In 1872, 21-year-old Harry Hart and his 18-year-old brother Max opened a retail men's clothing store on State St., Chicago, Illinois. In 1879 two brothers-in-law, Levi Abt and Marcus Marx, joined them. Eight years later Abt left and Joseph Schaffner, a cousin of the Harts, took his place. Thus in 1887 Hart, Schaffner and Marx was born. The transition from retailing to manufacturing evolved from clothing made to sell in their own store. High-quality workmanship and improved employee-management relationships were early goals of the company. A labor agreement of 1911, initiated by Schaffner and Sidney Hillman, became the model for the men's clothing industry and later for women's clothing. It was the foundation on which the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was built and helped to rid the United States of sweatshops in the clothing industry.
Hart, Schaffner and Marx became known for "firsts" in the clothing industry. The firm introduced a one-price policy permitting no cut rates or better prices for anyone; advertised nationally; introduced the tropical-weight suit for summer wear. The company conceived and carried out selling with swatches of materials. It was the first manufacturer to offer proportional-fit clothing for men of different builds. Hart, Schaffner and Marx was also among the first to develop and expand its own retail division.
Composed of the company's history and advertising, including a number of style books. The historical materials highlight the firm's importance in the men's clothing industry; the stylebooks are a valuable record of styles in men's clothing during the first half of the 20th century. The Trade Board decisions in Series 2 (Feb. 1921-Feb. 1934) provide a colorful picture of early labor-management relations and the everyday incidents in the work place that came before the Trade Board. They are also illustrative of good labor-management relations that were developed very early in the history of organized labor.
Series 3: The company's records, kept in minute detail in notebooks by hand, comprise the largest part of the collection. They are testimony to the many operations involved in the profitable production of a suit, coat, vest, knickers, or trousers. Large books record items such as tailoring specifications for various articles of clothing, hours worked and earnings for specific operations, piece work lists by article and operation for various shops. There are also account books, cash books, and a voucher register, which appear to be illustrative rather than complete records.
Series 4: 2 boxes of materials used in the manufacture of men's clothing. They have been kept with the records because Hart, Schaffner and Marx was the first manufacturer to have its salemen work from swatches of material instead of truck-loads of clothing, an innovation soon followed by other manufacturers.
Hart, Schaffner and Marx Records, 1901-1955, Archives Center, National Museum of American History