Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Cool Weather Greetings, Union Suit Fans!

Wishing you well and sure hope you had a great Thanksgiving, especially all my buddies in the northeast over in Buffalo, Watertown and upstate New York... getting all that snow. That is some "lake-effect" you all have to deal with. Yikes!

As we enter the holidays and colder union suit weather, I wanted to re-post one of my earliest submissions to Union Suit Fan. The posting below is from December 8, 2016, and is of a poster popular during World War II. It urged Americans to conserve energy by turning down the thermostats in their homes, offices, factories, or where ever they worked. And most important, to pull on their long, red flannel underwear. 

Thinking back, I don't know if my grandpa and four uncles, as farm boys in the 1940's, ever laid eyes on this poster. I do know they all wore union suits. Grandpa wore them year round. Folks now should do the same. I have been for a month or so and have managed to keep the thermostat down. In fact, I'm wearing a red union suit now as I post this. It's similar to the one featured on the poster. How about you? Keep 'em buttoned.... Chris

                                                     Union Suits - YesterYear

World War II Poster of Long Red Underwear urging
U.S. Citizens to dress warmly and turn down the heat!

Rationing and Energy Conservation Office 
of  War Information 1943

The image shows long red underwear ("union suit") in the position of a man lounging, advocating everyone to wear their Long Johns for the war effort. 

This Entry Added March 7, 2017:

Richard of Traverse City, MI sent me this 1946 political cartoon drawn by John Collins. It is about the same era as the Long Underwear Poster above. It is titled "Uncle Sam's Union Suit."  Thanks, Richard.

Added December 22, 2016:

Ty of Odessa, Texas, a retired oil field worker and a Union Suit Fan, saw my recent post of button down long underwear on a World War II poster urging U.S. citizens to pull on their union suit underwear and turn down the heat. 

He remembered his copy of an old 1974 Petroleum Independent magazine featuring this very poster on its front cover. Ty said that he was so inspired after receiving this issue of the magazine, he immediately went out and purchased a couple of red Union Suits for himself to wear! He reports that he has been wearing them ever since. His two boys and a grandson wear them too. Thanks Ty for forwarding this photo of your magazine's cover.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Office Boy Robbed !! 

Union Suit Fans: After my last posting, I received an email from another Iowan resident:

Chris: Like R.K. Davenport, I'm a home grown Iowa boy. And like him and you, I wear union suits, for me about nine months out of the year. I'm also a history nut and a graduate of the University of Iowa. 

Recently an old advertisement in the University of Iowa student newspaper from 115 years ago got my attention. The newspaper began publishing in 1868, if you can believe that! The clothing ad is from the May 20, 1908 issue and titled: Wise Talks By The Office Boy.

The print is small and a bit difficult to read. Perhaps your viewers can enlarge. It's about an office boy, Muggsy, who has a "hard luck story" to tell. He related that he had gotten all dressed up in his new "brown, stylish suit, a college model, and $2.50 hat," which he purchased from the Coast & Sons Clothing Shop in Iowa City. Muggsy said he "looked the part of a swell dresser." 

On the way to pick up his girl, whom he had not seen in a week, he was confronted by four toughs who demanded his clothes, leaving him stranded on the street in his long underwear! He said "after they got me down to my union suit, a fellow put on the clothes..." Generously, the boys gave him a barrel to wear so he didn't have to continue on his way in just his underwear. What would his girl friend think?

Muggsy stood there hollering, drawing a crowd, until "a copper came up" and took him away. Cheerfully, he said, he's "not a quitter" and will get another suit just like the one he had.

This clothing ad is very different from those of men's clothing stores of today. I wonder if it really appealed to college boys back then. Did many of them relate to Muggsy running out to purchase a suit from Coast and Sons to wear over their union suits?! 

Sam Scott, Iowa City 

Thanks Scott. It's a small world what with Iowa, Iowa City and West Branch coming into such prominence in this blog after 100 years. You raise a very good question as to whether this appealed to the college boys who may have seen the ad in the student newspaper. That clothing store certainly appeared to think so. I appreciate you taking the time to share this unusual newspaper advertisement...Chris

Here's a copy of a postcard, front and back, that I found on-line featuring the Coast & Sons clothing store:

I'm always interested in receiving e-mails and photos from blog viewers like R.K. and Sam and the many others who have contributed over the years. I know you have a worthwhile union suit story to share, so don't delay in forwarding it to me. These make for a much more interesting blog when coming from you! ...Chris


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Presidential Underwear and Grant Wood Revisited

Union Suit Fans, yesterday I received this email from R.K. Davenport.... 

Chris: Having grown up on a farm near Iowa City in eastern Iowa, I've been a fan of union suits nearly my whole life and a fan of your blog for a couple years now. My 13 year old son is a 4th generation union suit wearer. He sleeps in either his red union suit or the one with dinosaurs on it. It keeps him warm when playing junior hockey too and other Iowa outdoor activities. 

After reading your latest posting on "Presidential Underwear" from this past August, the one about Abraham Lincoln's museum and his union suit, I went back and looked at your other presidential long underwear postings. 

In 2018, you posted a lithograph, "Midnight Alarm," by artist Grant Wood and then added additional artwork of his sent to you by one of your readers. It was a painting purported to be of President Hoover's "boyhood home" in West Branch, Iowa. The painting was on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

This summer, my wife and I with our 13 year old teenager and his two younger sisters visited West Branch and the Herbert Clark Hoover Library and Museum, his boyhood home which you can tour, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. All are within walking distance. Here are some photos of his little home taken by me:

This is the house where Hoover was born and actually lived as a boy. It looks nothing like the home pictured in the aforementioned painting by Wood displayed at the Whitney. 

You can see his home was comparatively modest compared to the one featured. It is only one story with a couple of bedrooms. And, nowdays, there is no clothesline and certainly no union suit hanging out to dry. 

What house do you suppose Grant Wood was depicting?

...R.K. Davenport

Great detective work, R.K. I found on the internet that President Hoover's home is just as your pictures show. So Grant Wood's painting is someone else's, apparently another family's mid-nineteenth century home. Perhaps he took license to create an addition to Hoover's house in his imagination. I wonder though if an addition was added by a subsequent purchaser and then torn down in the years when the library and boyhood home were established.

Here below are my comments, followed by those from Joe of NYC, regarding Manhattan's Whitney Art Museum's display of Grant Wood's painting in question. It's from my posting of April, 2018 in Union Suit Fan:

...Spencer, I thank you for this insight into Grant Wood's lithograph, “Midnight Alarm,” and for bringing it to my attention. This lithograph is sure to be of interest to Union Suit Fans. I appreciate you taking the time to share. 

Coincidentally, the same week I heard from you, I received an email featuring additional "Union Suit" art by none other than Grant Wood. Although not as prominent as the farmer descending the stairs in his Long Underwear, it never-the-less depicts a Union Suit. In this instance, President Herbert Hoover's Union Suit hangs from a boyhood farm house clothesline. Not surprising, Hoover was from Iowa as was Wood. No doubt, both men wore one-piece, button-down Long Johns. Perhaps Wood did have an interest in men's underwear, why not?

Joe of New York City emailed, “On display today at the Whitney in downtown Manhattan is a Grant Wood exhibit: Best known for AMERICAN GOTHIC, he also painted the above titled “THE BIRTHPLACE OF HERBERT HOOVER, WEST BRANCH, IOWA." 

And why am I sending this? Well, cropped a bit, look at what is on the President’s clothesline!  Keep ‘em buttoned, Joe.”

Yep, sure enough, there is Hoover's Union Suit. Thanks, Joe! ...Chris

You can read all about the presidential Union Suits of John F. Kennedy and Calvin Coolidge in my posting, “Presidential Underwear,” May 26, 2016. In another posting, “Presidential Underwear, Abe Lincoln's Union Suit?” dated July 27, 2016, I discuss the possibility of Lincoln and his sons wearing Union Suits back in the mid-1800's...  

A search of the internet gives us a bit more information regarding the two story house. Here's what I uncovered:

The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover

West Branch, Iowa1931 Grant Wood  Oil on masonite

On View in Gallery 323

Grant Wood, born and raised in Iowa, was the foremost artist of the American Regionalist movement, which focused on the human condition and the values of a rural environment. This well-organized landscape, with its linear precision and repetition of forms, emphasizes the order and harmony of country life. A group of Iowa businessmen commissioned this painting to present to President Herbert Hoover, who was born in the white frame cabin situated immediately behind the two-story house in the middle of the scene. The president, who had stressed his humble origins during his campaign, refused the painting because the inclusion of the larger, later house obscured the cabin. Wood eventually sold it through a dealer.

If Joe, or anyone else, can shed any light on the diffences, please let me know.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Buckeye's Missed Opportunity for a Halloween Costume Submission!

As you may remember from past postings, Buckeye is always sure to send me his annual Halloween Costume creation. However, the holiday slipped up on him this year. You could say he got caught with his pants down. Regarding his failure to send me his latest holiday garb, he emails:  

"Happy Halloween, my friend. 

My apologies for the dismal failure this time. However I did resurrect my zombie outfit and wore it to work today for a whole bunch of people who hadn’t seen it before. It’s not every day a guy gets to work all day in a (mostly) exposed union suit. One of the technicians told me "that’s how you always look." Wondering if maybe he has X-Ray vision. Hmmmmm ... Buckeye Mike"

We'll anxiously await Buckeye's next years' Halloween outfit. It will surely be a winner.  

His previous Halloween Costume:

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

It's Halloween, So...

you know what that means! It's time for another Custom Costume Carnival...What will you be wearing tonight?

G. Gordo Liddy

The Masked Marcel


Orange Blooded
Bronco Super Fan

Ted Bear

Wrestlin' Willie

Artic Arnie

Ahhh Man!  I'm to sick to go Trick or Treatin' Tonight!

Thanks Ron, Michael, RC, Donald, Chris, Josh, Jeremy, Trevor, and Paul.
Happy Halloween to you from Us Union Suiters!