Saturday, November 30, 2013

Laskin Lamb Jackets, 1934-1935

By about 1933, the "Grizzly" had found its form. The body was made of mouton. The sleeves, waistband and trim around the zipper were leather. Waists were belted.

Ad from 1934. Many of the earlier ones had this type of shawl collar, while later ones generally had shirt style collars. This example has raglan sleeves. 

"Wool Bolivia" was a common lining material listed in these ads, but I'm not sure exactly what specific type, or weave of wool that trade name refers to.

Many ads for this style show it worn for skiing. While ads for other jacket styles of the period show them worn in casual, or in work settings, ads for Laskin Lamb jackets show them almost exclusively as sports jackets. Photos showing these jackets actually being worn generally show them in other contexts.

Cuffs that flip up and button, so that as the young owner of the Laskin Lamb jacket grows, the jacket grows with him.

Chunky tweed and a knit cap.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ede's King-O-Fur: Advertising and Adventure

Ede's King-O-Fur understood the marketing of rugged clothing. While other manufacturers of "Grizzly" jackets advertised their jackets like so:
King-O-FUR got endorsements from adventurers and real life action heroes.

1931: Hugh Herndon and Clyde Pangborn, shown with their plane, the Miss Veedol.  They wore King-O-Fur jackets on the first non-stop flight across the pacific, from Japan to Washington State.  Read more about their record breaking, and nearly disastrous flight here.

Photo of the Miss Veedol from the University of Washington

King-O-Fur jackets went with Chief Engineer Ralph Shaw and Chief Electrician Arthur C. Blumburg on submarine O-12, "The Nautilus" during Huburt Wilkins and Lincoln Ellsworth's arctic expedition of 1931.  The submarine was originally slated to meet the Graf Zeppelin at the North Pole, but weather and mechanical problems prevented the rendezvous. The submarine was the first to dive under arctic ice. It was uninsulated and unheated. 
On his King-O-Fur jackets, Shaw had to say: "Wish to express my appreciation and great satisfaction with the "King-o-FUR blouse.  I was greatly surprised when it proved to be of such remarkable workmanship, beauty and warmth.  I feel qualified to consider the blouse of the highest grade material".  Blumburg said, "Having worn jackets of various types in submarines for the past sixteen years, I find that this King-o-Fur jacket is a combination of warmth and beauty.  I take much pride in showing it to my friends. I do not hesitate to recommend King-o-FUR jackets to anyone". 
More about the submarine here.

Hank O. Weber, outfitted with a jacket, gauntlets, hat, and sleeping bag all made by King-O-Fur. In 1927, Weber, "and his dog team of Irish Airedales are reported to have scaled Mt. Whitney and planted the American flag on top of the buried Smithsonian hut at the summit.  This is the first time Mt. Whitney has ever been climbed with the aid of a dog team.  Weber made several attempts, being driven back by intense cold and blizzards.  He was lost once and found in a dazed condition by a rescue party" - Santa Cruz Evening News, May 16, 1927.  Boots were custom made by King-o-Fur for Weber's Airedales to protect their paws on the ice. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Origins of the Grizzly

For those who could afford it, fur was the best material in the constant battle between warmth and weight. It was the material of choice for high end cold weather motoring garments, as it was water and wind resistant and above all, warm. At this point, leather was used mostly for windproofing, and was often found on the inside of coats as a lining. Below is an ad from 1905 for a Russian ponyskin coat.

While fur coats were warm and attractive, they were also expensive. The sheeplined coat evolved from these fur coats around the turn of the century, replacing the fur of the lining with sheepskin, but otherwise keeping the design. They generally were double breasted, with large shawl collars. The cut was also favored by coats made of Mackinaw wool. After WWII, these sheeplined coats would start to be (incorrectly) called mackinaws as well. As would happen later with the "grizzly", sheepskin (and alpaca pile) was a less expensive alternative to fur. This was especially true of Mouton, which is sheepskin electrically or chemically treated, dyed and sheared to resemble fur.  Mouton went under many different trade names which played up the fur association.  BeaverTex, American Wombat, Laskin Lamb, etc. Despite being made of mouton fur and leather, the early name for what is now known as the "Grizzly" was the "Fur Blouse". 

While most Grizzly Jackets were made of horsehide and mouton, early "Fur Blouses" truly were fur.

 The Edes Robe Tanning Company was founded c.1905 by Canadian-born St. Clair Ede. The company once had locations in Dubuque, Iowa, Saint Paul, Minnesota, Omaha, Nebraska and Souix Falls, South Dakota. Their primary business was ponyskin lap robes for carriages and early open automobiles. As carriages were replaced by automobiles, and as car design became enclosed, the need for fur robes mostly evaporated. Faced with a changing market, Edes focused their attention on their fur coat business, producing fur coats for men and women under the King-O-FUR label. Unlike many furriers, Edes took styling cues from the new waist-length outdoorsman's leather jacket styles, but made them in the material they knew best- ponyskin. 

Men's Pony Jackets by Ede's King-O-FUR. Waterproof and Mothproof.

Early jacket in the knit knecked style innovated by Summit in the 1910s.
Below:  A 1927 King-O-FUR model. Ponyskin body with horsehide sleeves and trim. Made in a then-new cossack style with a snap front. King-O-FUR advertised their jackets as being practical in both extreme cold and in the heat.

The jacket, with leather sleeves and trim and a fur body would catch on. Other companies began producing the style, modified with thick mouton panels instead of hair-on ponyskin, in the early 1930s, with the style peaking in popularity in 1937.  King-O-Fur would introduce the slogan "Not an Imitation and Not Imitated". St. Claire Ede died in 1938 and the company was taken over by his widow Louise A Ede. The company was dissolved on November 15, 1939.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spotlight on Grizzlies

With a crisp winter wind in the air, I think it's time to focus on the style of jacket that has come to be known as the "Grizzly".  Watch this spot for a new post every day about this 1930s leather jacket style for the next while. 

More details of this jacket can be seen here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Three Generations of Albert Richard Mackinaws

A brief recap on the history of the company- the full writeup can be found here:
Albert Richard's parent company opened in 1902 as a glove manufacturer, and began making leather jackets in the 1920s.  They were also known for their wool sportswear.  In the 1950s, they were bought out by hunting garment manufacturer DryBak, who relocated their factory several times, and eventually dropped the line.

As luck would have it, I have three different generations of their blanket mackinaw in my hands right now.  The one at left, a mid 1930s model made from "multi-stripe" Hudson's Bay point blanket material is my go-to winter coat out here in Bozeman, Montana.  Pictures of it can be found here:  As with many of these early mackinaw coats, it is unlined, but the early blankets were extremely thick and heavy and came from the woolen mill with a thick nap, which gave them additional insulation. Although these blanket coats have never really disappeared, the bright colors certainly do draw attention- I get compliments and questions about it all the time.   

Me wearing the multi-stripe Albert Richard coat on the left. It does its job well out here in Montana.

The coat in the middle also dates from the 1930s, but is slightly newer than the multi-stripe version.  It has a larger Hudson's Bay company label, although the cut of the coat is basically the same.  Albert Richard advertised the "Action Fit" on this version of the label in the late 1930s. I currently have it up for sale:

Here's an example from the tail end of the original Albert Richard, dating from between 1946 and 1952- probably from later in that time frame.  Albert Richard innovated the use of fiberglass as insulation in their coat linings, a technology borrowed from the construction of B-29 bombers. It's interesting that the tag puts their founding date as 1905, which coincides neither with the founding of parent company Fried-Ostermann or the introduction of the Albert Richard name. By this point, Albert Richard had switched away from the Hudson's Bay point blanket material to an unknown woolen mill's striped blanket material.  It's a lighter weight wool, without the thick nap, and with a different stripe pattern than I have seen before.  Blanket materials, particularly those by the Hudson Bay company were expensive. With the "Spun Sun" lining, Albert Richard could give the same warmth as the unlined 1930s example above with a less expensive wool. 

It was around this time that the Hudson's Bay Company started having coats made specifically to be sold by their stores, instead of licensing their fabric for use by other companies, which probably also played a part in the material shift.  Other blanket coats I have had from this 1950s period had the same shift away from thick shelled unlined construction.  Interestingly, many of these companies were also well known manufacturers of leather jackets. See this Lakeland from 1947, this Lakeland from 1964, and this early 1950s Buck Skein.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Silver Canadian D-Pocket motorcycle jacket

This motorcycle jacket was made in Canada, probably by the British Manufacturing Company (later British Cycle leathers, later Brimaco).  The basic design takes heavy influence from the Harley Davidson Cycle Champ style. This is one of the earliest Canadian-made versions I have seen.  It has early bell-shaped Lightning zippers.  The epaulettes are stitched down, whereas later versions had snaps at the end. It has a large D-pocket, with smaller flapped patch pockets.  The Cuffs zip open, while later versions have a leather expansion gusset inside.  The cuffs snap closed over the zipper to make sure they are truly closed.  The jacket has factory studwork reinforcement at all pocket corners and on the epaulettes. The silver color of the leather on this one is truly unusual- for a rider who wanted a bit more flash than the usual black.