Tag Archives: vintage sportswear

Vintage Abercrombie’s Camp Ruck Sack

My Goodwill Outlet Center is a place of wonderment.  Walking through the door one gets a feeling of infinite possibilities.  What will I find in the over-stuffed bins?  Will they be full of seldom worn but already looking tired fast fashion, or will there be pristine vintage galore?

Vintage and antique people seem to me to be the world’s worst lamenters over “the good old days.”  I’ve done my share of it, whining over a closed flea market or an antique mall turned into a decorator marketplace.  People even lament that the Goodwill is not as great as it once was, and the truth is, I haven’t found any early clothing there in a long time.

But I always say that treasure is where you find it, and if you don’t look, it is not going to be found.  I can’t help thinking about what happens to all the unfound treasure at the Goodwill Outlet.  It is bundled to go to a rag house where the stuff is picked through again, and hopefully anything of value is plucked from the piles before they are rebundled for transport to Africa, or even worse, to a textile recycling facility where the clothes are shredded for reprocessing.

On my latest trip to the land of vintage possibilities, I was going through a bin of used handbags and nylon backpacks.  At the bottom of the bin I spotted a scrap of old fabric, and quickly uncovered what you see above.  At first I thought it might be an old military bag, but the interior of the bag had a promising label.

That’s when I knew I had a treasure.  The Abercrombie on the label was David Abercrombie of Abercrombie & Fitch, outdoor outfitters to the early twentieth century adventurers.  The business was started in 1892 by Abercrombie,who was joined in the business in 1900 by Ezra Fitch.  In 1907 the two parted ways, with Abercrombie leaving the business he had started.  The following year he went on to manufacturer and sell camping supplies, and even made items that were sold in the Abercrombie and Fitch store and catalog.

Abercrombie set up his new business, Abercrombie’s Camp, at 311 Broadway. The company also sold through a catalog.  The earliest I could online find was dated 1912.  It seems a bit odd that Abercrombie’s name was continued to be used by Fitch, as the two were competitors for the same market.  I imagine they were often confused for each other, as I was when I first saw the label.  I thought it was an odd A&F label, but instead, was an entirely separate company.

Lucky for me, I do have that 1910 A&F catalog, and it does have my bag, or a very similar one, pictured.  They called it a ruck sack, also known as a Swiss mountain pack.  Mine is the gabardine version.

“The best pack ever devised for the carrying of light loads and the small personal belongings.  Makes an excellent pack for a woman’s use and is handy for carrying a few necessities when ‘going light’.”

One big problem that collectors face in an object like this one is how to best preserve it.  Does one wash it?  Should it be returned to a “better” condition?

To me, one of the charms of a piece like this one is that it shows that it was used.  I’d  much rather have it than a pristine example that did not go on numerous hikes across the Southern Appalachians.

And it was obviously used a lot.  One of the leather straps has about seven inches missing off one end, and the little leather piece that fastens the top flap is partially missing.  I thought about either replacing the straps, or having a leather crafter replace the missing bits, but ultimately I’ve decided to leave them as is.  If I ever display it I may make temporary repairs with brown fabric to show how it would have been used.

I did decide to use a bit of leather cleaner and conditioner on the leather pieces.  I also gave the bag a quick mild detergent bath to loosen any dirt or oil that was not set in the fibers.  I can’t tell that it improved the appearance, though it did produce a very dirty tub of water.

A bonus with this bag is that there is a name.  I can’t decide if it is M. Clark II, or McClark II, but I’ll be searching the records of the local hiking clubs (which go back to the late 1920s)  to see if there is a match.

And here is the bag after the little bit of cleaning.  You can still see all the years of hard use this bag was subject to.

I really can’t narrow down the date of the ruck sack very much.  I know the earliest possible date would be the year Abercrombie’s Camp was established, 1908.  The missing information is how long was this bag in production.  The next A&F catalog that I have is 1939, and the style is not in that book.  Still that is a range of thirty-one years, and I’d really like to do better than that.  If you have an Abercrombie’s Camp or an Abercrombie and Fitch Catalog dated before 1939, I’d sure appreciate hearing from you.


Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting

Dressing for Winter

Snow has started across the Northern Hemisphere, and it looks like I’ll be getting a taste of it later this week.   To celebrate winter, the Weather Channel has a photo essay of winter sportswear from the past.  There are some great photos, even though a few of them are dated incorrectly.

I’m only posting about it so I can show off the mention of The Vintage Traveler in the article and the link back to my blog.  I’m on the fifth page of the article.  Is this my fifteen seconds of fame?


Filed under Vintage Photographs, Winter Sports

Ad Campaign – Paddle and Saddle, 1958

“Clothes” harmony by… Paddle & Saddle

Styles reminiscent of the Gay 90’s by Paddle & Saddle… they’ll be versatile headliners in your Spring and Summer wardrobe.

I had Paddle & Saddle on my mind because I recently bought a late 1950s or early 60s short sleeve jacket with that label.  And then in the post on the golf skirt, Sarah mentioned that she had a similar divided skirt by Paddle & Saddle.  It was enough to send me on a search for information about the company.

Like some of the items in the ad, my jacket is made from cotton duck.  It’s classic American sportswear – the type of thing I love.

There is always a problem doing online searching when you have only nouns like paddle and saddle.   Luckily I noticed that little R in a circle which means the name is a registered trademark.  I went to the US trademark search site and there it was.  The brand was trademarked in 1936 by Rice-Stix Dry Goods of St. Louis.  If you look at the ad, you can see that in 1958 Paddle and Saddle was a division of Reliance Manufacturing in St. Louis.  So thanks to google I was able to fill in the gaps.

Rice-Stix started out as an importer of dry goods – things like fabrics and linens.   They began business in Memphis, Tennessee during the Civil War, but moved to St. Louis in 1879.   By the turn of the century Rice-Stix was the largest business in St. Louis.  At some point they began the manufacture of clothing, establishing quite a few labels like Paddle and Saddle, Perfecto and Kerry Knight.  In the early and mid 20th century St. Louis was an important garment making center, with Rice-Stix being an important part of that industry.

In a 1909 directory of prominent St. Louis citizens, I read that Charles Rice, son of one of the founders,  was a member of the Paddle and Saddle Club.  He must have loved that club a lot to name a label after it!

In 1955, one of the older owners died, and the company fell victim to a take over.  The Rices and Stixes were out, and Reliance Manufacturing was in.  The label continued on until at least 1977, which is where the trail runs cold.

The beautiful old Rice-Stix building became the St. Louis Merchandise Mart.  It still stands today and has been converted to apartments.  I was in St. Louis last year, and I was amazed at their vibrant downtown.  Many people are choosing to live in the old commercial buildings, and there is a lively restaurant and bar scene.

Some more photos of that great jacket:

And here are a few more ads.  These are from 1952 and 1953.


Filed under Ad Campaign, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing