FrouFrou 4 YouYou

Chicago Millinery History: Marshall Field and Co. and Millinery Part 2 March 18, 2016


Marshall Filed and Co was cutting edge in the world of fashion. Millinery was no exception.

Hat selection was a fun tho perhaps time consuming process in the early years. Since there were so many choices a woman would be tempted by many, and in some situations, went home with more than one hat at a time.

Once the hat was selected, the transaction proceeded with cash or credit.

Cash or a check was a quick way to finalize a transaction. When the final “new” building at State and Washington was completed it made getting  your change a high tech event.”An extensive pneumatic-tube system, consisting of over 125,000 feet of tubing and 4,500 carriers, whisked customers’ money to the cashiering department where change was made and sent back to the originating sales counter.”

The Field’s approach to credit was very forward thinking early on in the history of the company. “It was the first store to offer revolving credit.”

Who is to be credited with this credit approach is sometimes murky. Harry Gordon Selfridge was a leading man in the retail operation. “He greatly increased the store’s advertising budget, expanded its package delivery system, and established a bargain basement to broaden the store’s appeal among less wealthy Chicagoans. He also promised customers complete satisfaction, offering easy credit, the right to return merchandise for a full refund, and numerous in-store amenities such as a personal shopping service and ladies’ tearoom, one of the first of its kind in the nation.”

Credit cards, or charge cards as they could be called, were issued by the store. There was also another approach locally. The Chicago Credit Plate Service, Inc. These Charga cards were a cardboard form slid into the metal embossed on the back frame. The cards were placed into a machine to run over the embossed part with carbon paper between the multi-layer form to transfer the owner info on the receipts.

This credit card was one where a customer could make purchases at several downtown stores, Marshall Field and Co, Mandel Bros, The Fair, Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co, and  Charles A. Stevens.


Later on the credit card had a different look. For the gold Rewards card of the 1990s, housed at the Smithsonian, an explanation is provided. “This Marshall Field’s Regards credit card belonged to Ms. Joanne Klein during the 1990s. While a store-issued charge card was once a way to extend credit to reputable customers, by the 1990s they became an avenue for department stores to encourage repeat shoppers and store loyalty by providing perks through store credit cards. For instance, Marshall Field’s Regards card granted the holder a free cup of coffee at the stores’ coffee bar. Store issued cards also gave the store insight into the consumer’s purchasing patterns and shopping behavior.”


One in the corporate color of green was a late issue:


Marshall Field and Co did not entirely endorse just using credit. They had banks that looked like earlier cards to save money. (Money one might imagine they hoped you would bring back to the store and spend there.)


Once the transaction was complete the hat went into a hat box. The most often found ones,on the market these days, are round tan/grey wood-look boxes. Some have a same paper as of the box gummed Fields name label. The gummed backing does not stay on well anymore.


If you need one of these boxes, here is one on Etsy:

They have a twisted cord handle, far better than later boxes with a string handle. The green shallow lid square boxes did not even have  a handle.  The oldest box is the one shown at the top of this blog. It is 18″round from the French Room, most likely back in the day when the big hat at a big price could be found in that most elite section of the store. The 28 Shop opened in  1941.

More info on the 28 Shop can be found in another post here, as well as on another blog, by Couture Allure:



This square hatbox is available with a hat from Fields by an Etsy seller, from Indiana. One wonders if the original owner made a trip to State Street to the Mecca of stores, Marshall Field and Co, or had the hat shipped.


Chicago Millinery History: Marshall Field and Co, and Millinery Part 1 March 10, 2016

The store of greatest reknown in Chicago is definitely Marshall Field and Co. It’s history as a shopping Mecca for Chicagoans and many millions of visitors is told in many ways. There are magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books which have been written about the man, Marshall Field, as well as the store. There is an online entry for both on Wikipedia. There are postcards through the decades. There are U-Tube films, the best of which should not be missed. Rebecca V. Larkin does more for the image of the man and the store than any other media out there.

Fashion was a top focus for the store. As Marshall Field V tells Ms. Larkin in her interview of him, “The men made the money, and the women spent it.”

Those women spent plenty of it on hats. One enjoyable way to look back in time is through the newspaper advertisements placed by Marshall Field and Co in the Chicago Tribune. The ads go back to 1871. The Chicago Tribune began in 1871.

The first spring following the Chicago Fire of 1871 has advertising in March to tempt people to shop. This March 1, 1872 front page ad collection has none from Marshall Fields in all of the entire 6 page issue. (For ease of reading look at bar on bottom of page for + sign to click to enlarge enough to read.)
John V. Farwell, a former partner of Marshall Field has his own enterprise, and he has an ad for his April 1 reopening at Monroe and Franklin.


Should one worry that Field’s store is not active? No, it has reopened in a barn that was renovated quickly just weeks after the fire. The news reports at that time indicated women were lined up around the block to get in. It may be that word of mouth, and reputation was good enough to have enough trade without advertising.

What the hat salespeople of Field’s might be concerned a bit about are two ads on March 3, 1872. On the front page Walsh and Hutchinson is making it known their wholesale house is operating, and will even provide hotel accommodations for the out of town buyers. Since so many structures burned with the fire, it seems lodging would have been at a prime.


The other ad is even more concerning for millinery competition. On page 5 the ad shows the opening of the first millinery concern in the former burned area, 258 Wabash, at Jackson. Hewes and Prescott reestablished themselves, but it is not known for how long, as no other documentation of them shows up outside of newspaper ads.

The Field’s and Leiter store, as it was still a partnership of Marshall Field and L. Leiter back then, were advertising on March 4 about special fabric goods, so women could get on track to make some summer gowns. Love the part of the ad at the bottom where one could find Butterick patterns on the second floor. They were still at State and 22nd St, in the barn.


By Mar 1, 1900 the Field’s ad was about 3/4 of a page in the 12 page newspaper. The big deal was the Silver Sale. Field’s had moved back to the Sate St location in 18__. What lady who went in search of silver would not have been tempted to look at hats as well?


On March 5, tho, the ad was one entire back page. Lots of temptations again for any woman of means to create some dresses, and trim their own hats. Veilings, previously to $.85, were available for $.25/yd. The ribbon choices were extensive. Tho feathers were not mentioned, they certainly would have been in stock, too.


A decade later ads were still used, but even better is a drawing of what is being espoused as the latest, a green sailor hat:


By 1920 the ads make note in a full page ad that Easter is approaching, and Fields has hats in five departments; French Salon, American Room, Sport Room, English Room, and Hat Shapes and Trimmings.


Finding hats sold at Fields in the vintage market is not too difficult in the Chicago area. Here are some hats from several vintage sellers showing hats:

Frocks and Frills in Wheaton,IL also is online at Etsy:

Pink beaded hat by Amy


Lilac floral hat by Marshall Field and Co.


Black hat by Leslie James



Straw hat by Mr. John


Sweet Ginger Vintage in Mayfield, WI, and also online on Etsy:

Straw trilby hat by Marshal Field and Co


FrouFrou4YouYou on Etsy:

Blue floral hat by Marshall Field & Co.


Red satin hat by Lemington


Black feather headband by Marshall Field and Co


Frocks and Frills hats:

Sweet Ginger Vintage:
Straw trilby hat:

FrouFrou4YouYou hats:


Chicago Millinery History:Political Conventions 1900-1996 March 3, 2016


The 1904 Republican-1916 Republican Convention.

In 1904, the Republicans gathered in the second Coliseum on South Wabash, to unanimously nominate President Theodore Roosevelt, who had assumed office after McKinley’s assassination. In 1908, Republicans returned to the Coliseum to nominate Roosevelt’s handpicked successor, William Howard Taft. Roosevelt challenged Taft in 1912, winning almost all the primaries, but was rebuffed by Republican leaders. Fearing violence from Roosevelt supporters, hundreds of Chicago police were on hand, and barbed wire was strung beneath the bunting of the podium. Roosevelt refused to drop out, and two months later the Progressive Party nominated him in the same building. New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson won in November. In 1916, the Republicans returned to the Coliseum, again rejected Roosevelt, and nominated Supreme Court justice Charles Evans Hughes on the third ballot.

The 1920 Republican Convention

In 1920, the Republicans met again at the Coliseum. The convention was mired in a stalemate until a “senatorial cabal,” meeting in “smoke-filled” rooms 408–10 of the Blackstone Hotel, selected Senator Warren G. Harding. The delegates ratified him on the tenth ballot.

The role of Mrs. Florence Harding was perhaps more aggressive than most, if not all, previous First Lady hopefuls. The campaign headquarters at their OH home allowed for the press to have daily updates. She had been certain to have another structure built on the property to house the press. For years she had run the family newspaper, and knew how to use the press to their advantage. It is rather likely she had worked over a few of those fellow senators of her husband’s peer group herself.


This gown, in the Smithsonian Museum, was not for the inauguration. One wonders if she had it made even before the election, but perhaps not as early as the nominating convention.

The 1932 Democratic Convention 

Chicago hosted another double convention in 1932. First, Republicans glumly gathered in the new Chicago Stadium during the depths of Great Depression to renominate President Herbert C. Hoover. Two weeks later, Democrats gathered in the same hall and selected Franklin D. Roosevelt over Al Smith on the fourth ballot. Roosevelt flew to Chicago to deliver the first-ever convention acceptance speech.

In 1940 and 1944, Roosevelt was renominated for his third and fourth terms in the Stadium. Republicans challenged him in 1944 with New York governor Thomas E. Dewey, also nominated in the Stadium.

The 1940 _____ Convention

What party? The one with Gracie Allen.

Gracie Allen, the better half of the Burns and Allen comedy duo made an announcement she would run on the Surprise Party ticket. This started as a bit for their radio show, but blossomed. She went from ” I’m tired of knitting this sweater. I think I’ll run for President.” To a special train car fitted for the whistle stop campaign, from Hollywood with 30+ stops, all the way to a national convention for 4 days in Omaha, NB. No, this was not in Chicago, but it certainly had to be a great source for conversation at the conventions held in

The election outcome? Perhaps 40,000 actual votes. Her picture showed her wearing a top hat, as well as fashion of the day hats.


The 1940 Democratic Convention

File written by Adobe Photoshop¨ 4.0

1940 delegates at the Democratic convention, with one wide brim hat see near the top. Poor girl in bottom right might have been texting, if she had a cell phone.

The 1944 Democratic Convention

Roosevelt was nominated for a fourth term as President. The big question was who would be nominated for Vice-President. What was of concern was the chance that Henry Wallace could be selected. There was opposition by some , which led to the nomination of Harry Truman.

The 1952 Republican Convention


Republican television coverage allowed viewers to see a fist fight of delegates who supported Taft, vs Eisenhower, who won on the first ballot. This convention was held at the International Ampitheater, where wrestling and boxing matches were held, so perhaps the delegates were unclear that a fist fight was not at the right time, if even at the right place.

Political conventions had a new thing happening on television, with Eisenhower benefiting from the use of 20 second commercials. Democratic convention coverage was tamer, but  Aldai Stevenson had a bad outcome with his 30 minute television broadcast, as it interrupted the I Love Lucy program, and viewers wrote to express their dismay.



Television advertisements in the Chicago Tribune in June 1952 were there to entice the impulse buyer.

In 1956 the Democrats met in Chicago to nominate Adlai Stevenson, just as they had in 1952, not that it would turn out any better this time.

News coverage on television took on a more prominent role, as there were more TV’s in households than in 1952. “Perhaps no phenomenon shaped American life in the 1950s more than TELEVISION. At the end of World War II, the television was a toy for only a few thousand wealthy Americans. Just 10 years later, nearly two-thirds of American households had a television.”

Chet Huntley and David Brinkly did the NBC convention coverage, and were so well received they went on to remain paired as news commentators for the network until they retired in 1970.

“The highlight of the 1956 Democratic Convention came when Stevenson, in an effort to create excitement for the ticket, made the surprise announcement that the convention’s delegates would choose his running mate. This set off a desperate scramble among several candidates to win the nomination; a good deal of the excitement of the vice-presidential race came from the fact that the candidates had only one hectic day to campaign among the delegates before the voting began. The two leading contenders were Senator Kefauver, who retained the support of his primary delegates, and John F. Kennedy, who, as a first term Senator of Massachusetts, was relatively unknown at that point. Kennedy surprised the experts by surging into the lead on the second ballot; at one point he was only 15 votes shy of winning. However, a number of states then left their “favorite son” candidates and switched to Kefauver, giving him the victory. Kennedy then gave a gracious concession speech. The narrow defeat raised his profile and helped Kennedy’s long-term presidential chances, yet by losing to Kefauver he avoided any blame for Stevenson’s expected loss to Eisenhower in November. As of 2015, this was the last time any nomination went past the first ballot.”


Souvenirs are popular at any large special event. Folks like to have something concrete to relive those wonderful moments of their lives. No idea who sold the cigar that was inside this wrapper, but the paper band has survived.

In the 1950s a lady would not likely have desired a cigar as a souvenir. She would have opted for a handkerchief. Hankies, as they are oft called, were small squares, usually of cotton or linen. The linen were popular for lace or  crochet work around the edges, and the cotton for printed images. Flowers were the most popular, and as seen below, for a political statement.

donkey hankyrepub hanky

Although they would only have likely been priced about $2 when released in the 1950s, the GOP one is now listed for $200. Perhaps it comes without the tears the GOP members felt after 1960.

“Handkerchiefs were even employed for advertising in political campaigns.  One historian claims Martha Washington created a handkerchief to help promote the election of her husband.

Apparently she had “George Washington for President” hankies printed for distribution at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  To this day, handkerchiefs are printed depicting both Republican and Democratic parties, as well as coronation handkerchiefs for royalty.”

In case you are even more curious about patriotic hankies, there is a delightful blog.

And what were women wearing that 1956 summer to the big city? They had been entranced by a new Broadway play, My Fair Lady. The play opened in March and ran to 1962, a record at the time. The movie from 1964 had the same impact.

For 1956, ” The most important item on every woman’s spring shopping list was a hat; not the demure Easter bonnet of previous springs, but a big, important hat—it had to be a head high or two heads wide, or it did not count. The simplicity of the slim Empire body line led all the interest up to the head, and the milliners made the most of the opportunity. Exotic, heretofore incompatible colors (pink and orange, turquoise and green) were intertwined in high silk turbans or chechias; gardens of improbable flowers grew on wide-brimmed straws; and romantic Leghorns were wound with chiffon in melting shades and set with a single pink rose. All this romance was immensely becoming—the faces beneath the hats bloomed as prettily as the flowers on the hats, and, for the first time in years, women who had never worn a hat willingly flocked to the milliners. Since these hats were alive with detail and color, the clothes beneath them were subdued. Black, gray, and pale beige were the spring col-ors, pushing navy almost completely out of the picture. Summer clothes stole many colors from the liveliest spring hats and were mainly Empire in feeling; a gentler, more civilized summer dress appeared, ladylike and, at the same time, seductive.”

The 1960 Republican Convention


Booklets of the convention were important to keep track of keys aspects.

1960 Republican convention newsreel clip shows a rousing parade, including a few grand hats.

“Republicans made their final appearance in Chicago in 1960, nominating Vice President Richard M. Nixon. After Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley’s legendary role in swinging that year’s close national election to John F. Kennedy, Republicans have declined to return to the city of their first presidential triumph.” R. Craig Sautter


This 1960’s dress could well have been worn for events to support the Republican Party. It was found in a Cincinnati, OH estate sale.

The 1968 Democratic Convention

“The Democratic convention of 1968 was held at the Amphitheater in the midst of the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War. When the party endorsed a pro-war platform, violence between thousands of antiwar protestors and Chicago police broke out on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The events reached a national television and international audience and caused turmoil on the convention floor. The conflicts inside and out of the convention were contributing factors to Hubert Humphrey’s narrow defeat in November to Richard M. Nixon.”

“Twenty-eight years passed before another presidential convention came to Chicago. Democrats renominated President William J. Clinton at the United Center in 1996. While nominating and seconding speeches were but a sentence long at Chicago’s first presidential nominating convention, they lasted all night 136 years later.” R. Craig Sautter

The 1996 Democratic  Convention

The 1968 Democratic convention and riots in Chicago were certainly more than a blemish on the city’s desirability for further conventions. It was not until 28 years later that the Democrats returned in 1996.

The 1996 Chicago convention for reelection of President Bill Clinton went well. It must have been a relief in some respects that there was only one other other candidate for the actual election. One convention in 1992 did not happen, because Ross Perot was an independent. He ran against incumbent George Bush and Bill Clinton. While the Clinton nomination came in NY, at the time of the convention it was a period after Perot had withdrawn, and had not yet re-entered the race. It was a very perplexing election.


What about hats?

Researching the leading two milliners of my era in Chicago, Benjamin GreenField of BesBen, and Raymond Hudd led me to constantly search online for paper ephemera as well as Chicago made hats. A couple items of convention head-wear have come my way. Curious to see some? Email and perhaps we can work out a traveling exhibit, or a presentation.

Wondering about the medal at the top of the page? Looks old? How about this one?


The one at the top of the page was from the 1996 Democratic convention created by the Sheraton Hotel Bar. The bottom medal was for an alternate at a long ago convention.