Footwear is pretty straight forward when it comes to the 1920s. Any sort of leather round toed ankle boot is the norm, black and browns were the most common. Many examples have toe-caps on them. The uppers of the boots were leather. Rubber was used sparingly, mostly seen on the heel. The work boots worn into the coal mines had to be as tough as the demanding conditions. These boots were built with a double layer of leather over the toe to provide the miners an extra measure of safety. The heel pocket, a boot feature designed to provide extra support, was moved to the outside of the boot. This design change eliminated a seam, and provided a smooth and comfortable one-piece surface on the inside of the boot.

Socks were made out of yarn, which means wool. Many socks were created in mills in Wisconsin and in Rockford, Illinois. John Nelson, a Swedish immigrant to the United States, patented the sock-knitting machine in 1869, and began manufacturing work socks in Rockford, Illinois in 1890. Nelson Knitting was an innovator in the mass market work sock field, creating a loom that enabled socks to be manufactured without seams in the heel. These seamless work socks were so popular that the market was soon flooded with imitators, and socks of this type were known under the generic term “Rockfords”.

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm  Comments Off on Footwear  

1920s Shirts

Shirts came in a variety of shapes and styles by this point in history. The most common type of shirt appears to be a “pullover” design with three or four buttons reaching down to the mid chest; though full placket shirts were starting to come into fashion. Shirts with or without collars are the standard for the working man. Into the 20s men were still wearing detachable collars and cuffs. The detachable collar and cuff were developed to help shirts last a bit longer. Collars and cuffs wear faster and get dirty easier than the body of the shirt and washing was often expensive. So detachable items were created and sold separately. A striped shirt with a matching collar is fine, but a striped shirt with a contrasting white collar is perfect. However, high detachable shirt collars were starting to get out of style by the early 1920s, and most shirts had attached collars, with the neckline lowering through the decade. Collars were generally medium-sized in length and either set close to the tie or flared slightly away from the tie. Cottons and wools would have been the most common material with blends also being in use. Buttons would have been metal, hard rubber, baklite, etc.

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 6:33 pm  Comments Off on 1920s Shirts  
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Denim Trousers

By the late 19th century, weavers in America were making twills in the same fashion as the European denim, adapting to use cotton, instead of a cotton/linen blend (often called “jean wool”). The solely cotton material had a reputation for being very strong and not wearing out quickly. Levis Strauss became famous in the late 1840s creating clothing of various materials to the Gold Rush miners. However, these trousers were not the same material as the denim we know today.

In 1873, Levis and Davis created the first true blue jeans as we know them begins. They adding metal rivets to the highly stressed seams.However, jean and denim remained two very different fabrics, and were used for different types of clothing. Denim was used mainly for workers clothes and jean for lighter clothes that did not have such high durability requirements.

What is important to keep in mind, is that the term “blue jeans” was not yet thought up in the 1920s. This would come later in the 1950s and 1960s.

Proper denims of the 1920s were still high waisted, going up to the navel. Most men still wore suspenders to keep their trousers up, so stud buttons were used. Many times, miners opted to not wear suspenders because they can be restictive while working. In place of using a waist belt, there as a sliding adjuster on the rear. That being said, there were many examples with belt loops as well. While the modern zipper was invented in 1913 and improved upon in 1917, it took nearly 30 more years before it became widespread in the United States. Most work wear was still button flied.

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm  Comments Off on Denim Trousers  
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Overall Coat

In the early 1900s there were several different types of work jackets in use. The most common term for them was an overall jacket. Serviceable and accommodating, the Overall Jacket had a turn down collar and had four to five pockets. Many were made from denim and cotton duct, both very sturdy for the rough and tumble life of working in the mines, logging, and other industries.

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm  Comments Off on Overall Coat  
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Miner’s Double Buckle Boots

Since trousers tend to be the first piece of clothing that suffers from day to day wear, workers came up with some pretty inventive ways to keep their clothing in the best of shape as possible.

If one looks closely at these photos of five male employees of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company in Colorado (circa: 1910-1930), some of the miners have ankle boots similar to the M43 US combat boot.

Boots with ankle gaiters were fairly commonplace for workers in the early 20th century in order to prevent the trousers from getting caught up in debris, branches, etc.

Close up, they look pretty similar to the M43 boots which had a leather top ankle strap with two leather straps made from the leather top and had a blacken buckle almost like what you find on the military leggings with that slide to hold the strap while buckling it. Some had no grommets unlike the M43 boots, while others did. For the most part, they were just plain holes cut in the leather strap. The main section of the boots were made of brown leather and has the same stitching pattern as the M43 boots except with a toe cap which was double-row stitched. The underside was also like the M43 boots only it had no pattern molded in it and was just plain.

Published in: on January 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm  Comments Off on Miner’s Double Buckle Boots  
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Miner’s Cap

The newest period item to be added to our museum collection. This particular cap was not used in West Virginia, rather in the lead mines of SW Wisconsin. However, this style was in use by most miners. The outer rim is made of a khaki cotton duck while the inside is a flannel.

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm  Comments Off on Miner’s Cap  
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Miners Underground

A photo of miners from the early 20th century. Note the Carbide lamps in function.

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm  Comments Off on Miners Underground  
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Ludlow Miners

This is a picture of striking miners from the American West from 1914. While this is not a part of the history of Blair Mountain, this does provide a good look at how some of the men at Blair might have looked during the battle.

Published in: on June 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Comments Off on Ludlow Miners  
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Miner Helmets

Various Helmets dating from the 1900s to 1950s.

Miners’ helmets and caps in the U.S. were initially used more for the utilitarian purpose of having a place to hold a lamp while the miner worked. They were later developed into a safety device to protect the miner.

In the United States, the E.D. Bullard Company was a mining equipment firm in California, created by Edward Dickinson Bullard in 1898, who was in the industrial safety business for 20 years. The company sold protective hats, but they were only made of leather. His son, E.W. Bullard, arrived home from World War I with a steel helmet, which provided him with an idea to improve industrial safety. In 1919 Bullard patented a “Hard-Boiled Hat”, made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint. That same year the U.S. Navy commissioned Bullard to create a shipyard protective cap, which began the widespread use of hard hats. Not long after, Bullard developed an internal suspension that would provide a more effective hat.

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Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm  Comments Off on Miner Helmets  
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Bordie Helmet

The Brodie helmet, called Helmet, steel, Mark I helmet in Britain and the M1917 Helmet in the U.S., was a steel combat helmet designed and patented in 1915 by the Briton John Leopold Brodie. Known in the US as the “tin hat” and “doughboy helmet.”

It was first introduced to the United States Armed Forces when they entered the war late in 1917. The United States government initially purchased some 400,000 helmets from Britain. From January 1918 the U.S. Army began to use helmets manufactured in the U.S. and these helmets were designated M1917. None of the steel helmets were intended to protect against bullets, but aimed at reducing head-wounds from shrapnel.

These sorts of helmets can be found in a number of original photos from the era by the miners and members of Chafin’s militia since many of them were veterans of the First World War.

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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