What will I do with you, pink and blue?
October 27, 2015 9:47 PM   Subscribe

The advice "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls" can be found quoted many, many places online (all clearly originating from one ur-source), attributed either to the Ladies Home Journal in 1918 or Earnshaw's Infants Department (invariably identified as "a trade publication"). Which was it? Was it, in fact, either?

Curious if it was either because of the "Pink for Boys?" section here and because the copypasta with no specific attribution (e.g. to issue number, page number) suggests urban legend. But if someone can settle the matter with an actual verifiable reference to volume / number / page, that'd be swell.
posted by kenko to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is a blog fom the Smithsonian that features a whole book on this topic.
posted by emkelley at 10:01 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Apparently, the quote is from the June 1918 issue of Earnshaw's Infants’ Department.
posted by emkelley at 10:04 PM on October 27, 2015

I think kenko is asking not "Did boys really wear pink?" but rather "Can the original (primary) source of this oft-repeated quotation actually be found?"
posted by No-sword at 10:28 PM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't see actual page numbers or the citation in this Google Books preview, but there seems to be a relevant discussion in Jo Paoletti's 2012 book Pink and Blue. This looks to be an academic monograph from Indiana University Press, so it should be peer reviewed and thoroughly cited. You'd have to dig up or download a full copy for the precise citation you want, but she talks about both Ladies Home Journal and Earnshaw's as well as a bunch of other evidence in the GB preview.
posted by col_pogo at 12:49 AM on October 28, 2015

To answer you more precisely, the exact quotation you are talking about seems to be from Earnshaw's in 1918. But a very similar statement shows up in LHJ 30 years earlier. The relevant 1890 Ladies' Home Journal is available in full on Google Books, but I can't make their search cooperate with my iPad.
posted by col_pogo at 1:07 AM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't seem to find an exact Google Books quote about that, though I can find a few references that suggest using the colors in that way as party favors but not necessarily that these are the only proper ways to designate things or that these were used otherwise. Here's the earliest I found. col_pogo's link also has an article where party favors are mentioned in various colors for boys and girls.
posted by Peregrine Pickle at 2:52 AM on October 28, 2015

Here is a link to the exact page in Col Pogo's link (p23) that says "Pure white is used for all babies -- blue for girls and pink for boys, when a color is wished." It's under the heading "Selection of Colors and Stuffs." This is from 1890 if the date on the actual page is correct.
posted by No-sword at 7:25 AM on October 28, 2015

No-sword is correct about my question—thanks for the references!
posted by kenko at 9:40 AM on October 28, 2015

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