Bizarre and Surreal Turn-of-the-Century Burlesque Posters

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You may have assumed that burlesque didn’t get weird until the past decade or so, when a new wave of revivalists adopted a postmodern approach to the art form, combining striptease with everything from the oeuvre of Joss Whedon to science. Well, if this selection of posters from the 1890s are any indication, burlesque has always been strange. One of the specimens below, which we discovered via Retronaut, finds a lady dancing on the table with a fairly large lobster. Another particularly sadistic image shows a leotard-clad burlesque performer hanging from her ankles and being dipped in the water as a motley crew of men chuckle at her expense. “The Beautiful Indian Maidens,” meanwhile, is a somewhat horrifying colonialist artifact — and we’re not even going to touch the one about the “latest New York craze, slumming.” If what you see strikes your fancy (or inspires some morbid curiosity), there are a whole lot more where these came from: the Library of Congress.

H.C. Miner Litho. Co., “Bon Ton Burlesquers 365 days ahead of them all”

H.C. Miner Litho. Co., “The Bowery Burlesquers presenting an original burletta on the latest New York craze, ‘Slumming'”

Courier Litho. Co., “The High Rollers Extravaganza Co.”

Courier Co., “The Imperial Burlesquers as good as the best”

Courier Litho. Co., “The famous Rentz Santley Novelty and Burlesque Co. first time in America : the sensational scene, gay life in Paris, introducing Jardine Mabile Dance”

H.C. Miner Litho. Co., “Bon Ton Burlesquers 365 days ahead of them all”

H.C. Minter Litho. Co., “The Merry Maidens Burlesque Co.”

Enquirer Job Printing Co., “The beautiful Indian maidens”

Courier Litho. Co.

J. Ottman Lith. Co., “Weber & Rush present Charles Ross & Mabel Fenton in Weber & Fields biggest and best musical production, Twirly whirly”