Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dora, The Sewing Machine Girl

Article from 1942, by Marrion C. McCarroll

Standing at her "clicker", or cutting machine, Dora Salvini stamps out sleeves for flyers' combat suits.

In the great army of women war workers who labor night and day along Uncle Sam's home front, there are many engaged in tasks equally as important, but less glamorous, perhaps, and certainly less publicized, than those concerned with fashioning bomb sues or wings for airplanes.
Typical of these little known war time heroines is 22 year old Dora Salvini, of Jersey City, who works on a "sewing machine assembly line" in a New Jersey factory, making laskinlamb combat suits for U.S. flyers. Expert at almost every one of the nearly 50 operations that go into the making of a complete combat suit, Dora recently won an award of merit and a war bond for cutting out 50 suits in a single day and thereby hanging up a record for this type of war production.  Because of her extreme facility and remakable speed in handling the "clicker" or cutting machine, Dora devotes herself exclusively, at present, to this part of the process.
From 12 to 15 laskinlamb skins are required for the making of a single combat suit, which is cut out in 24 separate sections by as many dies, some pieces cut by machine and others by hand.  Standing at her "clicker", Dora may first stamp out a collection of sleeves.  Then, switching to another die, she will cut out another part of the suit, and so on through the day.

At another machine, Dora demonstrates the cutting of leather tape strips which will reinforce all seams of the suits.  Expert at almost all the operations that go into making the combat suits, Dora takes a turn at a sewing machine, attaching a collar to a coat and stitching tape.

You hear little about war workers like Dora, whose job is just about as important as the munition and airplane workers because she helps to outfit U.S. airmen, like the one above, who is wearing one of Dora's suits.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Vanity Fair on Leather Jackets - 1924

The following is a 1924 piece entitled "The Golfer's Golf Jacket" from Vanity Fair.

Though golf suits are sold for golf, only one half of the suit- the trousers or knickerbockers - is ever worn for playing golf, because today the golfer wears a sweater or flannel shirt or leather jacket, but rarely ever the jacket of the golf suit. Sweaters are the obvious thing to play golf in, and the smartest type of sweater now is the slip-on, or so it is sometimes called the "pull over".  Newer than this, however, is the soft suede leather jacket which is becoming very popular with golfers, and which comes in a variety of colors including grays, taupes, greens and all shades of brown.  This jacket is made up with a knitted band around the cuff, the neck, and at the hip-line, and is not only windproof but waterproof as well.  When worn over a flannel shirt, and left open at the neck, it is very smart looking and comfortable - as comfortable as the sweater and actually affording more protection and warmth.  The Canadian woodsman's shirt in bright checks and plain colors has also been remodeled into this form - making of it a jacket opening down the front instead of a shirt to pull on over the head.  It is becoming popular with the golfer and is quite in keeping with the taste of the well dressed man. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Block-Bilt leather jackets

Block-Bilt leather jackets were made in California by the H&L Block Company. Originally a glove maker, the company diversified into leather jackets in the 1920s.  Their factory was originally at 149 2nd St, San Francisco, California, and relocated to 1563-1571 Mission, San Francisco, CA. The company remained in the Block family, and further expanded its product line to include other articles of California sportswear jackets.

View Larger Map

Ad from 1935

Ad from 1940

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monarch Leather Jackets

The Monarch Manufacturing Company was founded in 1892 by Paul Asch (b.Hamburg, Germany, d.1909). At that time, it produced primarily mackinaw and sheeplined coats. Asch was joined in 1905 by Sidney M. Cohen, (president) and in 1908 by his son-in-law, Galbraith Miller Jr. (Vice President and Treasurer). Galbraith Miller died in 1936, but  his son, A. Galbraith Miller, took over his position. Possibly due to the mackinaw boom of the 1910s, Monarch's business tripled between 1912 and 1917. In 1917, they relocated to a new factory, located at 246 East Chicago St., Milwaukee, WI. During WWI, Miller was "chairman of the war service committee of the garment industry under the war industries board and was also special procurement officer of the Quartermaster Corps" (source). They built at least four more factories in Milwaukee, employing over a thousand workers by 1922. Throughout the life of the company, they specialized in leather, sheepskin and fabric outerwear for men and boys.

Google Streetview of the building as it stands today.

View Larger Map

The sign advertising Monarch's various products is still just visible on the right side of the building.  Most legible is the word "mackinaws".

A late 1930s example of a Monarch aviator style half-belt jacket in colt leather. For more photos, see vintage-haberdashers

Monday, August 26, 2013

Crown Zipper's Wartime Innovations

Crown zippers switched over the bulk of their production to military applications early on in the war. Their collaboration with the armed forces for specialized applications led to many breakthroughs in design, which would later be applied to civilian applications.

In early 1944, Crown introduced the "two-way" track zipper, which featured symmetrical teeth. According to crown advertisements of the time, this particular zip was designed for gun turret applications, with a slider affixed to either side of the barrel of the turret's gun. The symmetrical tooth design allowed for smoother action in both directions, and allowed the zip to go around the curve of the turret.  For a photo of one of these zippers in action, see the bottom of the page at this site.  The one in that link appears not to be a Crown, however, the same model as the zip on this jacket.

One-directional chevron teeth on zipper at left, two directional (symmetrical) teeth on zipper at right.  Spring loaded sliders on both. If you run into a zipper with teeth like the one on the right in a civilian application, it was not produced until after the end of WWII.

Crown die-cast their teeth directly onto the zipper tape, unlike other manufacturers which clamped the teeth onto the tape. On one hand, it makes for a more durable product and a smoother slide, on the other, it makes replacement necessary if any one tooth goes bad. According to ads, the die casting made the production of larger gauge zippers easier.

Crown also innovated the use of multiple sliders on the same zipper tape, so that gaps could be made wherever needed. Then, as now, this was most common on sleeping bags and on tent panels. Period ads say as many as 10 sliders were used on a single zipper. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Russian Vest

The Frederick H. Sprague Company of Orange, Massachusetts began producing the "Sprague Russian Vest" in 1895. Originally made in wool with a "textile buckskin" interlining for wind resistance, they were later made in a variety of fabrics, including corduroy, broadcloth, frieze, cassimere, kersey and cheviot. Single breasted, sleeved, and women's models were also introduced later on. As the popularity of this style grew, the "Russian Vest" name came to be somewhat of a generic term for the style.  The Fred'k H. Sprague Co. fought back, trademarking the name in late 1905. Other manufacturers switched to the term "storm vest" to describe the style.  Sprague continued producing this style of vest, virtually unchanged into the mid 1910s.  I cannot find ads for it after 1916.  There could be several reasons for this: In 1916, Sprague moved their factory to Fitchburg, MA. It seems that after the move, the company focused more on their children's "Alheneeds" and "Alsheneeds" lines, and less on their outdoors and workwear lines. After working for two decades to tie the "Russian" name to their product, the 1917 revolution and following red scare in the United States seems like it would have spelled marketing disaster to their product.

The original F.H. Sprague Co. factory, located at 108 East Main Street, Orange, MA. They also produced Kno-Wet trousers, Railroad Trousers, and Sprague's Junior League Suits. Another photo of the factory, from 1905, can be found here.

A sample of the label found inside Sprague's vests.

A 1904 ad.  Bill Sewall (William Wingate Sewall) was a long time friend of then president Theodore Roosevelt. The two met in the 1870s, when Sewall and Wilmot Dow served as hunting guides for a young Roosevelt. Sewall and Dow later managed Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch in the Badlands.  More on Sewall and his relationship with Roosevelt can be found here.

Ad from 1907, showing the standard sleeveless double breasted model.

Ad from 1909, targeted at the railroad market.

A heavily worn Russian vest makes an appearance in the 2009 film "Get Low", worn by Robert DuVall's character, Felix Bush.

This style was made by other manufacturers in leather, an early ancestor of the modern motorcycle jacket.  Like the Sprague's vest, it was available with sleeves, without sleeves, and with or without a collar.  It is shown below, in an ad from 1905, with all the options, sleeved and with a collar.  Shown as outerwear, the ad copy suggests it should be worn for layering. "Prudence suggests a waistcoat for winter service under a coat of fur, leather of cloth, since in a careless moment one is apt to throw off the outer garment and suffer the penalty.  It is a garment of this character that compels one to recognize the superiority of the Danish Leather which is soft and pliable enough to leave a waistcoat without the stiffness and restraint that characterize those in this country." 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guiterman Bros. Leather Jackets

Guiterman Brothers was founded in 1883 and incorporated in 1904. They began using the Summit "Town & Country" name in 1904. In the early 1910s, Guiterman Brothers pioneered the attached soft collared shirt. They also called it the Summit. The company had a plant at 352 Silbey Street, St. Paul, MN, which still stands. They enjoyed prosperity during the 1910s, riding the Mackinaw boom of 1915. They were supposedly the first company to coin the name "windbreaker". As shown above, their "Town and Country" Coats and vests shared the distinctive double snap Knit-Nek. During WWI, Guiterman Bros. produced flying coats for US aviators. In 1928-1929, the company was purchased by Gordon and Ferguson.

Their early "Town and Country" jackets were leather lined, with a cloth shell. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Carter & Churchill Co., Lebanon, NH

Carter and Churchill was founded in 1869 by William S. Carter, after leaving his uncle's company, H.W. Carter & Sons. He was joined by Frank C. Churchill (former salesman for HW Carter), who would come to be the company's treasurer. The company was headquartered in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Starting in 1880, they produced clothing under the "Profile" label, named after the (former) New Hampshire rock formation, the Old Man of the Mountain. They registered that trademark in 1916. Early on, they were also producers of Lebanon Overalls, work shirts, mackinaws and coats. As the decades wore on, they dropped product lines to specialize in their ski clothing lines, which they continued producing into the 1990s, under the "Profile" name.

15 Parkhurst Street, Lebanon, NH

Here's an example of one of their mackinaws. These point blanket coats were popular with sportsmen in the 1920s and 1930s.  At the time, the fabric was one of the most expensive options available for mackinaws, generally more than doubling the price over a standard melton or mackinaw cloth. The label design used on this coat was last used in the mid 1930s, so this dates from before that point.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The H.B. Glover Company, Dubuque, Iowa

The H.B. Glover Company was founded in Dubuque, Iowa in 1857. They grew rapidly from the 1870s through to the turn of the century. Early on, the company was known for their Pajamas, but they quickly added shirts, overalls, and other items of workwear to their product line. By 1913, Glover was one of the top selling overall brands.

By the 1920s, Glover introduced leather jackets. Depending on the jacket ads and labels read "Tailored By Glover", "H.B. Glover", or "Glover Sportswear". Glover had an endorsement deal in 1925 with the "Four Horsemen" of the Notre Dame football team, who sported their leather blouses (jackets).

According to the 1936 article "World of Romance Behind Glover Company Products", Glover took great pride in their materials. "Most of the raw materials used in Glover Sportswear (Jackets, Coats, Ski Pants, Snow Suits, etc.) originate in the West and the Glover company in selling its goods is emphasizing this very fact. Wool from Wisconsin, Montana, the Dakotas; Mohair from Del Rio and San Angelo; Sheel leather, Horsehide, Piggrain, etc., from the great plains . . . all these find their way into Glover Sportswear. And yet not all grades of woolens and leathers are good enough for Glover garments. The selected Western Range Woolens, for example, are chosen with infinite care. The choicest portion is bought right on the range, direct from the sheep raiser, thereby eliminating costly brokerage fees and the handling of the wool in dirty, crowded warehouses."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A.T. Hendrick Leather Jackets

It interests me how many manufacturers of jackets there were at one point, from the big factories right down to one man operations. Here's the brief story of one of the latter.

Allie T. Hendricks was born on January 27, 1896. He worked as a clothes cleaner through the 1920s and into the 1930s. In 1936, he opened his own tailor shop in the one bedroom house at 1796 Trenton St., Denver, CO which he shared with his wife, Marie. Early directory listings indicate he produced leather jackets exclusively. Later ones use the broader term "leather goods". Like many small western leather shops, it seems he specialized in buckskin.

There is a bit of confusion over the name - his own labels read "AT Hendrick" (no S), but his directory listings and social security records spell it "Hendricks". He died in early 1981, aged 84.

1796 Trenton, where Hendricks produced leather jackets.

One of Hendricks's jackets. Button front, zipper pocket with a half-belt back.

Highly detailed pleated patch pockets.