Saturday, 15 August 2009

LVC ~ 501XX 1917 version Amoskeag Denim.

The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company was a textile manufacturer which founded Manchester, New Hampshire. Its name was derived from Pennacook Indians, who called the site Namoskeag, meaning "good fishing place" which is in turn a reference to the Amoskeag Falls in the Merrimack River. In May 1807, Samuel Blodget completed a canal and lock system beside the Merrimack River at Derryfield. His enterprise allowed boats traveling between Concord and Nashua to bypass Amoskeag Falls, opening the region to development. Blodget envisioned here "the Manchester of America," a water-powered textile center comparable to the Industrial Revolution English city he had recently visited. Benjamin Prichard and others incorporated the Amoskeag Cotton & Woolen Manufacturing Company. He and three brothers—Ephraim, David and Robert Stevens—had purchased land and water power rights on the west bank of the Merrimack near Amoskeag Bridge, where they built a mill. However, it proved unprofitable and the mill was sold to Olney Robinson, with capital from Samuel Slater and Larned Pitcher. But Robinson could not turn it around. Slater and Pitcher then sold it to Dr. Oliver Dean, Lyman Tiffany and Willard Sayles. They managed to turn it into a profitable business from then onwards. From modest beginnings in near wilderness, it eventually grew throughout the 19th century into the largest cotton textile plant in the world. At its peak, Amoskeag was unrivaled both for the quality and quantity of its products. Eventually up to eleven mills would be built. Gingham, flannel, and ticking were company specialties, although numerous other fabrics in cotton and wool were produced. Amoskeag would supplied its fabrics to nearly every markets in North America. Freight cars would supply raw materials, particularly cotton from southern states, then carried away finished fabrics to markets around the country. Demands during that period were so great that facing labour shortages, women, immigrants and even children would be hired to work at the mill. Amoskeag peaked by World War I, supplying the Federal government with materiel. However, by the early 20th century, the business failed in adapting to the a number of changing economic and social conditions. First would be recession, whereby orders begin to decline tremendously in short time. Following that, workers salaries were reduce which led to strikes. Subsequently with the introduction of new energy sources like electricity and petroleum, cotton could be processed and woven where it grew, saving transportation costs to New England. With aging technology, it became increasingly difficult for Amoskeag to compete. Northern labor costs were higher than in the South, which had new factories, layouts, and automatic looms. The South also did not have inventory taxes unlike in New Hampshire. In an attempt to remain competitive, Amoskeag made the mistake of adding more mills and spindles to reduce the costs of making fabric, at a time when the textile industry had excess productive capacity. Then the Great Depression arrived and more labourers were laid off which led to more strikes, including sabotages of its machinery. One by one, the mills were closed down and by 1935, the company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated by 1937.
During its peak period, one of its customers would be Levi Strauss & Co., which purchased its fabrics for their then patented riveted waist overalls from the beginning in 1873 up to the early 1920s model. All fabrics were supposedly using natural, vegetable dye, and as such, would give off a greenish tint as it fades.
I got this made in japan model from Super Rag, a Rakuten online store in Japan. This 501XX is a reproduction from the year 1917, which is the year recognised as being the oldest jean found in Japan during a Levi's old jean search in 1995. There is no differences in specs between this version and the 1901 as well as 1915 model as far as I could tell with my squinty eyes. Historically, 1901 represented the first time a four pocket model is made. This means there are now two back pockets instead of one. The inseams from 1915 onwards are felled instead of "mock" felled. I did not check so I am not sure whether this is reproduced faithfully. It was also around this period that Levi's won the "Highest Award" in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. Some previous models (such as 1922, 1927 and 1933) come with the tag announcing the award and my favourite Levi's ticket but this one doesn't. At the same time, Levi's began to buy fabrics from Cone Mills in North Carolina. I suspected that this was also the same period as Amoskeag began experiencing its decline. The 1917 version is not new. It debut last year with Cone Mills spec red selvedge denim. This one comes with all white selvedge representing a transistionary period before Cone denim (now still reproduced by International Textile Group after taking over Cone Mills in 2004), whereby Amoskeag denim was still used, and reproduced by Kurabo mill, which I think is the same as the Nevada 1880s version. As far as I could tell, the fabric is pliant, soft to touch, even in raw as I have yet to soak it. The 9oz denim is also not "hairy", unlike other pairs I owned. The indigo hue is lighter comparatively with the Nevada 1880s. The top rivets are "flathead" with lightly stamped company name I suppose. The back rivets are without the patent announcement after it went public in 1890s and instead are stamped with the company name. The tag comes with all leather which is standard but darn, it sure feels nice.The back pockets are with exposed, pure copper rivets, with buckle back cinch, suspender buttoms all round and without belt loops. The back pockets shape is also curiously much squarer but then again it might be due to my failing eyesight. The arcuates are flatter, single hand stitched. It is chain stitched on the waist instead of full selvedge like the Nevada 1880s. The top and rest of the buttons are as per Nevada 1880s. And comes with the crotch rivet of course.

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