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Chicago Millinery History: Pearlie Powell Shop April 3, 2017

On June 5, 1917 Clarence Powell submitted and was rejected from the draft for World War 1; rejected because of his feet. Listed as single and a department manager for Mandel Bros department store, he otherwise would have likely gone off and perhaps never returned.

In 1920 Clarence A. Powell, 30 years old, was an import buyer for the highly regarded Mandel Bros store in Chicago. He applied for a passport to go abroad to buy for the store, but he had no birth certificate from his Milwaukee, WI birth in 1890 and had to provide substantial written testimony to this. His friend of over a decade, Mr. Miller, the manager of imports for the store, provided his testimony. Mr. Miller had known Clarence’s father, William, as well, for about 25 years, which was when Charles would have still been in short pants. The 1920 census has Clarence single and living at home with his parents. His father was an advertising manager of a department store, and Clarence was a buyer. They lived at 4949 S. Lake Park Ave.

The passport application was approved, and Clarence returned from his first trip abroad Sept 6, 1920.

In 1921, after Clarence father had passed away, Clarence applied to the Sons of the American Revolution. He documented his heritage back to his great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Peter Powell who had served as a private in the American Revolution in PA. Clarence sailed again in August for another buying trip in 1921.

Something fun must have been happening after the difficult year of 1921. Somewhere along the way he met a gal in Chicago, Pearlie. No records of their marriage, nor her youth were located. She was a bit of a pleasant mystery. One who had an eye for fashion and then Clarence left Mandel’s to open a high end shop in her name. He had the buying expertise, she had… Good taste?

Good taste also meant a need to search the continent for the best their money could buy. Pearlie took off for France.

Pearlie Powell sailed home alone in Feb 1925 from Cherbourg, France, on the Berengaria, Her residence is listed as the Lake Shore Hotel. The birth date is given as Feb 10, 1891. Tho she may have been alone, with her husband not traveling, the rest of the passengers would have been a treat. Beckie Blum 32, from 5120 High Park Blvd, and Ida Winer, 39, from 5341 High Park Blvd, would have been worth getting to know. Blum’s fashion shop had opened in 1924, and advertised their high end fashions in the Tribune. In time it became known as Blum’s Vogue.

digitalcollection.chicagohistory.org hisotry museum galanos dress from Blum

Even in 1960 ‘Becky’ Blum reminisced about her early support of a then well acknowledged designer, James Galanos. http://digitalcollection.chicagohistory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16029coll3/id/2442/rec/1

Also returning was Robert McCormick, 44 of 80 E Elm in Chicago, tho he may not have had fashion on his mind, but instead upon his newspaper. He was editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Robert presented his own mystery, as he was alone without his wife Amy, 57, whom he married in 1915, after much in the way of public scandal.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_R._McCormick

From New York was Nettie Rosentstein, 33,residing at 44 56th St, New York, and last but NOT LEAST, Hattie Carneige, 38, of 780 38th St, NY, a fashion force to be reckoned with.

On August 19, 1925 Pearlie and Clarence sailed back from France together on the Olympic, but no obvious fashion names appeared on the passenger lists. They had been on the manifest to depart on Aug 15 on the Berengaria, but did not embark.

In 1927 Pearlie and Clarence return Feb 22 from France, and are listed as living at 320 N. Michigan Ave. Presently this address is the Comfort Suites Hotel, having originally been built in 1888. The building is on the west side of the street, just a few doors south of Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. This made the opening of the bridge in 1920 and the development of the shopping area known now as the Magnificent Mile a very attractive place for an elegant fashion shop. Not moving up to the north Michigan Avenue hot spot may have proved a mistake. Again on board this ship were a couple of fashion names, successful in their careers as well; Nettie Rosenstein and Hattie Carnegie. “In 1925, Carnegie was successful enough to buy a building just off Park Avenue at 42 East 49th Street.[5] By 1929, the business has sales of $3.5 million a year.[3] When spending decreased during the Great Depression, Carnegie created a less expensive line called Spectator Sports.” [2]”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattie_Carnegie

In Aug 1928 Clarence and Pearlie returned to Chicago, now with an address of 1209 Astor St. Chicago.

On the passenger list of Feb 1929 one finds Clarence and Pearlie, born in Chicago in 1891, listed as residing at 320 N. Michigan Ave in Chicago. They had arrived on the Aquitania from Cherbourg, France. There was only one other woman, Bertha Nikodem, from Chicago who boarded there, who resided at the Congress Hotel. One wonders if they met and enticed a new customer.

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In the 1929 Chicago Tribune online archives of the newspaper one finds ads for Pearlie Powell fashion shop, and twice a year they indicate Mr. and Mrs. Powell have returned from buying trips abroad for the shop. Customers were tantalized by seeing the latest Paris creations, and having a chance to purchase from a long time fashion forward couple.

The 1930 census has Clarence Powell, 40 and Pearlie Powell, 39, living at 1209 N. Astor, with their 42 year old German maid. They are listed as retailers of women’s wear. This address was elite, having been built in 1926. A current property listing is for this unit, under contract, for over $3million. https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1209-N-Astor-St-Chicago-IL-60610/2137675499_zpid/
The Powells were paying $450/month in rent, while others in the building went from $275 to only one which went for more than theirs. This was likely the penthouse for Mr. Robert White, a president of a real estate company, and family, for $585/month. That name may not be familiar, but many Chicagoans would recognize another neighbor who lived with his daughter and her family, Maurice L. Rothschild. It is likely this is one and the same as the store by that name. Rothschilds was a men’s and women’s-wear store in Chicago. It had opened in 1906. In 1931, while the depression progressed, Rothschild’s was adding three floors to their building on State Street. In a Tribune article, placing his worth at $15million, he claimed 70% of his advertising was in the Tribune the year before. No wonder they wrote about him!

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It is clear from this ad in the Chicago Tribune March 16, 1930 that the class of client the Powells desired were the most elite. The plan for this expansion was probably well under way before the stock market crash of Oct, 1929. This was a risky enterprise.

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It seems the worst had come. When the Depression caused even the wealthy to diminish expensive fashion spending, retailers on narrow margins could not keep up. To give 2/3 off on elegant fashions must have broken their hearts, as well as their business.

The only other ads seen in 1931 were for $5 hats. Hopefully hats could ease the pain.

There are no further records of this couple in anything on Ancestry.com. They are not in the 1940 census in Chicago, and there are no death records. It is like they disappeared off the face of the earth. One hopes they still had each other, even if all the glory days were over.

 

Chicago Millinery History: The Millinery Staff of Mandel Bros Department Store March 29, 2017

Filed under: Chicago,Chicago Millinery History,fashion,hat,Mandel Bros,Uncategorized — froufrou4youyou @ 8:33 pm
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2-16-13 paris fashion page

To start off the Spring fashion season of 1913 one could go back to the Chicago Tribune anytime after Jan 1. Unfortunately, in Chicago Spring shopping is hard to fathom when so much snow is still ahead. For the purposes of this exploration of Mandel Bros and millinery, we start the Sunday after Valentines Day.

February 16, 1913 Chicago Tribune carried their usual full page feature of fashion. Chicago women would have wanted to know what styles Paris was showing, as this drove the fashion industry. Milliners would want to see the hats, but also know what colors were in style as well.

Mary Buel wrote this fashion column and captured the mood of Paris in her descriptions. Hats had the last word, ie, the last paragraph.

“Hats are of extreme importance as they seem to change from day to day, and it is really dangerous unless blessed with a full purse.” “The very newest shapes are perfectly tiny, with low rounded crowns, and the smallest turned up brims. some are made of straw with the brim of broche; others are entirely made of broche and in all sorts of light shades.”

In an April 1913 employee newsletter for Mandel’s staff, an article revealed the “Sales Leaders for March 1913.” This State St store had been a major marketing force since it began in 1855, over fifty years earlier. By listing all the 148 departments in rank of sales, it is likely they wished to stir up some competitiveness between departments and increase overall sales. Luckily millinery ranked well, with one section at 41, and the other at 62. The 41st ranking section was broken down to seven groups. Each group had a person identified as the first, and a second, essentially the most successful employees in their various groups. In the section ranking 62, there was no breakdown of groups.

Millinery from ranking 62 had two employees listed: Miss Mayhew and Miss Goldman.

Miss Mayhew is likely Margaret M Mayhew born Aug, 1866 in Indiana. In the 1900 census she was single, 34 and living with her parents in Wayne, IN. Her work was that of a nurse, which in those days did not require much education. She has a 17 year old sister, Bessie, who does not work. In the 1910 census Margaret 43, is now working as a milliner in a retail store, perhaps even Mandel Bros. She is living at 537 Abbotsford, in Kenilworth, http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/537-Abbotsford-Rd_Kenilworth_IL_60043_M87814-23427, in the household of her sister, Katherine Woodward, 39, and her husband. Washington Woodward, 43, is a manager of a tile company, and they have a 12 year old daughter. It is likely Margaret indulged her niece, Ruth, in some lovely things from Mandel’s store. By the time Margaret is acknowledged in the Mandel’s newsletter, Ruth would have been 15. Little did Ruth know that by 1930 she would have been married and living in Portland, Maine, with her husband, two children and her widowed mother. No records are found for Margaret until the census of  1940.  Margaret, 73, had moved from Chicago, after 1935, back to Richmond, IN. She was then living with her 81 yr old sister, Emma. No idea what became of Margaret until her burial March 8, 1949 in Richmond, IN.

Miss Goldman?? Far too common of a name to find enough to call a true picture of her life. It is pure speculation that the Mandel’s Miss Goldman is the Hattie Goldman of the 1910 census, living on 12th St, where at 14 she is listed as a milliner in a millinery store. By the 1913 Mandel’s newsletter, she would only have been 17, an amazing success to have reached such accolades. It seems Hattie married in 1918, and moved to Ottumwa, IA, where she died in 1971.

Tho it is unknown if Misses Mayhew and Goldman were on the fourth floor, certainly some of the other high sellers from the 41st ranking department had been there.

Group 1 Miss Enk and Miss Saunders; no clues found for them on ancestry.com

Group 2 Mrs Norton and Miss Maremont; no clues found for them on ancestry.com

Group 3 Miss Shovel Miss Levin; no clues found for them on ancestry.com

Group 4 Miss Zahm and Miss Wimmermark; no clues found for them on ancestry.com

Group 5 Mrs. Meunch and Miss Parent; no clues found for them on ancestry.com

Group 6 Miss Tannenhill and Miss Froelich; no clues found for them on ancestry.com

Group 7 Mrs French and Mrs. Hurley. No clues on Mrs. French, and only maybe on Mrs. Hurley. In 1910 Miss Margaret Hurley is a 23 year old milliner in a millinery shop, living at 4213 S. Wabash, with her parents. Did her mother go back to work and is the MRS. Hurley? Did someone type Mrs when it should have been Miss? No way to figure this out.

Now for a look at just what hats these successful millinery saleswomen were sending home with happy customers. These copies of Chicago Tribune newspapers are from the online archives from the paper.

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Feb 18, 1913 has an ad for the Gondola hat for $12. This Balkan Blue hemp braid hat has Bulgarian crown with “ears” of braid. The fine print also tells you there are 500 hat copies of the leading Paris styles of “Reboux, Talbot, Marie Louise, Lewis and Georgette.” Head to the 4th floor for your Gondola, ladies.

lillian russell 1913

Anyone working in the world of fashion needs to know about the latest beauty tips. And who could provide that better than the famed actress, Lillian Russell. Her column also answers questions from two inquiries. One is advised to break two eggs over her hair to improve it. The other is advised that coconut oil is different from cocoa butter, which is “good for developing the bust”. Really? Wish to have seen her in person? She was at Orchestra Hall the next week from Monday thru Thursday. One might say cocoa butter worked well!

The section on Today’s Bargains has feathers with a savings of 200-300% at two different locations downtown, or winter hats value of $12 for $1.50 at Halla Hat at 4408 Sheridan Rd. Somehow these seem too good to be true.

 

Sunday Feb 23 fashion page features negligees, including the still popular nighttime head covering. The Mandels ad has $12 hats on the fourth floor, in colors Balkan blues, Beznark reds, bottle greens and natural.

The next day had no fashion Mandel Bros ad, but that Today Bargain section included those still fabulous bargain feathers downtown, and the spring items of two north-side millinery shops. Fleishman’s at 1138 N. Milwaukee had some Bulgarian effect hats from $1.98-$2.98. Mrs. W. H. Bentzen at 2658 N. Milwaukee has items in crepe, maline, and hemp. Repeatedly the ad states “Mrs”, tho the milliner found remains very much a miss until many years later. Miss Vilhelmina Bentzen was 24 in the 1910 census and living at home with her parents and younger sisters around the corner at 2651 N. Kimball. By 1920 she and her folks had moved to 2704 N. Albany. Her father, Charles, was the Fire Chief at the Mandel’s Dept store, so one could well imagine she visited the millinery dept downtown to feed her creativity. Wilheminia marries in 1937 in New Orleans, to a dentist, Charles Weinrich. They are in Louisana for some years before returning to Chicago, tho in 1940 she is no longer working.

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Chic satin hats are now the feature, ranging from $5 to $13.75. They also point out the newest Paris creations left just 10 days ago. An ocean voyage, plus over land by train took more than that to arrive in Chicago.small_044

It is all well and fine to read of such loveliness, but even better is the next page practical article on “How May Husband Best Bear the Easter Bonnet Shock.” Two fictional women have a discussion on how to connive the husbands into getting a new hat.

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The front page of the last Sunday edition before Easter has the amusing cartoon of a large hat ready to trap an unsuspecting gentleman. One can interpret it in a couple of ways. Is she snaring him to hopefully make him her betrothed? Or snaring him to them go and get a new hat?

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Page 4 ads in this edition include the Chicago Feather shop, at 107 S. State with hats for $10, tho the Dress Easter hats ran $13.50-$25, and the New York Hat shop in the Stratford Hotel, at Michigan and Jackson for $8, $9 and $10. Many stores followed with hats in their Easter ads, including Matthews, Mesiro at 202 S. Michigan Ave/Pullman Building, Emporium World at 28 S. State, Siegel-Cooper, The Boston Store, The Fair, Hillman’s, Lloyd’s Bargain Store, and Rothschild’s “Chicago made. ” One of the prettiest ads was for Leslie’s millinery.

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OF course Mandels had a full page ad. Some lovely creations were only $15.

Monday brings the ads from Charles A. Stevens, Carson, Pirie Scott and Co, and Marshall Field to get those last minute shoppers moving.

It would be grand to know how many hats were sold for Easter in 1913 by the sales staff. It would also be grand to know how many milliners worked long hard hours to get those creations ready for the sales floor. Hopefully they were not working more than the legal limit of a 10 hour day for 6 days a week at Mandels, tho plenty of places ignored this regulation at the height of the season.

Wish more information on Mandel Bros store? Check out this earlier entry on them, Chicago Millinery History- Mandel Bros Department Store.