The Spruce Girls: Ladies wearing spruce veneer bathing suits in 1929

Boban Docevski
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Grays Harbor County was, and still is, famous for its wood industry. Cities like Aberdeen and Hoquiam developed mostly because of the lumber. During the first quarter of the 20th century, Grays Harbor was considered as the biggest lumber-producing and lumber-shipping region in the world.

Timber comes in every shape and size here. From huge logs to tiny planks, from thick wooden beams to thin spruce veneer. Apparently, somebody back in 1929 thought that wood veneer sheets could be used as a bathing suit material! It doesn’t sound practical, but that didn’t stop people from the Gray Harbor Lumber industry an advertising campaign featuring the “Spruce Girls”. The main goal of the campaign was to promote the products of the wood industry and to make the whole region more popular. The images shown here were taken during Grays Harbor “wood week” event, in the summer of 1929. All photos are obtained by the University of Washington Flickr account.

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Two “Spruce Girls” standing on the beach wearing spruce veneer bathing suits, probably near Hoquiam, Washington.

Spruce veneer bathing suits were described as simple, cheap, and easy to make, yet fashionable and modern. In a way, they were promoting the DIY (do it yourself) and recycling method of creating things. In one of the promotional videos, a girl is explaining how her father completed building a house and he had some leftover veneer. She used that veneer to make her own bathing suit.

According to one Popular Science magazine article, the suits were quite trendy and durable:

“[Wooden bathing suits] are the latest novelty for use on the bathing beaches. Fashioned of thin spruce, they are said to be practical as costumes and also are sufficiently buoyant to encourage a timid swimmer to take a plunge. So far, none of them has warped or cracked.”

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“Spruce Girls” on beach wearing spruce wood veneer bathing suits during “Wood Week” to promote products of the Gray Harbor lumber industry, Hoquiam, Washington.

 

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Three “Spruce Girls” wearing wood veneer bathing suits sitting under an umbrella and holding wooden boards shaped like feet, Hoquiam, Washington.

 

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Five “Spruce Girls” wearing spruce veneer bathing suits standing on railway car, possibly Washington State.

 

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Three “Spruce Girls” wearing wood veneer bathing suits holding an umbrella and wooden boards shaped like feet, Hoquiam, Washington.

 

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“Spruce Girls” in spruce veneer bathing suits at the beach playing in the surf, probably near Hoquiam, Washington.

 

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Four “Spruce Girls” wearing wood veneer bathing suits standing in the surf, Washington State.

 

The girls in the pictures look happy and satisfied with their flimsy wooden suits, but only they know if they were really comfortable. The question that comes to mind is: where these spruce veneer bating suits also useful as life vests?