Nevin Sitler’s history of St. Petersburg relates the true story about the tongue-in-cheek Purity League, and their role in a publicity campaign bemoaning the presence of “Sea Vamps” in tiny one-piece swimsuits. “Through a mix of practical jokes and pure sensationalism, propaganda guru John Lodwick and Mayor Pulver devised the St. Petersburg Purity League. Members of the spurious organization reportedly felt it was their duty to extend the League’s puritanical values to St. Petersburg’s shores. Supposedly outraged at the nearly nude nubile woman (sic) parading on the sandy playgrounds in their newfangled one-piece suits, Purity ‘members’ insisted on moral enforcements and inspections. The mayor was very happy to oblige, and as planned, word of the swimsuit shakedown made national news.”
Articles ran with headlines like “Wives Ask Mayor to Shield Their Husbands from Wiles of Sea Vamps,” Fort Wayne Journal Gazette; “Wives Ask Mayor to Shield Hubbies from Sea Vamps,” Danville Bee; and “Help! Sea Vamps Capture St. Pete’s Bachelor Mayor,” Racine Journal News.
The following press release ran in the New York Times and Reno Evening Gazette, among others:
FLORIDA PURITY LEAGUE MOVES “TO PROTECT THE MARRIED MEN.”
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA., Jan 25 – Mayor Frank Pulver had a request
today from the St. Petersburg Purity League that he appoint a bathing suit inspector, a formal communications from the organization stating that “the league intends to protect the married men from the wiles of the sea vamp.” The Mayor said he would personally visit the beach and look ‘em over.
See the true St. Petersburg swimsuit conspiracy story in Sunshine City, the musical.