George Bernards at 35 South State St in Chicago looks like a great place, but NO! There are no hats at this store, so this is the last you will hear of them. It was too bad, since the owner was George B. (possibly Bernard?) Friend. No hats; that was probably their downfall and they seem to have disappeared by 1923.
So on to the story of millinery in Chicago gained from the archived copies of The Chicago Tribune.
After holiday sales were heavily advertised at all the larger stores on January 1, 1919. Charles A. Stevens, Mandels, Marshall Field, The Fair, and Hillman’s ran full page ads, including hats. Charles A Stevens had a Daylight Basement ad for hats reduced from $5 to $3.95. The Boston Store had “new Hats” for $2.75
Rothschilds and Co featured an ad for hats between $3.95-$8.95 for “right now,” Jan 12, 1919. That means they would be perfect with the seal plush coats also on sale, for $29.75-$39.75. One also would get S&H trading stamps. Customers were admonished not to forget those, as doing so “would be like leaving your change on the counter.”
If one did not care so much about the S&H stamps, one might have been swayed by their ad to shop for a coat at the tonier Charles A. Stevens. Of the 5,000 winter coats available, plush coats at $19.75-$29.75 were of beaver plush, Yukon seal plush, Baffin seal plush, Esquimette plush, or Peco plush. Trimmings were of Dyed Skunk, Natural Raccoon, Natural Badger, Taupe Nutria, Dyed Opossum, Kit Coney, Moufflon, Australian Opossum, Flying Squirrel. Squirrel? It was also used as a trim for the even more expensive fur coat of Sealine, on sale for $165 from $195. One wonders if hats made of these fur trims were also made to pull the look together. Skunk around your neck, but also on your head? But is that any better than Flying Squirrel?
If a lady were fortunate to be able to leave the chilly Chicago winter and her seal with squirrel trim coat behind to head south, she would be tempted Jan 13, by the “Drooping Mushroom Sailor of Peanut Straw.” No price was given for these hats at Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co., but they also suggested the leghorn straw and the hemp hats as options for the south as well.
Whether a Chicagoan was wearing a coat or not, the skirts of dresses were narrowing. Not quite like the hobble skirts from Paul Pirotte of Paris at the turn of the century into the teens. But the issue was enough of a concern to have a front page article that the narrower skirts were slowing down trains, and physicians to express concern the style caused women to have swayed backs and “knock knees.”
Articles on fashion appeared in the Sunday newspaper. Fashions Bluebook by Corrine Lowe, from New York, for the start of 1919 shows a woman wearing a long suit with a medium size hat with small brim. A couple weeks later “Seeing the Time O’Hat.” by Corrine Lowe shows twelve hats on the face of a clock for the up to date look in millinery.
Fashions Bluebook short column during weekdays offered just a hint of hat fashion. High crown feather topped hat is shown with bottle green velour afternoon tunic dress trimmed with moleskin. The moleskin fur forms a collar which travels down the front, and edges about a quarter of the bottom of the skirt. A muff of the moleskin is the finishing touch. This Paris ensemble finds the hat to gain little attention compared to the copious use of moleskin.
For the best idea of what was fashionable in millinery that early Spring one would certainly not want to miss the Fashion Bluebook article of Feb 16. The full page coverage had about half devoted to an elegant drawing, by Gretchen Neuburger, of the mock store window with the leading hats featured. The columnist Corrine Lowe has outdone herself with her descriptions of the eight best in “Spring Straws Show the Fashion Wind.”
“Milan and lisere are the two straws of which one sees most. Lisere in combination satin or even with taffeta Is a trick which is fast becoming a habit and the central head of our window we find this illustrated by a Villitard model. The full crown of lisere is here corded with black satin which makes the jaunty one sided crown. A burnt quill caught by a jet ornament is the trimming. ”
“If you have a kind hearted profile, you may wear them, the new hats that turn back in a sharp cuff from the face. Such a hat is found in the lower left modeled of that of a woman seen at the Paris Ritz. Black tule, dotted with jet cabuchons- and jet, please remember, is playing on nearly every millinery bill- is the very thing to go for 6pm.
“In colors one sees, black, Victory Blue, (the same shade as in the French flag), much brown, quite a bit of beige, and still some henna or brick red. All in brick red is the last model -the one at the top left-which is a concoction in liscern straw, Georgette crown, and glycerined ostrich.”
The Fashion Bluebook drawings, other than the one Sunday full page feature, were usually focused on frocks. On Feb 21 two hats were the featured fashions. It seems the Napoleon style hat returns in red with black and red feathers. Glycerined feathers were essential to all hats that season.
But five days later, on Feb 26, all the rage in the US had changed to focus on turbans. First Lady Mrs. Woodrow Wilson had just returned from a trip to Paris. While abroad she obtained a high fashion turban, by Marie Gilbert, and it had created quite a stir. It was not just the style that caused a shopping surge, but the color as well. It was described as between maroon and rose, Eminence Purple. Just like that, the turban was back on top, or at least it was on page 3. It was expected in a State Street Store for Feb 28. It is hard to know if Chicago embraced the purple turban fad, as there were no drawings of turbans in any Chicago Tribune ads through March. On page 18, also on Feb 26, is the little midweek Corrine Lowe’s Fashion Bluebook, written before the Mrs. Wilson fad. It is a drawing of one wide black horsehair brim hat. The article tells of styles mostly called Directorie, “when no other label comes to mind.” Also appearing are some double brim Henry V hats, as well as “little flat Victorian things.” Those hats were probably already in production before Feb 26, but sadly many possibly ended up on a clearance table, if women favored the new turban.
Where would one wear all these fine hats? Everywhere and everyday: the theater included. Fortunately unlike when the Merry Widow played and caused a hat fad of Merry Widow OVERsized brim hats in the beginning of the decade, theatergoers did not latch onto those from Chu Chin Chow.
The available job opening for milliner employment starts on Jan 1 with Semco Sisters seeking Millinery makers $15-$25 (per 6 day work week), with working hours of 8:30-6pm. They were located at 925 W. 63rd St.
By Jan 4 there were four ads for millinery workers, Semco is still searching, but so are D.B. Fisk, Royal Trimmed Hats on Union St., and Mr. Zucker at Unity Hat works 238 W. Madison. By Jan 16 there were ten ads, the most for any day that spring, for millinery workers. There were some repeats from earlier ads, but also new ones for several, including Consolidated, Richard Hat Co, in Room 408 at 12 N. Michigan, and Marguritte on South Michigan Avenue.
In February the ads include daily repeats of Fisk, plus frequently seen Chicago Bargain House, National Hat Works on Wabash, Edson Keith, Madison, but they also add some local smaller houses. Occasionally one sees ads for the large department stores, and Gage hat.
Sterling Hat at 230(?)State indicated week work or piece work was available. At “16 cents” for straw braid work this gave the person working in another position, perhaps having moved out of regular millinery work or in an office position, a seasonal opportunity for some extra cash for many long extra hours of toil.
Then there were the now almost unknown fashion places, such as the Blackstone on Michigan Ave, Loren Miller at 4722 Broadway, Tilly Smith in the Stevens Building, and Mahoney at 5508(?)S. Halsted. Their ads mentioned millinery as well.
Thomas J. Phelan Co, (66?) E. Randolph, looked for apprentices and stock girls. A few others asked for apprentices, but the majority sought experienced help. With Easter only weeks away there was little time to train lots of new apprentices for high production companies. It may have been some companies who sought apprentices were not in a position to pay as much as bigger houses for experienced help, and were willing to get cheaper help. Or the pool of available milliners was shrinking and in desperation an apprentice might have to do.
Some ads only gave an address, such as 235 E. 47th St. and 745 Fullerton Parkway. The cost of placing an ad was not inexpensive for small operations, so the name may have proved not worth the extra cost.
One person placed an ad with little notice. The Feb 20 ad stated to call on G. F. Kauffmann between 3-7pm at the Palmer House in Room 35. If a girl were already employed and got home from work at 6pm, then read the paper, she was not likely to make it in time to meet the deadline. In the 1920 Illustrated Milliner, G. F. Kauffmann of Dubuque, IA is mentioned. The Encyclopedia Dubuque also lists G. F. Kauffmann, in millinery, with an address at 976 Main St, and in 1937 as 378 Main St., then listed as a wholesaler. Perhaps in seeking millinery trimmers for the spring season in IA, a recruiting trip was taken in hopes Chicago held some excellent candidates willing to relocate. Such a late in season search might have yielded girls who had tried the heavy workload at the other places with ads earlier, and were seeking a change. Somehow she found enough help to keep going.
Theo Ascher on Michigan Ave, Chicago Mercantile Co, and Goldstein Millinery, at 165 N. Michigan advertised for positions out of town. It was a way for out of town millinery establishments to purchase their supplies and also hope to find a pool of labor.
Mr. Weil at Chicago Mercantile at Wabash and South Water St. was the man to see for the person who wanted to work at home. “We deliver and call for work to pick up,” which certainly preserved the safety of the finished items. It was better than a woman trying to carry all this on public transportation back downtown. For piece work the cost of transportation would seriously impact the profit she made.
Hyland Bros, 84 E. Randolph advertised for yearly work for milliners to go to New York. Transportation was included. Just as Chicago had been a big draw for the rural girl to seek a job in Chicago, the allure of the bigger city of NY could also have had her move on once she had proven herself here.
It is hard to gauge how many “girls” we’re need to be hired by all those placing ads, except for William F. Chiniquy Co, 1700 W. Washington. “Millinery Workers Are you handy with needle? We could use 50 girls to work in ladies hats, either to trim or to sew crowns on brims. you can earn from $10-$20 per week. Come ready to work. ”
In the Blue Book of Commerce of 1917, under Section 22 millinery, there are four companies listed as wholesale to the jobbing trade. Chiniquy, plus E. Eiger and Bros at 1249 S. Wabash, R. Lippert and Co at 1048 Huron, and George Wagner at 207 N. Michigan Ave. Where the other three advertised for their seasonal help is unknown, but if 50 new hires were needed for spring by one, perhaps that meant 200 jobs for the group of four. A few days later their ad was for straw operators, which paid $40-$75 per week. This would have been astounding wages for a man or a woman, but this ad was in the Wanted Female Help section. It seems a few select women could actually make better than a living wage. Sadly this was seasonal work, even tho their ads never provided that bit of information. Only the ads from D. B. Fisk state the work was year round.
The millinery job openings in 1919 were of perhaps even more importance than some spring opportunities for the past few years. The soldiers were returning home, and reclaiming their jobs. Women’s opportunities for employment typically held by men were not as great as during WWI, but now was not the time for the independent sort of gal to look for a job generally held by a man. It was a good idea to seek woman’s work, and spring millinery held that opportunity. It was that or Western Union Telegraph, stenographer, or the potential new shortened course to become a nurse.
Leading department stores advertised heavily. The Fair was a mid-price line store.
The Boston Store had a basement with inexpensive hats just a couple weeks before Easter. The suits were “temptingly priced,” the hats were “pretty,” at $2.73. No big splashy ad for those hats.
Marshal Fields millinery was showing bright hued silks and slipper straws at the beginning of January. Red was the prominent color. Red had been all the rage in 1897 in Europe, which carried over to the US too. Perhaps it was hoping for a comeback.
Weeks later Marshal Field and Co. ran an ad Feb. 10 to start tempting women with what they would have to offer. The drawing of a brimmed hat looks like so many others, but they tell an enticing tale. They had sent a resident correspondent to the shows in Paris who sent back a drawing with watercolor to show more detail of the newest version. The small brim was even smaller in the back of a black straw, faced with robin egg blue, and ostrich feathers. It was a “modified poke shape.” No prices mentioned, but then most knew their hats like this would be costly.
It is no April Fools joke, Marshall Fields ad for April 1 is extensive in their attempt to inform the shopper about their millinery choices. The Debutante Room on the fifth floor, American Room on the fifth floor, the French Room on the fifth floor, the distinctive sport hat, and the English walking hat, both found in the fifth floor English Room. One wonders if there was space left on the fifth floor for any other departments. Of special note was the tempting tidbit that Field’s own French designer had selected the flowers from the world famous flower maker, Natalie Bourseul in Paris.
Carson, Pirie, Scott’s newest hats in February were being sold at $13.75, no small amount back then. Hillman’s, the Fair, the Boston Store, and Mandel Bros were regular advertisers as well.
For high end fashion, Joseph’s at 608-610 S. Michigan Avenue offered a wide variety of apparel. This included hats from $18.50 to $45. Not high, compared to frocks from $35-$145.
The simplest and most impressive ad in February was on page 2 of the paper on the 12th. A small box with “Vogue Millinery Number Out Today.” No picture of a hat, but of the business shield icon, with a large V in the center behind a woman who could easily have been Marie Antoinette. To be so well known as a shop that one did not need to add an address, (524 Michigan Ave), prices or pictures was impressive. “Blum’s Vogue was a specialty department store founded by Harry and Becky Blum in Chicago in 1910. The original store was simply called Blum’s and was located in the Congress Hotel, then home to Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, and other famous theatrical stars of the day. Blum’s quickly became successful, and shortly thereafter the Blums opened a second store, Vogue, a few doors down. While Blum’s sold ready-to-wear clothes, Vogue sold custom-made garments. In 1924, the Blums bought their own building at 624 S. Michigan Avenue and began extensive renovations. Finally, in 1930, they moved to their new premises and combined their two stores into one: Blum’s Vogue. Blum’s Vogue was enormously successful, expanding to several locations in Chicago and eventually nationwide. It wasn’t until 1983 when the last store in the chain finally closed.”
March brings the Spring Opening for Marshall Fields and Charles A. Stevens with extensive coverage on March 10. This was a Monday. While most people are familiar with a Sunday Tribune these days having extensive advertising, until 19?? Fields would never place ads in a Sunday paper. Other retailers perhaps felt they had the advantage in their one day earlier ads, but it does not seem to have been to Fields disadvantage to keep with their policy. Often Fields would have a full age ad on the last page of the Monday paper. On this day it is a Carson,Pirie, Scott ad. Their hat is a flower crowned sailor, one among many treasures in their Fifth Floor French Room for $20.
For the woman who liked to try her hand at sewing, and thought a hat was a worthy project, a five to seven illustration how-to article is the answer. Clotilde was the regular sewing column in the featured Practical and Fancy Needlework of March 9, and in March 16, 23, and 30, 1919.
The chance that a milliner makes the front page is slight, except if you are Mrs. Lenore Carne of Hammond, IN. Front page news for the theft of a diamond ring and just purchased Christmas gifts from Mrs. C led to the arrest of “Handsome Jack.”
It seems Mrs. C, with a husband in France, had been shopping in Chicago when she returned to her LaSalle Hotel, encountering Jack outside. They flirted, dined at a Cafe, then had some drinks, where things “get fuzzy.” She awoke at the Astor Hotel, with the gifts, her diamond ring and “Jack” gone. The nickname of “Handsome Jack” had some basis in recent history. It seems another scoundrel who played upon the emotions and pocketbook of susceptible women had ended up killing one of his victims, and was serving a life sentence in the Joliet Penitentiary. He had avoided being hung in 1914.
When Mrs. C. returned to the Dearborn St. train station two days before the New Year, she saw “Handsome Jack,” with her ring worn on his tie. His arrest led to police finding a black book of women’s names, some crossed off, on him. Providing the police with the name John Knox, his lawyer appeared without even a phone call placed by the supposed Mr. Knox. He insisted Mrs. C would not press charges. Perhaps without the black book that could have been true, as a married woman with her name on the front page involved in what might have been a serious marital transgression could hesitate to continue the unwanted exposure. Police were asking for other probable victims to come forward. The plot thickens to this story.
The next day’s newspaper indicated the trial was held over to Jan 7. Handsome Jack was dismayed at his appearance with two days beard growth, and said he would look better with a shave and a massage. His lawyer had appeared in court on his behalf, insisting he was a New York businessman and always a gentleman, caught in a “gross error.” When this had come up before the judge Mrs. C had explained the theft, but then collapsed in a faint, as women were known to do back in those days. Clearly she was spending more time in Chicago caught up in testimony, and was not getting any millinery creations started for the big spring opening she might have been planning. Luckily Easter was not until April 20 that year.
At least now for Mrs. C’s dignity, the story was buried on page 8. Of greater concern might be if the story was also appearing in the Hammond IN papers as well.
It is hard to say what happened, but it may have been the charges were dropped. Newspaper focus shifted to the death of President Theodore Roosevelt on Jan 6. What with all the news coverage for that, remaining World War I issues, Mary Pickford’s case of influenza, and the passage of Prohibition on Jan 16, 1919, Mrs. C’s troubles did not gain further coverage. The newspapers would be full of other stories that year from a race riot that went from Aug 27-Sept 3, and later the White Sox baseball scandal of the World Series.
And what of the previous “Handsome Jack?” He escaped from prison in Sept 1899 and it does not appear he was found. There was a good bit of newspaper discussion that in light of the escape, he should have been hung. Guess the newest Handsome Jack did not consider conning women too hazardous, and unfortunately neither did Mrs. C, or she could have avoided such a public humiliation. Perhaps the Jan 7 news article about Mrs. C and Handsome Jack had less attention than she might have feared. Certainly $5 hats in the ad to the right of the article from Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. would distract many women with an interest in hats.