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”