Tag Archives: automobile

Bailey’s Rubber Store Waterproof Coats, Circa 1906

Recently I added this little catalog of automobile coats to my archive. There’s no date on it, but I think it is probably from 1906. Today in the US  we’d call a waterproof coat a rain coat, a garment that gets us from the car to the house without letting us get too wet. But in 1906. a waterproof coat was designed for protection in the automobile. That’s because in 1906, most cars were open, meaning they had no roof for protection against the weather.

To solve the problem of wet and dust, the long coat became standard wear in an open auto. In rainy conditions, one wore a waterproof. When it was dry and dusty, one wore a duster.

Bailey’s Rubber Store specialized in rubber, or waterproof, coats, of course. As the name of the business implies, Bailey’s sold much more than just coats. They were a source of many items made of rubber.

Charles J. Bailey went into the rubber selling business in the 1880s. He had been an importer and seller of laces, but he began experimenting with rubber, and actually invented several new products. One was the rubber flesh brush, meant to increase circulation and improve the complexion. The brush was advertised widely, and became a big seller for Bailey. In 1889 he gave up lace entirely and opened Bailey’s Rubber Store in Boston.

As I said, there’s no date on this little catalog, but I did find a great reference to it in a 1906 issue of The Rubber Age, a trade magazine. A short feature informed the reader that Bailey’s Rubber Store had just published a catalog of waterproof coats. The catalog measured 3 1/4 by 7 inches, and had 24 pages, exactly the same as my little catalog.

There were coats costing as much as $60 in this catalog, but none were as practical as this $10 coat with hood and wind cuffs.

In these pages of coats, you can clearly see the influence of the S-bend silhouette, popular from around 1900 through 1910.

Bailey’s sold both men’s and women’s coats from Burberry’s in London.

Besides coats, Bailey’s also carried goggles and other accessories necessary for motoring.

Charles Bailey died in 1918, and at that time the business was incorporated. Unfortunately the business failed, and bankruptcy was declared in 1921.

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The Auto Duster

Clothes come and go from fashion, usually because the fashion creators need for you to buy something new, occasionally because the public gets bored with an item, and from time to time because a garment becomes obsolete.   Such was the case with the automobile duster.

The duster was a coat, usually lightweight, that fully covered the wearer from the neck to the ankles.  It was developed out of necessity.  In the late 19th century the auto was new, and roads were rarely paved.  Driving a car stirred up all kinds of dirt and dust, and to add to the problem, cars were open to the elements.  By the time motorists arrived at their destinations – which were usually just a few miles in the early days of cars – they would be covered with the road.  So the duster filled a real need.

As the 1920s approached, the  problems associated with motoring were solved.  Roads were paved, cars were enclosed, and the duster fell from favor.  Women often threw on a lightweight coat over their frock when motoring, but the neck to foot protection was no longer needed.

From a 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

A duster in my collection.  Note the grease stains on the side.

By the 1920s, the duster was fading fast, but ladies still wore motoring coats.  This linen coat looks pristine, but there are grease spots on the back.

And thanks to Kate Mathews at Folkwear patterns for reminding me that you can make your own motoring coat. This is their Model T Duster:

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing, Vintage Travel