I found this photo at The Metrolina Flea in Charlotte last week, and I literally had to talk the dealer into selling it to me. Fortunately, I had previously given her a huge bag of vintage photos, so she has a bit of a soft spot for me. I’m telling you, it pays to be nice.
I loved the photo as soon as I spotted it, and then saw that the details were written on the back. This was made in 1914 in the Blue Bell Overall Company in Greensboro, NC. The fourth worker from the left is Daisy Overman. I’m pretty sure that the dealer saw the pure desperation in my eyes, so she sold it to me with the condition that if I ever decided to sell it myself, I had to offer it to her. Sure, no problem.
Factory scenes are very hard to come by, and the ones I have found are usually not identified. The wealth of information made this a very special treasure.
Blue Bell was the forerunner of Wrangler Jeans. It was started in 1904 as the Hudson Overall company, and they made, of course, denim overalls. The story goes that they did a big business with railroad workers, who like the overalls so much that the factory was gifted with a large brass railroad bell. The bell was located within the factory, and was soon covered with blue cotton dust. (Unfortunately, the dust was also breathed in by the workers. It can lead to “brown lung disease,” a deadly asthma-like disease.)
The company acquired the Wrangler trademark in the 1943, but did not use it until after WWII. For a while they made both Wrangler and Blue Bell jeans, and it is possible to find really great womens side zip Blue Bells from the 1950s. That might be next o the search list!
To see the full size of the photo, go to my flickr page and enlarge it.