1917, Von Lengerke & Antoine Sporting Goods Exclusively

I know that blogging has now been replaced with Instagram and whatever the social media platform of the week happens to be, but I can tell you that having a more permanent place on the internet can really pay off. The biggest advantage seems to me to be that having a site that is searchable by google brings the blogger into contact with  all sorts of people.

My favorite type of such people is the one who is searching an item she has in her possession, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Through the miracle of Goggle this person finds me, and by the end of our email exchanges, the item is on its way to me. In this case, my new best friend, Joanna, had an old catalog from Von Lengerke & Antoine, a Chicago sporting goods store that was bought by Abercrombie & Fitch in 1928.

This catalog predated the acquisition, and looked to be about 1920 to me. There was no date on the catalog, but using the No. 53 designation on the cover and the fact they released about two catalogs a year put date at 1918 or 1919. Whatever; I was thrilled when Joanne offered to send it to me.


There was no date on the cover, nor in any of the pages that give all the information about the catalog, but here in the description of the bathing suit we learn that the 1917 line of bathing suits make up all the latest fashions. The most striking thing about the bathing suit above is the price of it. $50 was a very high price for a swimsuit in 1917. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, That 1917 $50 would buy $1075 worth of goods today.

The other styles were more reasonably priced, but even $20 was a big expense for an item that was not truly necessary. Von Lengerke was not for the bargain hunter.

The bathing caps are really interesting, with the two plain styles being for men. The sad thing for collectors is that few of these seem to have survived.

Another must-have item for the 1917 bather was a pair of bathing slippers. These were made of sateen cotton or canvas, and so survive in greater numbers. It’s interesting that these have leather and linoleum soles. All the ones in my collection have canvas soles.

This may be a 1917 catalog, but the Von Lengerke people did not spring for a new illustration for their outing shirts. This one dates to the previous decade, but since the style didn’t change much, why change the illustration?

But here’s where I really get a bad case of antique catalog envy. I’ll take either of these outing hats, please.

The last item is not clothing, but it is such a great example of how technology was changing the way people thought about camping that I had to include it. The auto was taking people places they’d never imagined, but it took a while for the accommodations industry to catch up. In the meantime, auto camping was a good solution to the question of where to spend the night.


Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

22 responses to “1917, Von Lengerke & Antoine Sporting Goods Exclusively

  1. Wow. The price of that bathing suit definitely made a case for visible class distinctions, even at the beach. But we can dream… I once read about a complete travelling Vuitton set for car road trips (various sizes, all meant for specific purposes) — absolutely gorgeous.
    Fashion history teaches us that beauty endures, even if the fabric can’t.


  2. KeLLy aNN

    You’re one of the few blogs I still follow!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jacq staubs

    Why change the illustration? Perhaps the old retail standard – flip / refresh / reorganize the merchandise on the floor to make it appear “new”. Our buyers and assistants spent hours once a week at it in all 14 stores. We also used new colors/ same items for photography catalog. The “automotive tent” is the rather pretentious item for me here. Considering our nation had very few paved highways few highways in 1917. Where / how far could one require auto transportation to arrive at a wooded campsite to use the tent? Birthplace of Abercrombie is interesting. Very interesting find. Thank you as always.


  4. Mackenzie

    Have you seen any information on a sporting dress called the Syxpockette? I own the dress and was trying to find information on the manufacturer but all I have found are newspaper ads in Lima Ohio. 1913 era.

    I save your post as the dessert of the day. Thank you for keeping your good work in this format.


  5. I will never give up blogging for any of the “other” social media. It is such a great learning forum. The price of that suit alone shows us that “sporting and camping” was not for the working class in 1917. I was surprised that it was made of silk. Not a fiber I would associate with swimming. Thanks for a great post.


  6. jean f

    So Interesting! and I appreciate that this blog has not gone to the “other social media” as I ONLY do gmail and facebook!


  7. I find most of the content in other social media rather boring and pointless – mostly cutesy stuff that is of no depth or little interest (not all, of course)
    I enjoy reading your time travelling adventures, thanks for sharing with us!


  8. I read blog posts, too. Pinterest is okay but it’s just reposting other people’s photos without much context. (I have a board called “My Quilts.” Pinterest’s algorithm has helpfully suggested pins for that board — of other people’s quilts. :))I believe that the Abercrombie store occupied that same location on Wabash (when it was still sporting goods, not the trendy chain of the 1990’s). My grandfather’s medical office was on S. Wabash in the 1920’s…. One of the flannel shirts is made out of Viyella. That’s still around! (I looked it up. Wikipedia says it was first made in 1893.)


  9. Dale

    Just ran into this site. My father took me down here about 1955 and bought me a Remington Arms .22 caliber rifle which I still own. I think he paid about $15 for it.


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