Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vintage 1920s Blue Jeans Find!

After about 20 years of looking I've found a pair of never worn 1920s blue jeans.  They came out of an old eastern Pennsylvania estate. At least ten years older than a pair of Levi's I'd found with a Best and Co, NY  label in the waistband-  Levi's at the time were not widely available on the East coast, just specialty shops catering to the dude ranch craze and equestrian aficionados. 

This is a pair of "Reputation Brand" waist overalls made by Horn & Co of Allentown Pennsylvania in approximately 1919-1925. The denim is nice and heavy. While both leg seams are triple stitched flat-felled seams, a small bit of selvedge can be seen in a waistband seam that was poorly sewn. The waist band is cut so that the back is higher than the front. Both belt loops and suspender buttons are present. As is a cinch back strap. However most of the suspender buttons have been pulled off. It appears the buyer of these preferred a belt to suspenders and found the chunky metal buttons to be an annoyance. Interestingly, the fly buttons are missing as well. Though there is no damage it may have been that they were sewn on and removed carefully or the pants are irregulars that never had them sewn on or riveted to begin with? There are two button holes in the fly. The top button is there btw. I think the reason these were never worn is that the original owner noticed the missing fly buttons as he was pulling off the suspender buttons and not being able to return them to the store as he'd damaged the pants, simply tossed them in a drawer where they remained for almost a hundred years. The paper label looks like it is letterpress printed and includes the wording " Overalls, Play suits, Coveralls, Brownies".  Brownies were originally boy's brown duck overalls with blue denim details that also came to be available in all denim and also railroad stripes. The term 'Brownies' is commonly used in newspaper advertising from the late 1800s through  1919 and the latest usage i can find is a single ad in 1921 by Stifel in an Ohio Newspaper. The stress points are bar tacked instead of riveted. The bar tacks are machine made. I am still trying to nail down the earliest usage of the bar tack machine. Currently I am told the machine came in to usage in the early 1920s with possible usage in 1919. 

I love the look of these pants, a nice wide leg, huge back pockets and a rugged fit. How these didn't get worn through all the intervening years is amazing. 
Greg West

Thanks to John Gluckow at Strongarm C&S Co. NYC and
Lynn Downey at Levi's