National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Costume Search this
6 Cubic feet (17 boxes)
Chicago (Illinois) -- 1900-1960
Illinois -- 1900-1960
Scope and Contents note:
The collection falls roughly into 4 parts. Series 1 is primarily composed of the company's history and its advertising, including a number of style books. The historical materials highlight the firm's importance in the men's clothing industry; the style books are a valuable record of styles in men's clothing during the first half of the 20th century. The Warshaw Collection of Americana contains a number of Hart, Schaffner and Marx style books from 1903 1928 that duplicate a number in this collection. The miscellaneous records in Box 3 relate primarily to a failed retail store that was placed under new management and reports on naval uniforms and government shipments in the first half of the 1940's. Though obviously incomplete, these records illustrate that the company manufactured military uniforms during World War II as well as civilian clothing.
The Trade Board decisions in Series 2 (February 1921 Febuary 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.
The company's records, kept in minute detail, in notebooks, by hand, comprise Series 3, 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 that are part of men's clothing. 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. These appear to be illustrative rather than complete records.
Series 4 consists of 2 boxes of materials of the kind 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 salesmen work from swatches of material instead of trunk loads of clothing, an innovation soon followed by other manufacturers.
All of the actual company records are prior to 1955. There are a few pieces of descriptive material of a later date.
The arrangement is chronological where appropriate; otherwise, it is alphabetical. Many of the records in Series 3 are handwritten.
Divided into 4 series.
Series 1: Company History, Advertising and Style Books
Series 2: Trade Board Decisions, 1921-34
Series 4: Company Records, 1903-1946
Series 4: Material Swatches, undated
In 1872, twenty-one year old Harry Hart and his 18-year-old brother Max opened a retail store for men's clothing on State St. in Chicago, Illinois. In 1879 two brothers in law Levi Abt and Marcus Marx joined them. Eight years later Levi 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 only to manufacturing evolved from clothing that was made to sell in their own store. There was an apparent need for facilities to supply ready made men's clothing to interested retailers and the business prospered.
High quality workmanship and improved employee management relationships were among early goals of the company. A labor agreement of 1911, initiated by Joseph Schaffner, was developed in cooperation with Sidney Hillman, then a cutter in a Hart, Schaffner and Marx factory. As a result Joseph Schaffner emerged as a leader and humanitarian and Sidney Hillman led the way for workers to cooperate with management wherever possible. The 1911 agreement 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. Sidney Hillman in later years won world acclaim as a labor leader and became an advisor on labor relations to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Hart, Schaffner and Marx became known for a number of "firsts" in the clothing industry in addition to its peaceful labor relations. The firm introduced a one price policy permitting no cut rates or better prices for any one; it advertised nationally; it introduced the tropical weight suit for summer wear. The company conceived and carried out selling with swatches of materials thus doing away with the practice of salesmen using trunk loads of clothing to demonstrate their line. It was the first manufacturer to offer proportional fit clothing made for men of different build as well as different size. Hart, Schaffner and Marx was also among the first to develop and expand its own retail division. By the firm's 75th anniversary in 1962 it had 78 stores in 37 metropolitan areas inspite of being thought of primarily as a manufacturer. Based in Chicago it did business throughout the United States.
Collection donated by Hart, Schaffner and Marx, 1973.