Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Presidential Underwear

Abe Lincoln's Union Suit?

Contrary to the image depicted here, Honest Abe and his four boys most likely did not wear Union Suits but rather two-piece long underwear. Like most men and boys in the early to mid 19th century, Abe and his sons probably wore separate long-handled, ankle length "drawers" and long sleeved undershirts. Although Union Suits could have been made by wives and mothers on an individual basis in Lincoln's time, Mary Todd Lincoln probably did not have or take time to sew Union Suits for the five males in her famous family.

Some believe that "Union Suits" became popular and got the name because Union soldiers, from drummer boys to generals, wore this type of long underwear in Civil War times. But not likely. Union Suits, drawers and undershirts combined into one garment, were not mass manufactured in the United States until the 1870's, after Lincoln's time. 

The one-piece underwear which buttons up the entire front of the suit and with a buttoned flap in the rear became very popular with men and boys beginning in about 1880. Union Suits, of course, are still popularly worn by men and boys today including me.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jack and the Beanstalk 
           See Previous Blog

Jack confronts the Giant's Wife in a scene from Fairie Tale Theatre, 1983

As reported in my previous blog Ryan posed the question as to whether I had seen a televised theatre presentation of "Jack and the Beanstalk" wherein Jack, a poor boy, climbed the stalk and had adventures in his red Union Suit. You know the story which scholars date back (in some fashion) 5,000 years. Thanks to the emails sent to me by Shane, Gary, and others, I was able to identify this play presented by Fairie Tale Theatre in 1983. It was shown September 8, 1983, Season 2, Episode 4. It starred Elliott Gould as the boy-eating giant and his wife, Jean Stapleton. The boy, Jack, was played by Dennis Christopher. Jack did indeed climb the beanstalk in his long underwear having been awaken by its growth in to the sky. Following are photo clips of Jack and his adventure courtesy of Fairie Tale Theatre:

Jack Awakens and Climbs the Beanstalk
in His Long Underwear

Jack Wearing Only His Union Suit
Wonders To Where He Has Climbed

A Fairy Warns Jack About the Boy-Eating Giant

Unfazed and Seeminly Unaware that He Is In His Underwear,
 Jack Approaches the Giant's Home
 and Speaks to His Wife

Jack Tells the Giant's Wife He is Hungry
and is Allowed to Enter

Jack Steals the Sleeping Giant's Gold

Jack, Still in His Union Suit,
Arrives Back Home and Describes
His Adventures to His Mother

Jack is Triumphant! He and Mother are Rich!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Jack and the Beanstalk

Ryan of Brighton, NY emailed me to ask if I remembered or knew of a "Jack and the Beanstalk" episode shown on TV in the 1980's that he watched when he was a boy. He remembers that this Saturday morning show utilized live actors including, he thinks, Elliot Gould as the giant who cobbled up little boys.

In this show according to Ryan, Jack woke up in the night and saw an extremely large bean stalk growing outside his bedroom window. He jumped out of bed clad in just a red Union Suit and climbed the stalk up into the clouds. He had various adventures in his long underwear. 

I do not remember seeing this show but will check to see if I can identify this production for Ryan. If any of you Union Suit Fans can shed light on this program email me at Thanks, Chris. 

          When reporting your emails on my blog, I only use first names and towns.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The city of Cedar Springs, Michigan holds an annual Red Flannel Festival in October of each year. My family visited there when I was a teenager. Dad bought my brothers and me red Union Suits from the Red Flannel Factory. We put them on and got to run around town the entire week-end in just our underwear! Where else can you do that?  We boys had a great time. So did mom and dad.

Back then and from early on nearly everyone who attended the Festival wore their long, red one-piece underwear. Now days few people attend in their underwear. Most just wear red shirts, hoodies, socks, etc. If you don't, the Keystone Kops will toss you in jail. 

The first Red Flannel Day was held Nov. 11, 1939 and Carleton Cady wrote in that issue of the Grand Rapids Press:  “Lurid lingerie adorned the limbs of nearly every citizen. Scarlet certificates of knighthood were issued to members of the Order of Knights of the Red Flannel Drawers, who proudly wore the badge, which, in miniature, reproduced the article that on winter  Monday’s flies from Cedar Springs’ clotheslines.”

Their password was “itch”. Dr. C. W. Brayman, James H. Cook and Jack Pollock were some of the first members in good standing, crowning the first Red Flannel Queen, Maxine Smith.

In more recent days since few attendees appear in their Long Red Underwear, the Festival is not as fun or amusing as back in the day. 

The last time we attended the festival the boy
playing the guitar had donned a bright red Union Suit