Hamilton Carhartt was born in 1855 in Macedon Lock, New York, and was raised in southern Michigan. As an adult, the first thing the savvy businessman did was to add an extra “t” to his surname in order to stand out from the crowd. Carhartt’s company started out making overalls for railroad workers. He knew in order to be successful, that the clothing would have to be the utmost quality. Read this informative article and learn some more interesting facts about the Carhartt brand.
Carhartt established the company that bears his name in 1889 in Michigan. He had 5 employees and 4 sewing machines. His goal was to design and produce the best bib overalls money could buy. They had to be durable, yet comfortable. The first overalls were made in duck and denim fabrics, the same materials used for ship sails. Even with the growth of the workforce in Detroit, sales of Carhartt’s work clothing were dismal.
So, Hamilton Carhartt sought the advice of a railroad engineer to re-design his bib overalls. He changed the material to 12-ounce duck cotton canvas. The seams were triple stitched. Copper rivets were installed at stress points, and button holes were reinforced. The newly designed overalls had wider legs to allow freedom of movement. They also fit over work boots. The overalls included plenty of pockets, as well as loops for carrying tools. Carhartt promoted his quality work clothing by traveling from town to town and meeting his potential customers.
The Rise and Fall
The success of Carhartt Workwear allowed the company to expand to 17 plants across the US, Canada and Europe by 1910. The company had 3 cotton mills that made high-grade, long-fiber cotton that was used to produce the Carhartt Master Cloth. This denim was woven with the duck material to make overalls, jackets, gloves and pants.
The Great Depression reduced the company to just 3 plants in Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit.
Another interesting fact about the Carhartt brand is, Hamilton and his son Wylie fought to keep the company alive. They continued to produce durable, long-lasting work clothing that met their highest standards. They supplied uniforms for soldiers in both World Wars. In time, Carhartt got back on its feet and continued to prosper.
Hamilton Carhartt is quoted as saying, “I believe that when a man wears an article that I manufacture, his self-respect is increased because he knows that it is made by an honest manufacturer, who is honest with his employees”. He and his wife died from injuries in a car accident in May of 1937. The Carhartt company was left to their sons Hamilton Jr. and Wylie.
The Brand Today
Carhartt’s continues to produce its famous workwear that resists water, wear-and-tear and flames. It even made its way to Hollywood. You can see Carhartt brand clothing in movies like The Horse Whisperer (1998) and The Perfect Storm (2000). Carhartt donated bib overalls to workers who were involved in the 9/11 World Trade Center rescue work.