National Archives at Kansas City

Exhibits at the National Archives at Kansas City

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All Sewn Up: The Garment Industry Goes to Court in the Regional Gallery

Opening Tuesday, February 24 in the Regional Gallery All Sewn Up: The Garment Industry Goes to Court

The National Archives at Kansas City will open a new exhibit titled All Sewn Up: The Garment Industry Goes to Court on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. The exhibit explores the relationship between the Federal government and the garment and beauty industry from the 1870s to the 1950s.

Found in the vast holdings of the National Archives at Kansas City are records from Federal court cases that involve the garment and beauty industry. This exhibit showcases select cases demonstrating the variety of lawsuits that have made their way through the legal system, seeking to provide Federal protection for the consumer, for the company, or for the workers.

Some of these cases involve well-known names, such as Levi Strauss or Carhartt, seeking patent protection for their products. Others involve common citizens hoping to receive financial compensation following “beauty disasters,” such as exploding bottles of nail polish and hair loss from permanents. More importantly, other cases chronicle significant events in the history of the labor movement and the rise of unions in the garment industry.

Key court cases featured in this exhibit include:

  • Levi Strauss v. Meyer Lindauer and David Lindauer. This 1878 court case was filed by the Levi Strauss Company against the defendants for patent infringement relating to “improvements in pantaloons.”
  • Curlee Clothing Company v. Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. This case documents the Union strike at the Curlee Clothing Company in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 1, 1925.
  • Hamilton Carhartt v. Star Clothing Company. This dispute over trademark infringement dates back to 1902, just 12 years after the company began.
  • National Cloak & Suit Company, v. Joseph Sonken and Moses Silverman, co-partners doing business under the firm name and style of National Army Stores Company. This trademark dispute resulted in Kansas City customers being warned about unscrupulous businessmen.
  • Donnelly Garment Company, a Corporation and Donnelly Sales Company, a Corporation v. International Ladies’ Garment Workers, an Unincorporated Union, et al. Billed as “one of the most bitterly contested battles in American labor history,” this Kansas City court case was filed in an effort to prevent the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union from infiltrating the Donnelly Garment Company, which produced dresses under the “Nelly Don” brand.

Admission, hours, and additional information
All Sewn Up is a free exhibition and opens on Tuesday, February 24. The National Archives at Kansas City is open Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. for exhibits viewing and research. To schedule a group tour please call 816-268-8013 or email mickey.ebert@nara.gov. Free parking is available for National Archives visitors.

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