Cypress Gardens in Life Magazine 1944

This is a January 1944 issue of Life magazine with a short pictorial article on a pair of female employees of Cypress Gardens.

The article features Tee Matthews and Bobbie Chambliss, both employees of Cypress Gardens in the 1940s. They were models for the park, dressing in the southern belle dresses that would help make Cypress Gardens famous worldwide. The article mentions that Tee Matthews was voted “Queen of the Range” by bomber pilots at nearby Avon Field.

During World War II, local military personnel would visit Cypress Gardens to see the gardens, the models and the water ski shows put on by locals.

The photos were taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, one of Life’s most important photographers. Eisenstaedt photos were featured on the cover of Life 90 times and thousands of his photos appeared in the magazine between 1936 and 1972. Unlike most news photographers in the 1930s and 1940s, he used a Leica camera and 35mm film, which gave him greater flexibility and portability. He’s considered to be one of the innovators of 35mm photography.

Eisenstaedt’s most famous photo was V-J Day in Times Square, the iconic image of a US Navy sailor kissing a random woman in New York’s Times Square on V-J Day (Victory over Japan) at the end of World War II. Prior to coming to the US, Eisenstaedt had served in the German Army during World War I and was a press photographer documenting the early days of World War II, including documenting the first meeting of Hitler and Mussolini.

Because they were Jewish, he and his family took an opportunity to leave Germany and moved to the US. They arrived in New York in 1935. By the next year, Eisenstaedt was hired by Henry Luce, Life’s owner, to be one of the first regular photographic contributors to the new format of the magazine. Prior to 1936, Life was a humor magazine. Purchased by Luce, its format was completely changed to become a large format photojournalism magazine. Due to the work of photographers such as Eisenstaedt, Life quickly became one of the most influential magazines in the mid-20th Century.