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The Indian Head Connection Of Indigo, Calico and Bulldog

During Indian Head Inc.’s acquisition years, several prominent mills and manufacturers became the company’s property. Among them were J.L. Stifel & Sons and William Skinner & Sons, and through a sale of its Indian Head finishing division to Springs Mills [now Springs Industries],Springs became the owner of the Skinner trademark.

Each of these three are institutions in their own right with illustrious family histories and major contributions to their communities and the textile industry. As the story goes, he was alone, poor, 28 and walking to Wheeling WVA, sometimes barefoot to conserve shoe leather. It was little more than a year ago that he had arrived in Baltimore in 1833 from Murtenburg, Germany, soon moving on to Philadelphia, then Bethelem PA to work briefly in the woolen mills and now trudging toward Wheeling. When Johann Ludwig Stifel [Am.. John Louis] finally arrived at his destination in 1834, he became one of the first Germans to settle in that region.

He supported himself by working on a farm until spring, 1835. But Johann was by trade a dyer and calico printer, having traveled throughout Europe as a journeyman and later as a foreman at Kaiser Lautern. By that spring he had saved enough money to open a small cleaning and dyeing establishment in a log cabin on North Main St. in Wheeling. Several months later he married.

Then he made a decision that would have far-reaching consequences for himself, his family and heirs, Wheeling and the textile industry worldwide with the formation of the J.L. Stifel Co.

The Indian Head Connection

Company founder Johann Ludwig Stifel, 1807-81.
- Courtesy Oglebay Institute

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One of several versions of the famous Stifel trademark boot.

- Courtesy Oglebay Institute Its products, chiefly indigo calicoes, drills and denims, became household names, world famous, revered today by fabric collectors of all types and perpetuated through the preservation and display by the Stifel Fine Arts Center at the Oglebay Institute in Wheeling. Bulldog denim , a heavy twilled shirting, and Miss Stifel Cloth, a lighter weight version, were much in demand. In many ways, Stifel cloths were comparable to Indian Head.

Both manufacturers stood with pride behind each and every bolt which gave these fabrics instant name recognition for their quality, reliability, durability and, above all, distinctiveness. And as in the manner of Indian Head, the Stifel label has its own story to tell. 1835 J.L. makes another important decision when he decides to return to the printing and dyeing business.

For $10 on credit, purchases bolt of unbleached cotton goods from a local dry goods merchant, dyes and sells it and purchases another bolt. In that manner, raises enough money to start The J.L. Stifel Co. 1835 Opens factory at Ninth and Main Sts. where he dyes and prints calico in indigo blue by hand; peddles it from a wagon around the region.

The process is tedious and for many years he and his workers use this method of production until about 1866-70– Unbleached sheeting and indigo dye are obtained from domestic mills in 45 to 50 yard bolts. Fabric is boiled in soda to remove all starch and dressing, then hung and dried. Fabric ready for printing using the resist process which requires using a substance capable of resisting the action of the dye in which the goods would be immersed.

Blocks J.L. makes for printing are about 1″ thick wood, varying in shape and size according to pattern. Close-grain woods such as pear, maple or gum are preferred choices to get the best clear cut design. J.L. draws design on the block, then cuts it out with a sharp knife, gouging out the background to a depth sufficient to insure a clear impression. Early designs are flowers, leaves and circles. Block is then saturated with resist color and stamping begins on fabric which is laid flat and pinned down.

Final appearance depends on the steady hand and skilled eyes of the stamper. This was the process which gave calico its name when introduced into Europe from Calcutta where it had originated. Fabric ready for dyeing by dipping it into large vats of indigo blue, then washing with the result being a white pattern [where the resist color had been applied] on an indigo background.

1859 Sons Louis C. And William F. Join the firm as partners; change name to J.L. Stifel and Sons, Inc. Other sons George would become a merchant and Arthur, a physician.

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Open for business – the first shop as it looked in 1835.
- Courtesy Oglebay Institute

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Typical, timeless indigo prints, stiff and heavy. These are from 1930s.
- Courtesy Margo Krager collection

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Today’s Dagama indigoes are lighter, losing body with each successive washing.
- Courtesy Margo Krager collection

The Indian Head ConnectionThe Indian Head Connection

Early labels found on Stifel bolts.

- Courtesy Margo Krager collection 1866 Company begins changes through to the 1880s, switching hand -block printing to mechanical roller printing, first wood, then copper.

Steam printing presses replace hand-operated printing. New technology enables fabric to be dyed first, then printed. 1871 J. L. Retires. 1874 Plant becomes one of the nation’s largest calico printing establishments and first to print yard-wide indigo blue calico which was shipped to all parts of the world to be made into clothing.. 1878 Son George establishes George F. Stifel & Company, a dry goods store which will employ more than 100 persons.

Sells imported and domestic silks, dress goods, notions, wash goods, linens, flannels, cloaks, suits, ladies and gentlemen’s underwear, curtains, draperies, upholstery and rugs. 1881 J.L. dies on Dec. 1. Heirs carry on business. 1896 Third generation Edward and Henry and Arthur join the business. Factory moves to new and final location in North Wheeling on Main St. between Third and Fourth Sts. Comprises 70,000 sq.ft., 50 employees. 1903 Boot trademark patented, US Patent Office # 210849 and printed on wrong side of fabric. Stifel means boot in German, a fitting logo.

Early 1900s Most of operations now mechanized by power generated by the largest gas engine in the state. Plant nicknamed the Calico Works by locals. Main products are indigo-dyed prints and drills used by clothing manufacturers. Company ships large quantities of calico to Latin America, India, Philippines, Canada and Africa; cloth is so popular with natives that they wear fabric wrong side out to display boot as a symbol of prestige.

1917 Plant converts to war production, printing fabric for Belgian and French governments and khaki for U.S. military. 1920 Company incorporates. 1920s Plant retools production for sports clothes fabrics – printed plaids, flannels and broadcloth as consumer tastes changes.. 1929 Production ceases on printing indigo blue calico to keep pace with fashion dictates. 1930 Production begins for printing lighter weight and lighter color materials for sports and work clothes.

1930 Fourth generation – Edward, W. Flaccus and Arthur Jr., join the company. 1933 Company obtains license to use Sanforization process, one of the first textile firms given permission. [access Sanforizing column at left] 1938 Patents Krosty Kool for cotton and cotton/rayon piece goods; and Perma- drape for cotton piece goods. 1939 Patents Menlo for fabrics of cotton, rayon and other mixed fibers. 1940 Patents Raintex for fabrics of cotton, rayonand other mixed fibers.

1941 Sales office opens in New York City for design, styling, sales, advertising and credit. 1941 Plant once again converts to war production with 90% of production for processing finishes and dyeing material for Army and Navy fatigue and battle dress. Becomes largest supplier of war textiles. 1942 Local No. 514, Textile Workers Union of America, is organized. 1943 J. L. Stifel & Sons become the first in textile industry to win the joint Army-Navy “E” Production Awards; receives three more such commendations.

1944 Patents Bicycle for draperies and curtains; Greytex for draperies and curtains; Ironclad for draperies and curtains; Menlo for draperies and curtains; Morocco for men’s, women’s and children lines of clothing ranging from caps, riding breeches, trousers, dresses, underwear, pajamas; Shirtex for draperies and curtains; Sportador for draperies and curtains; and Whirlwind for draperies and curtains.

1945 Patents Express for draperies and curtains. Post-War Company becomes largest producer of cotton flannel, double printed fabrics – shirts, trousers and work clothes and a major manufacturer of printed broadcloth. During its peak years, plant produces 3.5 million yards of cloth per month with 2,000 miles of fabric continuously available.

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The second plant early 1900s would be Stifel’s final location.
- Courtesy Oglebay Institute

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Along with its famous Bulldog denim twilled shirting, Miss Stifel Cloth was a lighter weight version. Ad from 1917 McCall’s magazine.
- Courtesy Shirley McElderry

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Another colorful and well- known label from first quarter 20th century.
- Courtesy Oglebay Institute

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Quilt made from Stifel prints, first quarter 20th century. Closeup reveals indigo pattern.
- Courtesy Margo Krager collection

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A Stifel fabric assortment and selection of work clothes from Sears 1920 catalog.
- Courtesy Betty Wilson

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These fabrics are most likely Bulldog and Miss Stifel Cloth but not advertised as such; possibly brand names had been discontinued by then. From Sears 1927 catalog.
- Courtesy Pat L. Nickols

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Also from Sears 1927 catalog is this Stifel boy’s rompers with button-back drop seat. Made of indigo with white “trimmings.”

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Presentation of the Army/Navy E award flag to the Stifel company in 1942 for “high achievement in the production of war equipment.” – Courtesy Oglebay Institute Acquires mills in Glendale SC and Douglasville GA for spinning and weaving. Wheeling plant dedicated for finishing operations. These moves end the long history of purchasing cotton cloth from mills in the South and New England.

Late 1940s Plant expansion contains 270,000sq. ft; monthly water consumption is enough to supply a town of 80,000 persons; furnaces burn 15 railroad cars of coal, use 30 tons of starches. Three-story power plant features 275-ft. smokestack which becomes a familiar Wheeling landmark.. 1957 A declining demand for cotton goods, development of synthetic fibers and undercutting foreign imports result in plant closing after 122 years in business. Is purchased by Indian Head Co.

Operations at Douglasville and Wheeling plants phased out. 1957 Indian Head sells Wheeling plant back to family.Calico printing presses capable of printing eight colors at one time are sold to South American textile interests. Plant is resold to other business interests, then becomes vacant and idle.

1961 Fire destroys building except for smokestack. 1969 The final blow – a Wheeling landmark disappears as smokestack is demolished by the city, leaving only memories of rubble.

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Brandnames patented by Stifel between 1938-45.
-Textile Brandnames Dictionary

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Scenes from the workplace in the 1950s: print room, inspection room and folding room.
- Courtesy Oglebay Institute

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About the Stifel Family While the company no longer exists, the Stifel name continues to be an important part of Wheeling activities. Five generations have participated in most every strata of community life, providing their services in the commercial, industrial and business sectors. J.L. set the example with his involvement in many business and civic ventures — stockholder and director of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge; director and president of the Commercial Bank; organizer and director of the National Savings Bank of Wheeling; vice-president and director of the Benwood Iron Works, strong supporter of the Union, member of the convention whose action brought about the separation of West Virginia from Virginia and member of first board of Ohio County Commissioners.

His decedents continued in the same vein, working for the betterment of Wheeling citizens in philanthropy, aviation, recreation, education, medical care, medical research, culture and the arts. Perhaps the best-known legacy was the deeding in 1976 of the Edward W. Stifel home, Edemar built in 1910, to the Oglebay Institute for the establishment of the Stifel Fine Arts Center. With its fine gardens, pool, tennis court, fish pond, picnic area and putting green, this 30-room mansion now houses craft rooms, galleries and offices.

For more information on Oglebay and the fine arts center see www.oionline.com

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Edemar mansion which was donated to Oglebay Institute to house the Stifel Fine Arts Center. Name was derived from Edward W. Stifel’s three children, Edward, Emily and Mary.

- Courtesy Oglebay Institute My thanks to the following for making this column possible: President Fred Lambert and Lynette Sickles of Oglebay Institute and Brad Johnson, Stifel Fine Arts Center, for permission to use information from the Stifel history booklets; Amy Kastigar and staff at the Wheeling Ohio County Public Library for providing research documents about Stifel and Wheeling; Margo Krager, Reproduction Fabrics, for use of indigo print fabrics, slides and production notes; and Pat L. Nickols and Shirley McElderry for Stifel advertisements.

Sources: Company and family information: – Stifel, 1988; Stifel Fine Arts Center, Oglebay Institute – Calico, the Stifel Legacy, 1997, Stifel Fine Arts Center, Oglebay Institute – Wheeling News Register, Mar.

26, 1969, Stifel Calico Plant - going ,going, gone; Dec.

7, 1997, Stifel Legacy - The Wheeling Intelligencer, Mar.

15, 1969 George Stifel informatio – History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens, 1902 Indigo and resist process information: – Wheeling News Register, June 27, 1943, one in a series on Stifel by Josephine Jefferson Brandname information: – Textile Brandnames Dictionary, Textile Book Publishers, 1947

Skinner & Sons The arbitrary cut-off date for this Vintage Fabric column is 1960. To stay within the scope of this timeframe, reference materials published up to that date are the prime source of information to more accurately capture actual thoughts of the time.

Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.