Lakes Region Art Association Begins 75th Anniversary Celebration
Member Exhibit at Laconia Public Library
The Lakes Region Art Association launches its celebration of 75th Anniversary with a member exhibit. The show will be from March 30 to April 6. At the Laconia Public Library at 695 N. Main Street in downtown Laconia. It is open to the public.
This event features framed artwork pieces. The mediums represented are watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, pastels and drawings.
Lakes Region Art Association is celebrating its 75th year of supporting artists in the Lakes Region. Since 1940, it has been an active group promoting the arts and local artists, both amateur and professional.
Explore the Association’s web site: www.lakesregionartassociation.com for updates and activities.
"Made in Laconia"
This exhibit was on view at The Laconia Public Library from May through July, 2013
Made in Laconia Provides us with a glimpse into Laconia's manufacturing history and contains many of the popular products that were made in our City.
Made in Laconia was on view at The Laconia Public Library through July, 2013.
This exhibit was presented by the Laconia Historical and Museum Society with generous support from the Laconia Public Library.
Special Thanks to the folks at The Lakeport Freighthouse Museum, The Belknap Mill and Gunstock for their participation and generosity.
"Made in Laconia"
Some of the many manufacturing companies and their products on display are:
* Allen-Rogers * * W. D. Huse & Sons * * Laconia Shoe * * Laconia Needle Company * * William Lawrence * * Tekwood *
* Crane Manufacturing * * Laconia Car Works * * McDuff Engines * * Star Specialty Knitting * * Lund & Northland * * McGowan & Wilcox *
* Scott & Williams * * Kinsman Organ * * Gilbert Clock * * Greene's * * Cole Stoves * * Pierson's Doll Clothing * * Laconia Ice Company *
In June of 1956, Earle Kinsman - with only $100,000 in capital and a couple of employees - organized Kinsman Manufacturing Company to manufacture electric organs. In just two years, this company grew to a workforce of 60 people who built and sold over 1,800 electric organs making this Laconia company one of the major producers of electronic organs in the country.
Earle Kinsman was a graduate of M.I.T (1936) and also the founder of Sterling Engineering which he sold to American Machine and Foundry Company. He remained with this company until 1956 when he began manufacturing organs. It was during his time with American Machine and Foundry Company that he began to explore the possibilities of electronic musical instruments. When they abandoned the project, he decided to continue it - on his own.
Founded by William Esty in 1893.
(Later to become Star Sprinkler)
The valve and the seat were fused with an eutectic solder link – the foundation for all modern-day sprinklers. The low melting point of this link would cause the two to separate with the heat of fire, thus releasing the water.
In previous designs, problems with corrosion between the valve and the seat would render the sprinklers useless. Despite the melting of the solder link holding the two together – corrosion would not allow the two to separate and release water. The improvement of the mica disk between the two guaranteed that the sprinkler would function regardless of the amount of metal corrosion between the valve and the seat. The pressure of the water would cause the mica to be split allowing the water to escape.
The Kinsman Company manufactured two models, the “Princess” and the “Countess” which sold for $758 and $1,350.
The William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation
Spring-driven and Electric Clocks
Electric Timing Devices.
On July 5, 1871, the William L. Gilbert Clock Company was formed at Winsted, Connecticut to succeed the Gilbert Manufacturing Company (1866 – 1871) which had been dissolved after a fire destroyed the factory. These firms had grown out of the clock making operations of William L. Gilbert (1806 – 1890) who, since 1828 had been involved in various clock making partnerships in Bristol, Farmington and Winsted, Connecticut.
On July 20, 1934, a new firm known as the William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation was formed. It was one of the few firms allowed to continue clock making during World War II because of its ability manufacture clocks without metal cases – which was important to the government at the time. Gilbert Clock Corporation came to Laconia in 1944 to begin operations with Ralph E. Thompson serving as president Mr. Thompson was also serving as president of Scott and Williams Company at that time. Edwin H. Newell was the resident manager of the Laconia facility.
At its peak, Gilbert employed nearly 200 people (mostly women) and manufactured about 5,000 alarm clocks each day. The company sent many of its clocks to England and supplied the United States Postal Stations during WWII. The William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation ceased its operations in Laconia in 1952. In 1964, the clock division of Gilbert was sold to Spartus Corporation of Chicago, Illinois.
W. D. Huse & Sons
The Huse machine shops, under the ownership and management of Warren D. Huse was located at 117 Union Avenue. Established in 1878, this manufacturer of circular rib knitting machines, yarn winders and other knitting mill machinery, was not only a locally important industry, but well-known in all parts of the United States.
Warren D. Huse moved his “Circular Ribbed Knitting Machines company to Laconia in 1880. His new business employed between four and six men. Huse was not only a machinist, but he was also a successful inventor with more than 15 patents to his name. The 1882 Laconia City Directory reported that his “Double Threaded Fancy,” two colored “Balmoral Loom,” and “Automatic Top Machine” were all selling well.
In 1890 the Huse plant was a two story building with annexes for a blacksmith’s shop, pipe shop and pattern shop. In 1896, he added a three-story structure. The Illustrated Laconian of 1899 called it a “model machine shop … divided into separate departments for drawing, pattern and model making, experimental work, blacksmithing, etc.” His workforce had grown to 35-40 men and in addition to the manufacture and operation of knitting machines, his company was also selling and installing plumbing and heating equipment.
By 1899, Mr. Huse had turned over the operations to his two sons — Leon C. Huse, handling the construction and improvement of the machines and Walter L. Huse who was responsible for the office management. Warren D. Huse died in 1910.
- Taken in part from an article written by Mary Boswell as published in The Belknap Mill News (Summer, 2004)
J. W. Busiel & Company
J. W. Busiel & Company was founded in 1846 by John W. Busiel, a pioneer in the hosiery industry in the United States. Starting at the young age of twelve, Mr. Busiel took employment at the mill of his great-uncle, Lewis Flanders who made flannels and cloths in Loudon, NH. At the age of 19 he left the employ of his Uncle and went to Amesbury, Massachusetts where he was employed in a woolen mill. From Amesbury, Mr. Busiel returned to New Hampshire and located at Meredith and established a business for himself as a manufacturer of satinet cloth and knitting yarns. He remained in Meredith for a period of ten years. In 1846, he came to Laconia and founded the J.W. Busiel Mills which successfully continued until his death in 1872. Mr. Busiel did much to advance and establish a permanent place for the hosiery manufacturing business in Laconia. Mr. Busiel died on July 27, 1872 and the business was carried on by his sons Charles A, John T. and Frank E. Busiel.
In the “Lake Village and Its Leading Business Men” a publication by George Bacon from 1890, the following is stated: “The concern utilize very spacious premises, the buildings comprising one containing five floors and measuring 100 x 40 feet; another, two floors of the dimensions of 60 x 45 feet; another, two floors 30 x 40 feet in size; another two floors measuring 28 x 40 feet, and another, one floor 46 x 45 feet in dimensions. A most elaborate and complete plant of improved machinery is provided and employment is given to about two hundred and twenty five assistants.; the product comprising an exceptionally complete line of hosiery and including the latest fashionable novelties in style and patterns. These goods are thoroughly well-made from selected material and are accepted as the standard by dealers and consumers throughout the country.”
Crane Manufacturing Company
The Crane Manufacturing Company of Lakeport was incorporated in 1890 by John Summerfield Crane – a pioneer of the knit goods industry in this country. His company engaged in the construction and operation of both spring – needle knitting machines for underwear, jersey cloth, rubber linings, and stockinets as well as circular spring needle knitting machines for hosiery. Crane also manufactured latch needle machines for the production of a great variety of fabrics.
John S. Crane was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on Feb 3, 1834. He received a common school education and attended the Berwick Academy in Maine. As a young man desiring a life at sea, he left school and shipped out on a clipper bound for India – a voyage which lasted 22 months and cured him of any further desires in that direction.
Crane spent a year at Salmon Falls learning the machinist’s trade and then moved to Lawrence and finally Lowell, Massachusetts where he was in charge of a sewing-machine factory. He went in search of a promising business opportunity and finally located in Lakeport in 1857 where he was employed by Thomas Appleton in the hosiery business.
In 1862, he formed a partnership with William Pepper to build knitting machines. In 1864, he became superintendent and part owner of the Winnipesaukee Hosiery Company. In 1865, after buying out his partners, he sold this business to R.M. Bailey.
In 1872 with the firm Crane & Peaslee, Mr. Crane began manufacturing circular knitting machines. The following year, he patented a machine for making shirts and underwear. In 1878 the firm became J.S. Crane & Company and was incorporated in 1890.
In January 1904, the Pepper Machine Works a latch needle knitting machine company, established in 1858 was purchased and added to the Crane Manufacturing Company.
Laconia Shoe Company
On April 20, 1938, Nathan Brindis of Haverhill, Massachusetts and A. Shapiro of Brookline, Massachusetts, establish Laconia Shoe Company naming Eugene Brindis as President and George Shapiro Vice President and Treasurer.
In 1940, a new partner, Irving Selig is added to the Company as Director of Sales.
1948 brings a new manufacturing facility in Lowell, Massachusetts - Paris Shoe with Edward R. Paris.
In December of 1949, Laconia Shoe opens a retail store at 15 Water Street for the sale of their products – their first customer at that location was Miss Ethel Aldrich of 28 McGrath Street.
1953 is a year of expansion as Laconia Shoe expands to 46,000 square feet.
June, 1966 – Laconia Shoe Company is presented with the American Shoe Designer Award by the Leather Industries of America – the Tanning Industry’s “Oscar” equivalent.
In 1969, Laconia Shoe Company becomes a wholly owned division of Morton Shoe Stores, Inc. Eugene Brindis, Robert J. Selig and Edward Paris become members of the Board of Directors for Morton Shoes.
1970 and the introduction of Peter Max Shoes expands customer base by 1500 stores.
October 1972 – Laconia Shoe Company, now a subsidiary of Morton Shoes moves to the old Scott and Williams Building – a 160,000 Square foot facility in Normandin Square.
April, 1975 – Laconia Shoe Company is again presented with the American Shoe Designer Award by the Leather Industries of America – the Tanning Industry’s “Oscar” equivalent.
1977 – A new 30,000 Square foot factory is opened in Sanford, Maine providing additional stitching capacity and sole manufacturing. Streetcars Shoes are introduced to the marketplace.
1980 brings the introduction of another Brand – Generra – Outfront Fashion Footwear.
In April of 1981 – Robert J. Selig and Steven D. Selig members of the family that founded Laconia Shoe Company 44 years prior, regain ownership of the company from Morton Shoe.
Jan 30, 1986 – President and chief operating officer, Robert J. Selig resigns ending a 28 year association with Laconia Shoe.
Jan 21, 1987 – Company President Steven D. Selig announces to Laconia Shoe Company employees the intension to cease production operations within the next couple of months.
Laconia Shoe Company
1937 – 1987
At its peak, Laconia Shoe Company employed more than 1,100 workers and made 10,000 pairs of shoes per day from its three factory locations in Laconia, New Hampshire, Sanford Maine and Lowell, Massachusetts.
Pierson Doll Clothing Company
A business begun quite by accident paid off well for a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore C. Pierson of 61 Stafford Street operated a factory which produced doll clothes for one of the leading rubber doll manufacturers in the country.
Started in 1922 when Mrs. Pierson was making stuffed dolls and animals at the “Little Brown House” on Weirs Blvd. She was also producing baby clothes of exquisite hand-painted silk. When word of her ingenuity spread, a salesman came to inquire about her turning out baby clothes for his company. Because of the nature of the then budding business, they could not be produced at a fair price, however. The Salesman’s eye happened to catch the attractive stuffed dolls and their exquisitely designed dresses and his questioning took a different slant – “Can you furnish us with these doll garments?” With that her business burst forward and before long, they were shipping their product to leading department stores across the United States and the Philippines.
Seeking new contracts, the Pierson’s began purchasing soft rubber dolls from a Midwest company in such huge quantity that the company manifested a direct interest again allowing the Pierson’s to concentrate their efforts solely on the production of the doll garments for their product that was distributed nationwide.
The dolls for which clothes were made ranged in size from 9 to 14 inches in height. Mrs. Pierson designed all of the garments based on the contracted guidelines. She found it rather amusing that there was a requirement that the new type of “drinking and wetting” dolls must wear diapers. Mr. Pierson produced the multiple cut steel dies. He found that the process which could cut up to 60 pieces of cloth at a time was much more efficient and satisfactory than the electric process where the cloth was apt to slip - making it difficult to get any degree of uniformity.
At full production, the Pierson Doll Clothes Factory employed nearly 50 women. Daily output was between 35 – 40 gross (approx. 5,500) complete doll garment layettes including dress, petticoat and bonnet; and about 200 gross (approx. 28,000) diapers.
Taken in part from a 1951 Manchester Union Leader Progress Edition Article.
Manufacturer of Breech-loading Guns
Dealer in Ammunition
A modern breech-loading gun is quite a complicated piece of machinery, although it looks simple enough to the ordinary observer, and in order to make it strong, light, durable, accurate and safe, it is absolutely essential that it be constructed of carefully selected material and that every process of manufacture be skillfully and thoroughly carried out.
Mr. William Lawrence is one of the very few individual manufacturers of breech-loading guns who carry out every process from forging to finishing and as a consequence, he knows just what his productions are and can confidently guarantee them in every respect. He is a Native of Groton, Massachusetts and has carried on his present enterprise since 1868, during which time his guns have gained an unsurpassed reputation for accuracy, durability, ease of management and general efficiency. Their workmanship is a delight to the mechanical eye and no guns in the market will do better work under all conditions of use. Mr. Lawrence deals in ammunition quite extensively and quotes moderate prices on this as well as on his own productions.
As published in 1890 by George F. Bacon’s “Central New Hampshire and its Leading Business Men”
Laconia Car Company
The Laconia Car Company was founded by Charles Randlet in 1848 under the name of C. Ranlet Car Manufacturing Compay.
In 1849 Joseph Ranlet was brought into the company and the name was changed to Ranlet Car Company.
Charles Ranlet died in October of 1861 and the following year Joseph Ranlet formed a partnership with John C. Moulton. They renamed the company Moulton & Ranlet Car Company.
In 1865 Perley Putnum was brought into the partnership and the name of the company was again changed to Ranlet Manufacturing Company. The three worked together until the death of Charles Ranlet in April of 1878. The company was then reorganized and the name became Laconia Car Company with Perley Putnum and John C. Moulton as principal owners.
Moulton sold his interest to Perley Putnum in 1889 and Putnum managed the business alone until the involvement of Frank Jones and Associates in 1897 at which time the corporation ran under the name of Laconia Car Company Works.
What started as a small company with old machinery and inexpensive buildings became a company with updated machinery and brick buildings covering an area of four acres. The facilities housed shops to handle every aspect of the car fabrication business.
Starting with the fabrication of freight cars, Laconia Car Company added the necessary facilities to build many different passenger cars earning a national reputation for building exceptional cars.
The company’s involvement with electric streetcars came around the turn of the century and soon their products could be seen all across the country.
Demand for their impressive products became so great, going from just a few freight cars per week to one luxurious passenger car per day that it became necessary to increase the production force from less than 100 where they began to employing almost 500 people in their expansive shop facilities making them the largest employer in the city.
The Laconia Car Company having built trolleys for most of the trolley lines in New England as well as railroad cars for the local railroad lines, completed its last order for trolley and rail cars in 1923.
Jeff and Steven Fay found this motor on the bottom of Lake Winnipesaukee in July of 2012. They were scuba diving off of the east side of Bear Island looking for a boat that may have sunk during the Hurricane of 1938. In 15’ of water near shore, they found a rusted, slime covered mass. They were able to remove a small brass part from it. After cleaning the brass part, they found written on it was “W.J. McDuff” and that it was the front bracket that holds a timer shaft on a motor.
The two went back a week later to the dive site in their Steel Craft work boat, this time prepared to hoist the rusted blob off of the bottom of the lake. Once they recovered the mass, they brought it back to Fay’s Boat Yard to start cleaning it and to really see what was under the years of decay. After being cleaned thoroughly several times, the motor was equipped with a generator and electric starter. Those items were an option in the McDuff brochure that Jeff has from the 1920’s.
The motor cleaned up very well with a lot of hard work. They found most of the missing parts on the bottom of the lake scattered around where the motor was. These items included both intake manifolds, check valves, carburetors, coils and batteries. The engine also had a chain around the flywheel. Maybe someone used it for a mooring or had tried to move it.
This particular Model L McDuff motor is unique to any other that Jeff has seen. Instead of the normal piston type, it has a rotary type water pump that is driven by a gear off of the rear of the crankshaft which also drives the generator. The fuel system consists of two “Schebler model D 1” brass carburetors with McDuff check valves. The flywheel has 4 points for hand starter engagement, when most engines only have two. There is a high number on the engine and was most likely made in the late teens to early 1920’s. Jeff Fay was able to disassemble and restore each part of the engine and put it back together in perfect working order for the first time in 70 years.
Jeff’s aunt, Janet Lee, told stories of the hurricane of 1938 on Lake Winnipesaukee. She told him how his grandfather, Wilbur Fay, had acquired a Laker style boat from a summer camp he had worked for on Bear Island in the 1930’s. This Laker is believed to have had the recovered, now restored motor in it. When the hurricane started, Wilbur had two boats tied up on his dock. One was the Laker and the other was a small Dodge runabout. He moved the Dodge first to a protected area in the cove of Bear Island. When he went back to the dock for his second boat, the waves were so big that the boat got swept up onto the island and was destroyed by the hurricane. Somehow the motor ended up about 100’ off the shore line in 15’-20’ of water in front of the camp. The last person to own and have the engine running was Jeff Fay’s grandfather – Wilbur Fay, who started Fay’s Boat Yard, Inc. in 1944.
W. J. McDuff Machine Company
A Marine Engine Firm
In 1902,at the age of 32 - William J. McDuff, purchased the block on Gold Street in Lakeport from Edwin L. Cram. McDuff founded and operated the McDuff Machine Company. The marine engine manufactured by McDuff was a 2 cycle motor in 1 or 2 cylinders. Horse power ranged from 2-50. These motors were also used as stationary motors on farms and in ice houses to power winches and other machines. The development of the reversing propeller allowed the boat operator to change the rotation of the propeller from inside the boat without stopping the engine and starting it in the opposite direction.
Early McDuff engine firing (ignition) systems were controlled by a make and break igniter built into the cylinder’s combustion chamber (low tension) with an external battery and coil. The later models used a distributor which was externally mounted – also known as the jump spark system with a high tension coil. With this system a motor would easily increase an extra 100 rpms which would raise an engine horsepower by one.
The McDuff Building in Lakeport is now Lakeport Landings Corp. owned by Paul Blizzard and used for boat storage.
Informational history provided by Jeff Fay of Gilford
Images from Laconia Car Company
C. A. Lund Manufacturing
Later Northland Ski Manufacturing Company
Christian A. Lund came from Norway in 1901 and began the C.A. Lund Manufacturing Company in Hastings, Minnesota in 1911. He moved the facility to Laconia, New Hampshire in 1927.
Carl F. Lund then operated the company and changed the name to C.F. Lund, Northland Ski Company. The Lund facility dominated skiing and winter sports equipment for many years. Their line of Skis, Poles, Boots, Bindings, Hockey Sticks, Toboggans, and Snowshoes were manufactured here in Laconia. By the mid 1920’s and on into the 1930s, Northland was the nation’s largest producer of Winter Sporting equipment
C.F. Lund was so strong a force in the industry, that he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the National Sporting Goods Association in 1960. It was noted in the citation that “his introduction of plastic skis, perfected techniques of ski bottoms and metal edged hickory laminations and other innovations boosted his company to its present eminence as the worlds’ largest ski manufacturer.”
On September 20, 1932, this corporation was formed by James P. Rogers of New York and Will B. Allen of Farmington and began production on January 2, 1934. The company was a consolidation of the Allen Manufacturing Company of New Durham, New Hampshire; the JP Rogers Company of Berlin, New York; and the Kepes and Sattan Company of Wallingford, Connecticut.
In 1947 Allen-Rogers acquired the Hale Brook facility located in Lewis, New York; and operated a sawmill as a Division of Allen-Rogers. In 1967 Allen-Rogers acquired a sawmill in Wentworth New Hampshire. New machinery and equipment was installed for preparation of stock for the Laconia manufacturing plant. Wentworth was closed in 1994.
In 1986 Pratt-Read, the parent company— was purchased by two private investors and the name of the company was changed to Allen-Rogers Company.
In 1990 Allen-Rogers purchased Dirigo Dowels of New Portland, Maine which helped to supplement the need of dowel stock for the Laconia manufacturing plant.
Allen-Rogers’ produced over 40,000 products which were used principally by manufacturers of furniture, house wares, toys, games, novelties, sporting goods, sportswear, hand tools, power tools and educational and industrial materials. The company served over 350 customers across the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Far East until they closed their doors in 1999.
Allen-Rogers Corporation ceased operation in 1999.
In 1918 - after fires destroyed both of their sawmills, Irvin Chase and William Veasey leased the land at 1196 Union Avenue from Clarabelle Clark and established a box and lumber company. It was later sold to Boardman Randall in 1940 and became "Tekwood", named for his process of bonding wood veneer and paper. Purchased in 1954 by US Plywood, operations continued until April 30th, 1962. The property consisting six acres of land and 1,000 feet of shorefront, was purchaed in 1964 by William Caterano. Diovided into three parcesl, the Union Avenue two lots became Friendly's and Bonanza (now T. Bones) restaurants, while the shore front and some of the buildings have been converted to Spinnaker Cove Yacht Club.
Laconia Ice Company Images - Courtesy of Lorraine Rudzinski
The Scott and Williams Company
The Scott and Williams Company was founded by Joseph Heginbotham, an Englishman, who emigrated to this country in 1863. He found employment as a journeyman in a Philadelphia machine shop. Two years later he started a small machine shop of his own - Fidelity Machine Works.
He first specialized in shafting, hangers, couplings, blacksmithing and general machinery repairs. He also built certain machines, including steam hosiery presses and spring board flat frames for making plain and rib fabrics, welted rib top fabric and cardigan jackets.
Most knitting machinery was imported in those early days when the American knitting industry was just getting started. After a period of repairing these imported machines, Heginbotham’s company gradually got into the manufacture of complete knitting machines. Soon the machine works were turning out 6 to 12 knitting machines a month.
Heginbotham began to perfect a circular knitting machine which had until then been cumbersome and wasteful, both as to time and materials. He was so successful in this endeavor that this type of knitting machine became a practical manufacturing operation for the first time.
By 1882 Fidelity Machine Works was turning out 30 to 40 rib underwear machines each month with a work force of about 100 people.
About this time, Heginbotham began to build full fashioned knitting machinery. This is said to be the first attempt to do so in the United States. Just as the new machines were about to be installed in one of Philadelphia’s largest hosiery mills, Heginbotham was taken suddenly ill and died on November 1, 1883.
Here is where Scott and Williams enter the picture. Both of these men were among a group of younger men whom Heginbotham had taken into the business to help him develop his full fashioned equipment. Although only in their early 20’s at the time of Heginbotham’s death, the principal responsibility for the continuance of the business fell upon them.
In 1888 the Heginbotham family disposed of its interest in the business to Robert W. Scott and Louis N.D. Williams and the firm changed its name to Scott & Williams. Scott was granted over 230 patents in his lifetime and is said to have done more to advance the art of circular knit seamless hosiery than anyone else in history. They became renowned as inventors on improvements for circular hosiery, rib machines, loopers and sewing machines.
Williams disposed of his interest in the company just prior to World War I, but continued to maintain close contact with the firm thereafter.
Searching for more space, the company came to Laconia after the purchase of the George D. Mayo Machine Company, also specialists in knitting machinery. The purchase was finalized in 1911 and the entire manufacturing operations transferred to New Hampshire in 1912.
In 1915, Scott’s Model K machine was produced for making women’s hosiery which is widely recognized as being the most successful knitting machine for seamless hosiery ever built.
In 1921, the automatic half-hose machine was introduced which revolutionized the manufacture of men’s half-hose.
In 1942, a new war production plant was completed on the company’s Lakeport property. This plant which was built by the government and leased, was later acquired by Scott & Williams. Innovations continued with the Model HH panel wrap machine (1934) the Komet machine (1938) and when nylon was first introduced, Scott and Williams developed an extremely fine gauge machine for making no-seam nylon hosiery.
Scott and Williams was purchased by White Consolidated Industries of Cleveland, Ohio in 1966.
Star Specialty Knitting Company, Inc.
Star Specialty Knitting Company, Inc. was established in 1991 by Gerry Morin and employed a work force of 180 in the former Scott & Williams Building.
August 2, 1990 marked the beginning of the Iraq War (Aug 2, 1990 – Feb 28, 1991), codenamed “Operation Desert Storm” and also known as the Persian Gulf War, the First Gulf War, Gulf War I and the First Iraq War.
Concerned about troop protection in the event of chemical warfare –The Army Research Department in Natick, Massachusetts began researching alternative chemical resistant garments to be used during this war time. The garments that were currently in existence were heavy and cumbersome and could only be worn as outerwear. There was a clear need for a lighter-weight garment that would provide the protection necessary – particularly for soldiers who were in tight quarters such as tanks or planes.
Through this research, an undergarment was developed which required a special stitching process referred to as “Flat-Walk” stitching. Knowing that Star Specialty Knitting Company, Inc. did a lot of flat- walk stitching and had a great deal of that type of stitching equipment, they were approached by the army research department and asked if they had an interest in manufacturing this garment. Star Specialty Knitting Company, Inc. produced a prototype, won the bid for the first year of production and produced in excess of 300,000 of these chemical resistant underwear sets.
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