History threads — Innovation in 1883
This is the latest in an occasional series of posts about the history of the garment industry in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Essex counties.
Charles A. Gilbert, manager of J.L. Libby Shirt and Collar Co. of Glens Falls, “hospitably entertained,” with help from his wife, employees at his home on Thanksgiving 1883.
“Mrs. Gilbert provided a bountiful and palatable feast,” The Morning Star reported.
The local garment industry had much to be thankful for, having increased sales and improved efficiency in the months before.
In April, Gilbert received a patent on a device he designed to prevent tearing in the back and at the ends of seams of shirts during the manufacturing process.
The device saved on cost by reducing damaged product, and provided an additional revenue source as Gilbert sold the device to other manufacturers.
“Several inventions of the same purpose have already been patented, but Mr. Gilbert’s is the simplest of them all and cannot be excelled in its effectiveness.”
Gilbert already was selling to shirt factories in Troy a device he recently had patented to protect the shape of shirt neck bands while being laundered.
On Oct. 8, 1883 The Morning Star reported that Gilbert had sold more than 250 of the devices in the last week, alone.
“The demand for the block is greater than Mr. Gilbert can at present supply.”
Glen Shirt Co., the other local garment factory at the time, was also innovating.
John L. McMillan of Cambridge invented for the company a machine for turning cuffs and collars.
“The machine in question is the first one of its kind and promises to be a success. It is intended to do away with hand turning, and, if successful, will save one half of the cost of the present method.”
In May 1883 the Glen Shirt Co. established an in-house custom laundry.
Both factories had record volume in the first quarter, with combined sales greater than the combined sales of four shirt factories that had operated locally a few years previous.
“The trade continues to grow, and never was more promising.”
Sources: The Morning Star April 3, 10, 13, 27, Dec. 1, 1883.
Click here to read the most recent previous post in the series.