Bradley Knitting Company

It’s hard to believe now, but at one time the US had a huge clothing manufacturing industry.   There is a lot written about all the fashion companies on Seventh Avenue, New York, and about the great California sportswear companies.   But the clothing industry was actually spread all across the country.   The South, with its cotton was a major producer of denim, knitwear and socks.  Many northern states had thriving wool industries.  St. Louis became famous as the center for junior clothing.

Some of the far-flung centers, such as Pendleton in Oregon, and  Cone Denim Mills in North Carolina have managed to hang on, and still produce part of their goods in the US, but many others are all but forgotten.  One of my favorites of these defunct companies is Bradley.  Who could resist a clothing company with the slogan, “Slip into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors!”

Bradley Knitting company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, and was established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan; it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003.  I guess they had not heard that soon, mill buildings would be all the rage with developers and urban hipsters!

I love finding Bradley advertising items.  I especially love this box.  There’s the Bradley slogan intertwined with people enjoying their Bradley Knitwear in the out-of-doors.

Click to see more images:

34 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

34 responses to “Bradley Knitting Company

  1. Mei

    Awesome box! My dad is a weaver by trade, and he still buys his fabric at a mill here in the States. There used to be many more, but now there’s just one that takes his orders.

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  2. That box is wonderful!

    My grandmother and great aunts lived in St. Louis (I was born there) and many of them (and probably some of my great uncles) worked in the garment industry there.

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  3. Pingback: Why I Dislike American Pickers « The Vintage Traveler

  4. I’m writing a book about the Bradley Knitting Company and I thought you would like to know some things about it. It was actually started by the Globe knitting Company in 1903 and was bought out by two brothers-in-law who owned a department store in downtown Delavan called the Bradley Department Store, which they inherited from their Father-in-law, W.W. Bradley in 1900. The Bradley Knitting Company went out of business in 1941 and was bought at auction by Borg Instruments and became the Bradley Fabric Division of Borg. Borg developed a high quality pile fabric that was used in designer coats until the 1970’s.

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  5. Richard York

    I enjoyed your posting. I was born in Delavan. My grandfather and grandmother worked for them. In fact my grandmother was a model briefly. I have great photographs of her in their clothing. Your advertising box brought that all back to me. The mill building is vivid from my childhood memories…although I moved away over fifty years ago.
    Thanks again.

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  6. Elaine

    I have an advertising picture featuring the 1926 all america football team commenting on their Bradley sweaters.Curious to know if it has value.Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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  7. kachina

    I just got the most adorable lil sweater made by Bradleys.

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  8. Thanks Pam. I took a look and only two of them appear to be authentic Bradley’s. They were both beautiful!

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  9. My Great-Grandfather Barney William Snodie was working for this company when he registered for the WWI draft in 1917.

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  10. Jonathan Ingrams

    Hi Folks
    It’s been very interesting reading about the history of this company. My Grandmother lived in Delavan and I have one of her sweaters from the Bradley knitting company. From the research I’ve done on the label, it looks as though its from the 1920’s. It was a must have for her when the family was out hunting in the northern Wisconsin winters. The quality is remarkable – it feels as though it is brand new. Thewooden buttons are pristine.
    I was going to put it on Ebay, but if there is a collector of these items, I’d like to give a chance for them to get it. It needs to be with someone who will love it.

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    • Joanne Babic

      Jonathon, I forwarded your message to the Delavan Historical Society, but they have been busy moving into new quarters. Did you sell your sweater?

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  11. Just found this thread because I was getting ready to list a 1909 Bradley “muffler” on eBay and I was wondering when the company went out of business. Isn’t the internet wonderful for finding information?

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    • Joanne Babic

      The assets of the company were auctioned in 1941 just months prior to the beginning of U.S. involvement in WWII. Borg, the new owner, geared up to produce clothing for the war effort and then sold the Bradley name and equipment after the end of the war. The company never made clothing for the general public again after the auction in 1941.

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  12. Joanne Babic

    Amanda, out of curiosity, what color is your muffler?

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  13. Well, what fun it has been reading this wealth of information! I was curious about Bradley Knitwear after purchasing a perfectly preserved light brown sweater with horses appliqued on the front and back. Thank you all for your posts. p.s. I live a stone’s throw from Delavan and have also found a large box full of fabulous Borg fur samples. So interesting to find out there was a connection between the two companies.

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  14. Judy Z

    Found this site by accident, I was at a yard sale and bought a beautiful blue Bradley sweater for .25 cents. It is 100% wool and in perfect condition!

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  15. Robert Lee

    I stumbled upon this site by chance. I have a Bradley Knitting Company retractable tape measure that still retracts! I’m not sure how old it is but it has The Company name and the location “Delavan Wisconsin”.

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