Is This Film of Women in 'Scandalous' Swimsuits Really from 1898?

By Matt Novak on at

There's something about this film that strikes me as strange. According to the film archive company British Pathé, it shows beach bathers in England in 1898. Supposedly, people of the time were scandalised by their "wanton display of bare flesh". But I get the feeling that it's all a big joke. And a more recent one at that.

Have a look for yourself:

The things about the film that make me suspicious:

  1. The film is really clean. It's either the most well preserved film we have from the 19th century, or it's from much more recent times. Other films we have from 1898 tend to look really choppy and dirty.
  2. The titles have the style of a film from the 1920s or '30s, not the 1890s.
  3. The exclamation points after "wanton display of bare flesh!!!" (at 1:53) seem like it's trying to make clear that it's a joke about old fashioned swimsuit styles being scandalous.

Believe it or not, people did have a sense of humour before 1950.

Is This Film of Women in 'Scandalous' Swimsuits Really From 1898?

Some people have pointed out to me that the year comes from British Pathé itself, a respected film archive, so it must be true. But British Pathé has been wrong before. A few years back I had to debunk claims made about a film from 1922 that they said showed a "mobile phone". It was actually a radio.

What do you think? Is it possible this film is from 1898? Or is this a joke from something like the 1930s that went over our heads? And perhaps more interestingly, do you think people of the 22nd century will confuse our parody videos from the 2010s as being from something like the 1980s?

GIF by Michael Hession

This article originally appeared on Paleofuture, a Gizmodo blog looking into the future that never was