Bessie McCoy, the Yama Yama Girl

Have your Halloween costume picked out yet? Why not go dressed as Bessie McCoy, the original Yama Yama Girl? 

“STRING TO FORTUNE LEFT THE ‘YAMA GIRL’, ” The Day Book (Chicago, IL), April 24, 1916

During the 1910s, the Yama Yama Girl costume was all the rage. But who was the Yama Yama Girl and why did people dress up as her? Stage actress and vaudeville performer Elizabeth G. McEvoy (also known as Bessie McCoy), was even better known as the Yama Yama Girl in newspapers and magazines in the early 20th century.  You might also know her as Bessie McCoy Davis or Mrs. Richard Harding Davis.  Her marriage to the American war correspondent and journalist, dramatist, and fiction writer lasted until his sudden death in 1916. 

Richard Harding Davis,” New York Herald (New York, NY), March 19, 1922

Bessie was granted the Yama Yama Girl nickname because of her captivating performance of the Yama Yama Man, a song about a fictional bogeyman written for the 1908 Broadway show, The Three Twins, by M. Witmark & Sons with music composed by Karl Hoschna and lyrics by Collin Davis.  Donning a satin Pierrot clown costume with floppy gloves and cone hat, Bessie’s performance and costume were widely emulated and dressing up as a Yama Yama Girl for Halloween became the latest fad. 


“The Yama-Yama Girl,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), May 6, 1934

For more Halloween in the news, be sure to check out our Topics in Chronicling America guide to finding articles related to the holiday. And definitely check out the Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources guide. Have a happy and safe Halloween! 


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