Fashion Facts From Rochester NY

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  • 1. Clothing and Fashion in Rochester A short talk and pictures

2. Some information: At various times, clothing was first in the number of people employed in the industry, first in the total value of wage payments, and in percentage of profits - but it never held the absolutely dominant place that mills, shoe manufacturers and, later, photography and optical products held. 3. Also: The clothing trade provided jobs for women, who had limited opportunities, and also for children. It was also a good choice for immigrants who were not proficient in English. The industry also pioneered traveling salesmen and learned the value of having a reputation for a quality product. 4. Some workers: 5. Some facts and stats: The first known clothing maker here was Jehiel Barnard, who came in 1812. By the time Rochester became a city in 1834, there were at least 20 different clothing manufacturers at work here. By 1842, Meyer Greentrees idea of cutting from a pattern to speed up the process had taken hold. Greentree and Henry Wile operated a large concern; the other two major companies at that time were run by Sigmund Stettheimer, and by Henry Michaels. 6. More stats: In 1848, it was estimated that 1800 people worked in clothing manufacture, and that the total products were valued at $400,000. By 1860, the products and wages paid were valued at $750,000. By 1870, with the Civil War over, traveling salesman gas created a huge demand for Rochester suits in the Midwest and West. By 1880 there were 3000 employees and sales and wages of 5 million dollars. 7. Some dapper dudes: 8. However the demand for increased production meant that sweatshops appeared, and the old way of working at home lost favor. In addition, the government was concerned about child labor and their lack of schooling. Labor difficulties developed. A 9 hour day was normal. But by the time of the lockout and settlement of 1896, a 58 hour week and pay cuts of 27 per cent hit the workers hard. 9. 25 years of peace Strikes were settled and a period of cooperation lasting from before WW I to after WW II developed. By that time so many mergers and discontinuances had happened that the major firms were down to 5: Aplo-Bond Stores (closed 1979); Hickey-Freeman; Fashion Park (closed 1970); Michaels Stern (closed 1977); and Timely Clothes (closed 1974). 10. More recently By 1960 many of the original workers were long gone and the companies had to recruit qualified tailors from overseas, especially Italy. By 1984, only Hickey-Freeman remained, employing about 2000 people. 11. A reason for success: 12. Why were they successful? The same reason that many other companies were - the Erie Canal. (Incidentally, the Erie Canal was so successful because it was the easiest route across the entire Appalachian Mountain chain, from Georgia to New England). Westward migrants bought clothes, among other items, as they came through Rochester. Just like the suppliers of materials to the Gold Rush miners made money without having to dig for gold, merchants here made money selling to those traveling West. 13. Where can you find out more? The U of R Rare Books room has several file boxes of the records from the Michaels Stern, Bond, and Hickey Freeman companies and the Levy-Adler Brothers firm; and the city historian has a picture book of Italians who were hired in the mid 20th century to work at the Hickey Freeman factory. The Local History/Genealogy Room of the Central Library downtown also has many newspaper articles, pictures, and other materials. 14. What were important points? These companies were among the first to have cordial relations with their employees. They also provided jobs for many immigrant newcomers which included women and children.They declined by the 1980s because people were pressed for money - there was less disposable income, though both husband and wife worked; and because of terrific competition from cheap overseas labor. 15. Advertising was important: Rochester made means quality insignia. 16. What did this look like? 17. How did they operate? Many of the early companies were storefronts where people came to purchase.The measurements and sales were done in the front of the store; the cloth was cut in a back room; and the workers assembled the clothing at their homes. 18. Where were they located? After the industry became mature, many of the firms prospered in the area of Mill Street and North Saint Paul. In the earlier years (about 1848), eighteen of the clothing makers were located on the Main Street Bridge downtown; most of the rest were on nearby Front Street. 19. In a map from 1888: 20. Who worked there? In the early days, mostly men. Later, the shops provided employment for women and children, especially immigrants. The German Jews who came about 1880 introduced the idea of specialization, as is also used in car making. This greatly increased output. 21. What were the conditions? In 1895 there was a 58 hour work week that was mandated; that year, as a result of a strike being broken, wage cuts of up to 27 per cent were enforced. However, by 1913, when a strike which became famous for a shooting which occurred at it, wages had again increased and an 8 hour day was in place. 22. Can we see some pics? Sure... 23. We have to mention... Bloomers. They were not invented by Amelia Bloomer, but she popularized them about 1851: 24. Strike of 1913 25. Bartholmay Building 26. Info: The Bartholomay Block building at 190-198 N. St. Paul Street at the southeast corner of Central Avenue. Construction of this building, which was designed by Warner & Brockett, began in 1888. One of Rochester's greatest industries, in terms of sales and number of employees, was the manufacture of men's clothing. Various clothiers were located in this building, including Michaels, Stern & Co. and Garson, Meyer & Co., which was organized in 1879 and specialized in children's clothing. The Rosenberg Building to the right housed Rosenberg, Blum & Aronson, a men's clothing manufacturer which was established in 1865. 27. Hotties of 1900... 28. Oh you kid... 1920s. 29. More Twenties: 30. Michaels Stern Co.: 31. Bond store: 32. Adler : 33. Main Street Bridge stores: 34. Commit this to memory!