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In the 1880s sea bathing was extremely popular. Women's bathing suits were typically heavy black wool dresses, weighing 20 pounds or more when wet.
Men's suits resembled long undergarments. Bathers ventured into the surf while holding onto ropes anchored to wooden poles driven into the sand.
This view shows the earliest bathing houses on the Santa Monica beach. Watkins made a number of trips to Southern California in the 1870's and 1880's. He documented the extensive agricultural industry and the towns of Los Angeles and San Diego. Watkins also thoroughly photographed the California Missions giving us an important early record of these structures.