Monday, December 10, 2018

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Suspenders by Kaye Spencer #trivia #westernfictioneers #fashionhistory

Suspenders (aka braces and galluses) have been around for centuries as a practical means of holding up one's britches, particularly because of the high waists on men's trousers before belts and belt loops became functionally popular, which was roughly around World War I, when soldiers were introduced to uniform belts. Since the 1920s, suspenders have continued to ride a roller coaster of fashion popularity.

An article on the website Time.com offers this tidbit about the origins of suspenders along with an amusing anecdote:

The first suspenders can be traced to 18th century France, where they were basically strips of ribbon attached to the buttonholes of trousers. Benjamin Franklin is said to have worn them — although it's probably best not to ask how historians know that; back then, suspenders were considered an undergarment never to be seen in public. In fact, visible suspenders were considered risqué as recently as 1938, when a town in Long Island, NY tried to ban gentlemen from wearing them without a coat, calling it "sartorial indecency."
"First Suspenders" Public Domain Image


This article goes on to explain that in the 1820s, a British designer named Albert Thurston manufactured suspenders as we know them, which brings me to Samuel Langhorne  Clemens, aka author Mark Twain, as an  inventor of an alternative to suspenders.
Samuel Clemens Public Domain (b. Nov. 30, 1835 - d. Apr. 21, 1920)

Clemens received his first patent (#1221992) on December 19, 1871 for an alternative to suspenders, which he reportedly loathed entirely as miserably uncomfortable. He called this invention an "Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" (ADSG). However, as with many inventions, the original designs are often adapted and the inventor's intent is either lost completely or altered in new and interesting ways.

Suspenders in Hollywood:
John Wayne with suspenders*


Humphrey Bogart with suspenders**
Clemens' suspenders patent didn't catch on for suspenders. According to an article from Smithsonian Magazine (HERE):

His “improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments” was a button-on adjustable strap that could be used to tighten garments–it could pinch a shirt at the waist, for example. “The advantages of such an adjustable and detachable elastic strap are so obvious that they need no explanation...” It would also be simple to make non-elastic detachable straps, Clemens wrote, “but I prefer to make them elastic.

An article in The Atlantic Monthly (HERE) explained it this way:

Clemens designed the adjustable and detachable strap to be used from one garment to another in order to 'fix' whatever clothing issue the wearer encountered. However, he did not elaborate on exactly how his invention should be used. He wrote that the "advantages of having a stretchy strap for any item is so obvious that they need no explanation."

Image from Smithsonianmag.com

His invention 'ADSG' did not catch on for pantaloons, suspenders, or vests. It did, however, find its niche with one particular garment: the brassiere. So, now you know who to thank, or cuss, for how a traditionally designed bra fastens.




On a side note, the other patents Clemens received were for a self-pasting scrapbook technique (1873) and a history trivia game (1875). He made $50,000 from the scrapbook invention. His other inventions either cost him money in the long run or simply didn't work. The website ThoughtCo.com has more information about his other inventions and investments-gone-wrong HERE.



Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time


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Resources/References
Shop Mr & Mrs Renaissance - https://www.mrm-accessories.com/blog/2015/1/5/the-look-and-history-of-suspenders-braces
Smithsonian.com - SmartNews - https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-mark-twains-hatred-suspenders-drove-him-invent-180967577/
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/mark-twain-granted-his-first-patent-december-19-1871
The Atlantic - https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/07/celebrity-invention-mark-twains-elastic-clasp-brassiere-strap/241267/
Time.com - http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2037331,00.html

ThoughtCo.com - https://www.thoughtco.com/what-were-mark-twains-inventions-740679
Images:
First Suspenders image Public Domain - Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Samuel Clemens - Public Domain image: UnknownUnknown author, MarkTwain.LOC, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons
*John Wayne imbd - https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000078/mediaviewer/rm2120462592
**Humphrey Bogart - https://goo.gl/images/KU44HM

Openclipart.com - 'wow'

2 comments:

  1. Kaye, my dad used to call them "galluses" instead of suspenders. Not sure if I spelled that right--but I've never heard anyone else call them that. Interesting article (as always!) I love the pictures, too!

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