This delightful illustration of boys peering out 7 portholes comes from a 1959 ad for Montgomery Wards. They are showing us a brand of slacks made for Montgomery Wards from a special cotton fabric from Cone Mills. The fabric has special qualities that “wash easily, dry quickly, and require little or no ironing”.
Perhaps one could still find a pair of these slacks at a thrift store somewhere, but neither Wards nor Cone Mills are still around. Both were giants in their respective fields. Both began at the end of the 19th century, and both ended in bankruptcy in the early 2000’s. Over 100 years is a pretty good run, but nothing lasts forever.
Wards shared the department store retail space with competitors Sears and JC Penney in the 20th century before shopping habits changed. Sears and JC Penney are struggling, but still hanging on.
North Carolina’s Cone Mills was at one time the biggest denim manufacturer in the world. The company had some innovative programs for its large workforce which included company housing, recreation, and education. They were unfortunately also responsible for a variety of environmental abuses. The company filed for Chapter 11 in 2003 as a result of foreign competition and lower demand . Their parent company, International Textile Group closed the last US plant in 2017 and thus ended the last US mill that manufactured Selvedge Denim.
- Wards.com (an online retail space from a company that bought the rights to the Montgomery Wards brand)
- https://whiteoakshop.com/ (A company that sells denim clothing under the name of Cone Mill’s last White Oak plant)
- https://toddshelton.com/blog/products/jeans/selvedge-denim (an interesting article that explains Selvage Denim)