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Charles W. Carey Jr.

Blake, Lyman Reed (24 August 1835–05 October 1883), inventor, was born in South Abington, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Blake and Susannah Bates. In 1851, having completed his formal education at age sixteen, he went to work for his older brother Samuel, a “shoe boss.” After the employees in his brother’s shop cut out from leather the various pieces that comprise a shoe, the younger Blake put out these pieces to self-employed shoebinders—who hand-stitched together the uppers and then pegged or nailed the uppers to a sole—and collected the finished pairs, which his brother then sold....

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Carnegie, Hattie (15 March 1886–22 February 1956), fashion designer and merchandiser, was born Henrietta Könengeiser in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Isaac Könengeiser and Hannah Kraenzer. The family emigrated to the United States, settling on New York’s Lower East Side in 1892. Hattie’s first job was as a messenger at R. H. Macy’s, where she encountered the heady new world of modern retailing and the lifestyle of affluent New York. That experience may have inspired her to assume the name Carnegie; ...

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Hattie Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92431).

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Halston (23 April 1932–26 March 1990), milliner and fashion designer, was born Roy Halston Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of an accountant and a homemaker (names unknown). (The name Halston came from his maternal grandfather, Halston Holmes.) Halston spent his boyhood in Iowa. His first design was a red hat and veil he created for his mother to wear on Easter Sunday 1945 to the Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. After World War II the family moved to Evansville, Indiana, where as a teenager, Halston was known as the best dresser at Bosse High School. Following high school Halston attended Indiana University but left two years later for the Art Institute of Chicago. Halston attended the Art Institute for only two semesters and did not graduate....

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Jarman, W. Maxey (10 May 1904–09 September 1980), corporate executive and philanthropist, was born Walton Maxey Jarman in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of James Franklin Jarman, part-owner of a shoe company, and Eugenia Maxey. In his youth Jarman liked working with cars and radios and attended a local public high school specializing in engineering and other technical subjects. He also had a hand in starting WSM, Nashville’s first radio station. He enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an electrical engineering major, but quit during his junior year in 1924 to join his father in starting a new shoe factory. The firm, known at first as Jarman Shoe Company, began with capital of $130,000. It reached $1,000,000 in sales and turned a profit the first year and established the pattern of doubling sales and profits every six years. Jarman married Sarah McFerrin Anderson of Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1928. She had studied math at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and was an accomplished diver, noted for her jumps from cliffs into the Cumberland River. The couple raised three children....

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Johnson, George Francis (14 October 1857–28 November 1948), shoe manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Milford, Massachusetts, the son of Francis A. Johnson, seaman and shoe worker, and Sarah Jane Aldrich. Johnson’s childhood was spent in a series of New England villages as his father moved about in search of better work. He left school at age thirteen to go to work in a boot factory....

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King, Stanley (11 May 1883–28 April 1951), businessman and college president, was born in Troy, New York, the son of Henry Amasa King, a lawyer and judge, and Maria Lyon Flynt. His family’s roots were in the Connecticut Valley, and in 1893 King moved with his family to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he attended the public schools. Enrolling in 1900 in Amherst College, his father’s alma mater, King completed the course in only three years, obtaining an A.B. summa cum laude. After reading law with his father’s firm, he entered Harvard Law School in 1904 as a second-year student, graduating in 1906 with an A.M. (having had only two years in residence at Harvard, he was deemed ineligible for an LL.B.)....

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Luchese, Thomas (01 December 1899–13 July 1967), garment manufacturer and criminal entrepreneur, was born Gaetano Luchese in Palermo, Sicily. While neither the names nor occupations of his parents is known, they immigrated to New York in 1911, bringing their son with them. The family settled among other Sicilians in the predominantly Italian sections of East Harlem. Luchese learned the rudiments of reading and writing and became a plumber’s helper and apprentice machinist. Sometime between 1915 and 1919 he lost his right index finger in an ammunition plant accident. In 1921, when Luchese was first arrested, a policeman jokingly referred to him as “Three-Finger Brown,” an allusion to a well-known baseball player, ...

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McKay, Gordon (04 May 1821–19 October 1903), inventor and industrialist, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Michael McKay, a manufacturer and politician, and Catherine Gordon Dexter. Possessing a delicate constitution, he received little formal education. Feeling that outdoor work might improve his health, McKay prepared for a career in engineering. At age sixteen he went to work for the Boston & Albany Railroad in the engineering department, and he later held a similar post with the Erie Canal. Having gained valuable practical experience and eager to direct his own firm, McKay returned to Pittsfield in 1845 and opened a machine shop that specialized in maintaining paper and cotton mill machinery. In that year he married Agnes Jenkins. They had no children, and the union ended in divorce several years later....

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Nash, Arthur (26 June 1870–30 October 1927), men's clothing manufacturer, men’s clothing manufacturer, was born in Tipton County, Indiana, the son of Evermont Nash (occupation unknown) and Rachel Mitchel. Nash’s parents were devoted Seventh-day Adventists, and he received a strict religious upbringing in that faith. After attending local Indiana schools, he began a course of study at the theological school of the Seventh-day Adventists in Battle Creek, Michigan. He proved to be a stellar student and upon graduation became an instructor at a Seventh-day Adventist school for ministers and missionaries in Detroit. He was ordained in 1894. Soon thereafter he experienced a crisis of faith when he refused to accept that a kindly and charitable woman, who ran a home for discharged prisoners, could not be saved because she had rejected the tenets of the Adventists. After an angry confrontation with church elders, he resigned his position and withdrew from the church....

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Sachse, Julius Friedrich (22 November 1842–14 November 1919), antiquarian, historian, and photographer, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Johann Heinrich Friedrich Sachse, an artist and designer, and Julianna D. W. Bühler. Julius F. Sachse attended public schools and the Lutheran Academy but had no university education; he was largely a self-educated man. Sachse’s early business career was as a merchant of men’s clothing accessories and a manufacturer of men’s silk shirts. His achievements in shirtmaking were recognized at international trade fairs....

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Shaver, Dorothy (29 July 1893–28 June 1959), retail executive, was born in Center Point, Arkansas, to James Shaver, a lawyer, and Sallie Borden. In 1898 the family moved to Mena, Arkansas, where James Shaver became a civic leader; he was later elected chancery judge of the Sixth Judicial District. Dorothy Shaver was an outgoing and popular child who seemed to have unlimited zest for a broad spectrum of activities, from singing in the local Episcopal church choir to joining neighborhood boys for pickup baseball games. She graduated in 1910 from Mena High School, where she was elected class salutatorian. Shortly afterward her parents intercepted her attempt to elope with a local boyfriend, and that fall she enrolled at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville....

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Strauss, Levi (26 February 1829–26 September 1902), clothing manufacturer, was born Loeb Strauss in Buttenheim, Bavaria (now in Germany), the son of Hirsch Strauss, a dry goods peddler, and Rebecca Haas. His father died in 1845, and two years later Strauss immigrated with his mother and three sisters to the United States, where they joined his two older half brothers, Jonas Strauss and Louis Strauss, in New York City. Changing his name to the more pronounceable Levi, the young man began at once to travel with his brothers, peddling notions and dry goods, such as needles, thread, scissors, buttons, combs, ribbons, and bolts of cloth. Jonas Strauss prospered in this trade sufficiently to open a small retail shop in 1848, and three years later Louis became his partner. Soon after the store opened, Levi Strauss moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he lived with a relative and continued the life of an itinerant peddler, selling goods from his brother’s New York store. His sister Fanny Strauss married David Stern, a dry goods peddler from the Midwest, around 1850, and the couple went to San Francisco, California, drawn by the city’s gold-boom economy. Stern established a modest dry goods business and invited Levi to join him....

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Esther Jane Williams. Full-length portrait, seated, wearing a bathing suit, 1945. Photographic print. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-137503).

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Williams, Esther Jane (08 August 1921–06 June 2013), movie star, swimming champion, and swimwear executive, was born in a small bungalow in Inglewood, a southwest suburb of Los Angeles, the fifth child born to Bula Myrtle Gilpin, a teacher, and Louis Stanton Williams, a sign painter. The family had followed her brother Stanton to Hollywood from Utah, and he appeared as a child star in silent pictures. Esther's mother took no interest in her, and she was raised by older sister Maurine, who taught her to swim. When Esther was eight years old, Stanton died from a burst colon. She hoped to replace his achievements with her own. At age eleven, Esther won a fifty-meter freestyle race at the Olympic Swim Stadium in Los Angeles. When she was sixteen she began swimming for the Los Angeles Athletic Club. During her teens she was repeatedly raped by an orphaned boy her parents had taken into their house. The water became her sanctuary....