Mystery Monday: H. R. Mallinson’s “American National Parks” Series

H. R. Mallinson. “Garden of the Gods”, 1930. Silk, 29.8 x 23.2 cm. Copyright 2012 the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If you guessed H.R. Mallinson’s “American National Parks” series, you are correct!

H. R. Mallinson. “Garden of the Gods”, 1930. Silk, 29.8 x 23.2 cm. Copyright 2012 the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“To see a little further into Fashion’s future; to dig a little deeper for quality production; to know no mean between right silks and wrong silks; to be satisfied never with good enough but always to supply even better than the customer expects.” – M. C. Migel & Company’s “Silk Creed” (175)

Founded in 1895, M. C. Migel & Company hired its greatest asset only two years later, talented salesman Hiram Royal Mallinson. In 1915, when Migel left the company after making a comfortable profit, the M. C. Migel & Company became H. R. Mallinson & Company with a subtitle of “Qualité Silk Originators.” Under Mallinson’s leadership, the company experienced its greatest commercial success.

What made H. R. Mallinson a great salesman and leader? His dedication to quality and originality. His goal to produce and market American silks that rivaled the silks produced in Europe was supported by his supreme salesmanship and his focus on reaching the individual consumer. American Silks, 1830 – 1930 devotes a whole chapter to Mallinson’s advertisements and marketing campaigns and the impact these campaigns had on the fashion and textile industry.

H. R. Mallinson & Company novel large-scale high fashion print Paradise Valley, Mount Rainier; landscape design from the 1927 “American National Parks” series. From The Collection of the Newark Museum. Museum Purchase 1927. J. Ackerman Cotes Collection (Detail). Found in American Silk, 1830 – 1930.

 

The “American National Parks” design series was a reaction to a successful line of prints by Stehli Silk Company in 1925. The Stehli Silk company had produced a series of prints designed by American artists and illustrators, and the success of this line had “challenged Mallinson’s design leadership” (215). In the spring of 1927, Mallinson began marketing designs featuring majestic icons of the American landscape.  “The twelve landscape designs, each available in from eight to twelve colorways on three different ground cloths, surpassed in sales and critical response anything Mallinson had done before” (216). The prints were a success!

H. R. Mallinson & Company novel large-scale high fashion print, Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite; landscape design from the 1927″ American National Parks” series. From The Collection of the Newark Museum. Museum Purchase 1927. J. Ackerman Cotes Collection (Detail). Found in American Silk, 1830 – 1930.

Later that fall, Mallinson & Company released a second series of prints, “Wonder Caves of America”. This also sold well, and in the spring of 1928, Mallinson & Company released the “American Indian” series, a series of fifteen designs inspired by fifteen Native American tribes.

Examples of both the “American National Parks” series and the “American Indian” series can be found online at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. These slideshows include hand drawn sketches and samples of these two designs series. To view these two collection tours, please use the following links: National Parks Collection Tour and American Indian Collection Tour.

Following these successful designs, Mallinson & Company marketed its final National design series in 1929, the “Early American” series.

“Early American was styled to offer something to everyone: traditional florals in the Life of Lincoln and Showboat on the Mississippi, Jazz Age designs with ray effects, jutting angles, and jagged lines in Betsy Ross/Liberty Bell, and Franklin’s Key to Electricity, a horizontal stripe in Covered Wagons/Oregon Trail, and a regular geometric in Old Sampler/Paul Revere” (216).

Feature page with the designs for Wonder Caves of America, a follow-up to the National Park print series. From the American Silk Journal. Found in American Silk, 1830 – 1930.

H. R. Mallinson & Company had its most successful year in 1927.

“At this point, Mallinson’s ran a ten-thousand spindle throwing mill in Paterson and one of twenty-thousand spindles in Trenton to provide silk yarns for its own weaving mills. The flagship Long Island City (Astoria, New York) mill operated 200 jacquard and 500 box looms. Erie’s equipment included 50 jacquard, 100 velvet, and 500 plain and box looms. The Union City (formerly West Hoboken, New Jersey) mill ran 100 velvet looms, and the Allentown, Pennsylvania, ran 25 jacquard and 250 box looms.”

It was during this year that its net profit was over a million dollars, which would be the equivalent of about 13 million dollars today.

So, what caused H.R. Mallinson’s decline? In 1928, as ready to wear clothing became more popular, silk piece goods lost some of their appeal.  Along with the difficulties caused by the Great Depression, Mallinson & Company found new competition with the garment industry. Mallinson continued to seek new ways to market silk goods, and in 1930, opened an office at 512 Seventh Avenue in the garment district (193). Despite Mallinson’s efforts to compete with emerging markets, his efforts to open new sales offices failed to realized a profit. H. R. Mallinson died suddenly in May 1931, and within five years, the company had sold some of its mills and had filed for bankruptcy. After several name changes and efforts at revitalization, the company was absorbed into Burlington Industries in 1952 (250).

For the past few years, the runways have displayed wonderful collections of bold and bright prints. Like the vibrant prints Mallinson & Company created in the 1920s, the witty subject matter and the dynamic colors in today’s prints appeal to consumers. After 1928, the demand for bold prints like those in the National Parks series waned as smaller prints became fashionable. And the cycle repeats and repeats and repeats.

Visit us next Monday for next week’s mystery!

Notes:
Field, Jacqueline, Marjorie Senechal, and Madelyn Shaw. American Silk 1830 – 1930: Entrepreneurs and Artifacts. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 2007.
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2 Responses to Mystery Monday: H. R. Mallinson’s “American National Parks” Series

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