Top of page

Bessie McCoy, the Yama Yama Girl

Share this post:

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! 


Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.