Jantzen made their name and fortune on swimsuits, but started out as a knitter of sweaters, socks and gloves. The company was founded in 1910 as the Portland Knitting Company. Later in the decade someone got the idea to make bathing suits using the machine that knit sweater cuffs. It produced a knit suit that was ribbed, and thus was a better fitting bathing suit. By 1918 the company was renamed Jantzen Knitting Mills, and the main product was their famous swimsuits.
This souvenir postcard shows the administration building of Jantzen. The card is not dated, but the cars are late 1920s models, and according to several sources, this building was constructed in 1929. The growth of Jantzen must have been amazing, as the back of the cards claims that over 1,750,000 swimming suits were produced annually at the Portland facility.
What is also interesting is that the card mentions that Jantzen was also manufacturing swimsuits abroad. It was a kind of reverse out-sourcing, where the company produced in other countries not to import to the US, but to sell in that country. Note that in the 1920s, Jantzen was making swimsuits in Oregon, England, Australia, Canada, and New Jersey.
In 1941 Jantzen returned to the sweater business as part of their new sportwear line. My sweater, from the 1940s, was made in Canada for the Canadian market. It came to me as a gift from Mary Jane at Poppy’s Vintage Clothing, which is located in Canada.
Jantzen is still in operation today, but as far as I know all their manufacturing is now out-sourced. They do make very nice, 1950s vintage inspired suits.
Unlike many companies that were sold and resold over the years, Jantzen has retained a large archive of material, both garments and paper items such as catalogs and advertising. The archive. located in the 1929 administration building, is not open to the public, but it is a nice thought knowing that the archivist can reach far back into Jantzen’s history when necessary.