1960.

The two photos to the right and left feature boys swimming nude while clothed girls swim with them.  In the one to the left, an adult male seems to be monitoring the affair thus approving of the naked-boy/clothed-girl swimming situation.   In the one to the right, a girl watches a bevy of naked boys frolic about in the water.  Although this would be inconceivable during our present era, it evidences that in the 1960s and before, it was often considered to be perfectly acceptable for girls to view nude boys swimming.   

Historical Film Archive

Historic 1912 Flim Archive - European Seaside

Historic Film Archive - 1912 through 1924

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This video features rare historic footage of the European coast and swimming eras roughly towards the end of the Edwardian Era.   The footage is consistent with some of the books, journals and articles posted on this site addressing the last days on an era wherein men and boys swam in the nude at public venues, even when in the presence of females.   Towards the end of this era, virtually all men and some boys began wearing swimming trunks in public watering places.  However, consistent with the written documentation presented on the other sub-pages, there were still a few men that continued the practices established in the early Victorian Era of swimming naked.

In the video capture top on the right taken approximately 20 seconds into the video, a lone man who has just completed his swimming appears to be stark naked as he stands in front of a packed, mix-gender crowd on the rocky shore.    Then, as can be seen in the video capture
to the right taken about 27 seconds into the film, there is no question that a completely naked young man walks right past a group of men in women playing in the surf.  One cannot be sure, but it appears that at least one of the men laying in the waters may also be nude.  One woman talks to the naked young man as he passes and continues to watch him with interest; however, all seem to respond that his being complete nude and walking about in the presence of women is unremarkable and something they may have seen numerous times before.

As the film progresses it takes you to the shores of a sandier beach with dunes.   The video shows a man that has stripped naked run across the sand into the water.  It then shows a group of people including a number of young women also on the beach, but dressed in the very conservative dress typical of the late Victorian Era.   Subsequently, it shows where the man was running, and it was to join a group of about a dozen or more men and boys jumping around in the surf, as can be seen in the video capture to the left.  All are stark naked.  This film evidences the dichotomy of conservative dress of the era.   When walking about at seaside resorts and along the boardwalk, men and women alike were both expected to dress conservatively.  Men are always seen wearing hats, and never were men to expose their chest or arms.  And it was consider vulgar for any woman to let a man see her ankles in public.    Yet despite this culture, a woman could readily see a man that otherwise would wear conservative dress completely stark naked from head-to-foot when at certain beaches, which would surely get him arrested for indecent exposure today despite our far more liberal view on dress and bathing suits.

As can be seen in the video capture to the left, at approximately 1:33 minutes into the film, the scene changes to a lakefront swimming area.   The swimming area is bifurcated by a tall fence that stretches from the beach huts into the first approximately 20 feet of the lake.  The dividing line is to separate the genders, which was common at many seaside and lakeside resorts in the 19th century due to the men ususally swimming nude.   The era here is evidenced by more of the men wearing bathing trunks, although a few still appear to be nude.  However, must of the boys in the early teens and younger are still completely nude. 

It should be noted that even though a fence prevents each gender from viewing the other while still on the beach, one can see that upon walking into the lake one is only in about a foot of water when the fence ends, thus allowing the women to see the men and boys from below their knees and up.  The genders frolic in the waters only a matter of feet apart.

At about 3:15 into the video, the scene once again changes to what appears to be a shallow bay front with thousands of people at play.   Most of the men and boys are nude, and there seems to be a general separation of the genders; however, there is overlap.   Women and girls can be seen walking about areas where the males are at.   In the video capture to the right, two young females walk amongst a group of boys, several of which are stark naked.


Children at Lakeside circa 1912

Historic Film Archive - 1912
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This video also features rare historic footage of the European swimming practices as of 1912, and shows both boys and girls playing together in the water without any separation.   As one can see, virtually all boys younger than about 11 or so are completely stark naked whereas all girls, without exception, are wearing swimsuits.  The acceptability of the age of boys that would swim nude slowly decreased from the mid 19th century onward, and in this video it seems that boys that were over, say, 12, would wear suits.   However, as found in other documents within this site on adjoining sub-pages, boys up to 16 years in age were seen gallivanting completely naked with females present at certain seaside areas in the UK up through the late 19th century.

1912: Young Men - European Lake Swimming

Young Men Swimming in European Lake - 1912
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The video to the right shows historic footage of young men swimming at a lake.  Again, during this period we begin to see inconsistencies in how these young men are dressed.  Bathing suits are becoming less of a stigma evidencing a lack of masculinity and we can see several of the fellows are wearing them.  However, they are still a minority as most are nude.

Downloading Historic Document Archives

For those that desire the data files containing the documents in their original form that we uncovered in our research as well has historic video and vintage photographs and artistic renderings, link below will provide you a 392 MB compressed data file hosted by  In it, you will find 637 files in 6 folders that include most of the the original .PDF versions of entire full newspaper pages, books and journal, photos, artistic renderings and videos.  Included is the three part documentary video explaining why boys were required to swim in the nude at public schools, YMCA and other community associations featured in the above sub-page.