All the Trimmings: One Word, Many Pictures

I find the relationship between words and pictures endlessly intriguing. Sometimes I type a single word into the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog simply to see what variety it turns up. It’s a little like the best parts of opening a gift: full of surprises and meaning.  The other day, I was meditating on the holiday associations of the phrase “trimming the tree,” where “trimming” counter-intuitively implies adding to a tree, rather than taking something away. So into the search box went “Trimming,” and out came reminders of the many types of trimming the world has seen.

In this nineteenth century print, the options for trimming beards required an entire chart:

Beard trimming chart. Print by W. W. Bode, copyrighted 1884 Dec. 1. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.04422

Beard trimming chart. Print by W. W. Bode, copyrighted 1884 Dec. 1. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.04422

The “Trimming Shop” in this Civil War photograph focused on trimming wagons, adding canvas and leather fittings, in this case, probably to outfit the vehicles for use as ambulances.

Washington, D.C. Workmen in front of the Trimming Shop. Photo, 1865 April. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04151

Washington, D.C. Workmen in front of the Trimming Shop. Photo, 1865 April. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04151

The Depression-era Farm Security Administration photographs and the World War II-era Office of War Information photographs remind us of the sheer variety of materials that stood to be trimmed in that period of rapid change.

Horses’ hooves required trimming as part of basic foot care (and still do):

Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico. William Heck trimming his horse's hoof. Photo by John Collier, 1943 Feb. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d26072

Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico. William Heck trimming his horse’s hoof. Photo by John Collier, 1943 Feb. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d26072

And trimming was an integral step in fashioning the cowboy boots that graced the feet of many a horseback rider:

Trimming excess leather from sole. Cowboy bootmaking shop, Alpine, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee, 1939 May. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a26157

Trimming excess leather from sole. Cowboy bootmaking shop, Alpine, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee, 1939 May. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a26157

In highlighting U.S. industry and, possibly, international trade relationships, the Office of War Information illustrated the trimming process that went into forming bars of pure tin made from South American ore:

Production. Tin smelting. "Bars" of pure tin are trimmed and cleaned before removal from the molds in which they were formed in a Southern smelter. All the trimmings are returned to the "pot boilers" for remelting. The plant, finest and most modern in the world, extracts the pure metal from South American ore. Photo by Howard Hollem, 1942 July. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b07656

Production. Tin smelting. “Bars” of pure tin are trimmed and cleaned before removal from the molds in which they were formed in a Southern smelter. All the trimmings are returned to the “pot boilers” for remelting. The plant, finest and most modern in the world, extracts the pure metal from South American ore. Photo by Howard Hollem, 1942 July. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b07656

Even as the Office of War Information promoted production, it also conveyed messages about reducing consumption, providing an insight on how trimming related to war rationing. This photograph graphically illustrated War Production Board specifications about the “trimming allowance” permitted in wartime dress manufacture, a visual “story of saving yardage by controlling the trimming allowance” by comparing two dresses:

All dresses shall consist only of cloth sufficient for the body basic and the trimming allowance. The trimming allowance for non-transparent materials shall be limited to 700 square inches for all sizes.... Photo, 1943. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b38277

All dresses shall consist only of cloth sufficient for the body basic and the trimming allowance. The trimming allowance for non-transparent materials shall be limited to 700 square inches for all sizes… The original dress at the right uses three and seven eighths yards of thirty-nine inch width material. By eliminating the pleating above the hem (right), a half yard of 700 square inches of thirty-nine inch width material was saved in the dresses at the left, which conforms to the order. Photo, 1943. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b38277

A couple of years earlier, FSA photographer John Collier captured the fashion whimsy of the moment: the detachable fur trimming on the “Daniel Boone hat” seen in this New York City store window:

Store dummy displaying Daniel Boone hat, fur trimming detachable, suitable for auto aerial plume (advertisement). Amsterdam, New York. Photo by John Collier, 1941 Oct. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33536

Store dummy displaying Daniel Boone hat, fur trimming detachable, suitable for auto aerial plume (advertisement). Amsterdam, New York. Photo by John Collier, 1941 Oct. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33536

The Matson Collection, a rich source of photographs of the Middle East in the early twentieth century taken by photographers from the American Colony based in Jerusalem, also features a variety of trimmings.

The tree trimming documented in the collection were of the type that left the tree barer, rather than more adorned, whether the tree stood short or tall:

Trimming olive trees in Palestine. Photo by American Colony Photo Dept., between 1934 and 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/matpc.16614

Trimming olive trees in Palestine. Photo by American Colony Photo Dept., between 1934 and 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/matpc.16614

Carmel and Haifa. Trimming palms near Haifa. Man at top of tall tree. Photo by American Colony Photo Dept., between 1920 and 1933. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/matpc.15373

Detail of Carmel and Haifa. Trimming palms near Haifa. Man at top of tall tree. Photo by American Colony Photo Dept., between 1920 and 1933. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/matpc.15373

Lamps were also subject to trimming—likely a not inconsiderable task given the number of lamps hanging in this grotto:

Bethlehem, Church of Nativity. The Grotto front view with Greek monk trimming lamp. Photo by American Colony Photo Dept., between 1939 and 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/matpc.22413

Bethlehem, Church of Nativity. The Grotto front view with Greek monk trimming lamp. Photo by American Colony Photo Dept., between 1939 and 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/matpc.22413

One word, so many applications–and a wealth of pictures to explore!

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2 Comments

  1. Gail Petri
    December 22, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Aren’t words wonderful! Amazing what you found. Love the post. Miss all of you!

  2. Pixel Wrangler
    December 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Of course, there’s “trimming one’s sail” – the adjustment of sails, and rigging, with reference to wind direction and the course of the boat … which could be either “adding” canvas to the wind, or “reducing” (taking away) the amount of canvas 😉

    (I have NO idea if this html will work in the comments 😉

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