It's starting to feel like Fall might actually arrive this year here at Hagley Museum and Library. We're welcoming this return of temperate weather by roaming the grounds while we can, and nothing says "Outdoor Life" like Erwin Mill's Everglaze cotton slacks by Bilt-Well of Boston.
This 1958 photograph is part of Hagley Library's Joseph Bancroft and Sons Company, Miss America collection (Accession 1972.430), and was part of an ongoing series of fashion photographs commissioned by the company.
The firm's namesake, Joseph Bancroft (1803-1874) began manufacturing cotton cloth using traditional British spinning and weaving technology at a small mill in Rockford, Delaware, just north of Wilmington, on March 25, 1831. The mill was built along the Brandywine River in order to take advantage of the river's water power.
Bancroft's business expanded steadily during the 1830s and 1840s as it began to produce cotton for both the Philadelphia and New York markets. In the late 1840s, Joseph Bancroft brought his two sons William (1825-1928) and Samuel (1840-1915) into the business, assuring that the company would remain a family enterprise.
During the Civil War, when the American market was largely closed to English imports, the Bancroft firm, like most other U.S. textile companies, prospered. After the war, the company developed a new bleaching process and began to concentrate on finishing cotton cloth.
In 1866, Joseph's sons, William Bancroft and Samuel Bancroft Jr., became co-partners and the firm was renamed Joseph Bancroft & Sons. The brothers continued the business after Joseph's death in 1874, and in 1889, the firm's name was changed again, this time to Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company. The company continued to expand during the late nineteenth century.
In 1929, the Bancroft Company merged with the Eddystone Manufacturing Company and soon after, it began producing a line of rayon goods and a cotton finishing process that were marketed under the trade names of "Ban-Lon" and "Everglaze" respectively. In an effort to promote Everglaze, Bancroft became a primary sponsor of the Miss America Pageant from the mid-1940s through the late 1960s. The company helped finance the pageant and provided money towards scholarships awarded to pageant winners. Bancroft was able to promote its products using the image of Miss America.
The collection largely consists of general advertising and product information for "Ban-Lon" and "Everglaze" fashions. In particular, the collection documents the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company's sponsorship of the Miss America Pageant and the promotion of fabrics by Miss America from the years 1953 to 1967. More images from this collection, along with images from our Joseph Bancroft and Sons Company photographs (Accession 1969.025), can be found online in our Digital Archive by clicking here.