#656: The Royal Order of Flappers

July 6th, 2016

“A girl who likes a good time, of course.”

“A girl who likes freedom in dress.”

“A girl who does as she pleases.”

“A girl who is young, naturally.”

Thus spaketh 17-year-old High Priestess Margaret Persell when two members the Royal Order of Flappers burst into the office of Chicago Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson to demand the city shut up those lousy ministers.

“You see, it’s all wrong,” flapper Yvonne Vigneault told the Chicago Tribune reporters on April 17, 1922. “The ministers certainly don’t have young girls of their own or they wouldn’t talk that way.”

Being a pair of blushing violets who knew they were the berries, the teenagers staged the mayoral flap-in half as a cry against the hellfire/damnation sermons pointed at their legs and half as a publicity stunt for the new magazine, The Flapper, set to debut a few weeks later.

Working from the sixth floor of the Ogden Building at 192 N. Clark (the space now houses the part of the Thompson Center where Ronny’s Original Chicago Steak House sits) Flapper Publishing Co. put out seven issues between May and November 1922, covering all aspects of flapping life.

What is a flapper? The Flapper magazine (“Not for Old Fogies”) has the answer.

“She’s independent, full of grace, a pleasing form, a pretty face; is often saucy, also pert, and doesn’t think it wrong to flirt; knows what she wants and gets it, too; receives the homage that’s her due; her love is warm, her hate is deep, for she can laugh and she can weep; but she is true as true can be, her will’s unchained, her soul is free; she charms the young, she jars the old, within her beats a heart of gold; she furnishes the spice of life—and makes some boob a darn good wife!”

They offered a $15 prize (about $215 in today’s money) to each month’s best “Confession of a Flapper” story, sold sterling silver rings emblazoned with a flapper mid flap, even published a Flapper-English dictionary decoding such terms as “blushing violet” (publicity hound), “berries” (great) and “strike breaker” (“A young woman who goes with her friend’s ‘Steady’ while there is a coolness.”)

Amid creating a national flapper beauty contest and encouraging young women across the nation to organize their own local flapper flocks “to unite for good times and to put the ‘reformers’ forever on the run,” the magazine also exhibited a proto-feminism, publishing photos of women getting arrested for wearing one-piece bathing suits and issuing a satirical notice on “The Psychology of Knees.”

“For the first time since civilization began the world is learning that girls, women, females, maidens and damsels have KNEES.”

It was publicized sexuality a few months after a Chicago man broke his 16-year-old daughter’s nose for plucking her eyebrows.

“My daughter wants to be a flapper,” the man told the judge. “She plucked her eyebrows. I made her stop. I won’t let her bob her hair. She combs it so it looks like it was bobbed.”

The judge fined him $5. That would be about 72 bucks today. The charge was disorderly conduct.

But for seven issues and seven months, The Flapper magazine flapped on.

In January 1923, the Tribune predicted the death and dissolution of the Royal Order of Flappers after High Priestess Persell and a Royal Order muckety-muck named Margaret Irene Gier married their boyfriends in a surprise double ceremony.

In flapper parlance, the cat’s particulars went monog, got the handcuff and became fire bells.

“Abdicates,” the headline read under the flapper queen’s photo.

Ronny’s Original Chicago Steak House is a diner-style chop shop that somehow managed to arrange a direct entrance from the ‘L’ trains at Clark/Lake. The sixth story, where Flapper Publishing Co. ran its office in a long-dead building, now house government offices for the State of Illinois. DCFS, I think.

But that’s where the barlows were. The barlows and biscuits choosing for themselves whether the bank’s closed for the brooksies and cuddle cooties or if they should barneymug any smooths, big timers or highjohns who make them feel goofy at a blow.

Whatever they did, they chose it, and they chose it for themselves.

Ain’t that just the duck’s quack?

See a photo of the Royal Order of Flappers

See the covers of all known issues of The Flapper

Meet my murderous Roaring ’20s neighbor

How my grandma spent the ’20s

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