I recently found this silk blouse at my not-so-secret shopping place. Because I can’t seem to pass up a great separates piece and because I did not already have a piece with this label in my collection, I decided to take it home with me. Plus, I just loved the modern, graphic look of the print.
The Manhattan Shirt Company was a maker of men’s shirts. The company dates back to 1867 and was, interestingly enough, headquartered in Paterson, New Jersey. By the early twentieth century the company owned or leased eight mills which produced men’s shirts of various types. In 1912 Manhattan Shirt was incorporated in New York, and continued to be a major producer of shirts.
According to the United States Trademark Office database, Lady Manhattan was first produced in 1953. The application for the trademark states that the label was used not just for women’s shirts and blouses, but also dresses, skirts, sweaters, pajamas, jackets, trousers, and shorts. Nevertheless, most items seen today with this vintage label are blouses or shirts, though I’ve also seen shirtdresses and skirts.
It’s my guess that this blouse dates to the mid to late 1950s. I’ve been looking for ads, and while I did not find this blouse, there are several ads for sale on ebay for similar styles in silk, all dating between 1957 and 1960. Later on in the Sixties, Lady Manhattan, like so many companies, abandoned their use of natural fibers for the “easy case” dacron, nylon and blends.
A word about the trademark database is in order. Ten years ago, back in the very early days of the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Label Resource, a seller on ebay disputed some of the information we had included. She said that what we had written about some company was wrong because of what was on the trademark database. It was a fairly well documented company, so we had no trouble backing our information, but it did bring to light a very interesting point.
Just because the database contains official government documents does not mean that there cannot be errors in it. The information for each application is supplied by the company making the application, and in some cases it is many years after the first use of the name. I can just picture some junior staff member being handed the application to fill out, and his quest to gather the information from other people in the office. I’m sure there have been a lot of educated guesses over the years.
It’s like any other source. It’s always best to have a second source to verify information, especially when it comes to dates.