Tag Archives: von Lengerke & Antoine

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

Abercrombie & Fitch, Von Lengerke & Antoine, 1930s – 1950s

I recently acquired some Christmas catalogs from Von Lengerke & Antoine, the Chicago branch of Abercrombie and Fitch.  I already had some summer catalogs from the store, but these are full of gifts and woolens.  The covers are really nice, with winter scenes that spread across both sides.

The catalogs range from 1939 to 1954.   Because Abercrombie & Fitch was a sporting goods store, the clothing styles change very slowly, with many items being offered for up to five years before being updated.  This is especially true during the war years.

Click to enlarge

The offerings during WWII were geared more toward the servicemen and less toward the sportsman.   There were gifts for members of every branch of the service.

Abercrombie & Fitch not only had goods manufactured with their own label, they also sold other quality products.  This men’s Pendleton shirt is from the 1947 catalog, and cost $10.75.  That is about $110 in today’s dollar.  A new Pendleton wool shirt costs $115, so pretty much the same price.

The catalog offered carriage boots all through the war years.  Carriage boots actually date back to the days before the automobile, but this practical winter boot remained a favorite for many years.

Today red plaid thermos kits are quite easily found, but ones of this quality are rare.  Cocktails, coffee and sandwiches:  the necessities of vagabonds.

Scotch coolers are also common, but they are rarely in great condition.  People used them.  That is a bar case for someone with friends.

Sweaters were a big item in the catalogs, with many being made of cashmere in Scotland.  Note the “false eyelashes” on the Flirt.  Today if an item in a catalog is labeled “imported,” you can pretty much assume that means China.  There is no indication where the imported ski jacket and cap originate, but you can be sure that it was not China!

I love the Bottomless Bag.  It does not indicate the size, but if it weighs five pounds it must be pretty large.  I’ll take the tartan plaid.

A winter classic, it is hard to beat the sharpness of a Hudson’s Bay blanket jacket.  The $55 price tag translated to $465 in today’s dollar.  You can buy a new, very similar coat from the Hudson’s Bay Company for $695 Canadian, or $635 US.  Interestingly, their fabric is now made by Pendleton.


Filed under Proper Clothing

Von Lengerke & Antoine, 1939 The Time of Your Life Begins Here

Von Lengerke & Antoine was the less famous branch of Abercrombie & Fitch.  Located in Chicago, it has a colorful history that includes Al Capone, but it was overshadowed by the company that acquired it in 1928, A&F.   Still, it was one of the great 20th century sporting goods stores and their catalogs are a delight for people (like me) who love vintage sportswear.

An interesting thing I found today:  comedian Bob Newhart worked briefly at Von Lengerke & Antoine in the late 1950s, and he tells about it as only he can.

The sunglasses made famous by General George MacArthur, the Ray-ban Aviator.  And yes, they really were new, having been introduced in 1937.


Filed under Camping and Hiking, Proper Clothing

1950s Play Hours

I was about to just give up on ever finding something I wanted on ebay and actually being able to buy it.  I don’t know if it is the influence of all the museum exhibitions of sportswear, but ephemera related to sportswear has gotten a bit crazy, pricewise.  Last week I was going to blow a whole $20 on a tiny little beat up and ratty 1919 Keds catalog.  Imagine my surprise when it went for $103!

To console myself, I went looking vintage Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, being reminded by a recent blog comment that I probably do need to add a few of these overpriced gems to my library.  I was delighted to run across nine summer sportswear catalogs from Von Lengerke & Antoine, the Chicago Branch of A & F, at a very reasonable price.

Von Lengerke & Antoine was a longtime Chicago sporting store, and was actually a division of a New York store, Von Lengerke & Detmold.  This store was the competition of Abercrombie & Fitch, and in 1928,  A & F bought out the Von Lengerke stores.  That is why you will sometimes see the initials VL&A on Abercrombie & Fitch labels prior to 1960.

VL&A actually came with a bit of notorious baggage – the store was located in Al Capone’s territory, and it was the store in which two of the Colt Thompson machine guns used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre were purchased.

But there are no machine guns in my catalogs, which start 20 years later, in 1949, and run through 1958.  According to the catalogs, VL&A carried the same merchandise as A&F.   In 1960s the Von Lengerke & Antoine name was phased out, and the store became known as Abercrombie & Fitch.

The catalogs are a delight for a lover of vintage sportswear, full of men’s and women’s clothing, picnic and travel accessories, sporting goods and just all around fun stuff.


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear