Recently, we acquired well-worn tailors’ tools used by a custom tailor in Duluth. C. Paul Nelson emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden with his four daughters in early 1900. Though tailoring has traditionally been a craft dominated by men, two of Nelson’s daughters – Sophie and Hanna worked as “tailoresses.” According to the 1910 census, Sophie, Hanna and their father were working in Duluth. In 1930 both Sophie and Paul Nelson were still working – Paul as a coat-maker and Sophie as a vest-maker. In the 1900 Minneapolis City Directory, vest making was a woman’s occupation. Six women listed their occupation as vest-maker. Often women worked on lighter weight garments or women’s tailored clothing in a dressmaking shop rather than a tailor’s shop. In this same city directory, of the 724 tailors listed, 89 were women.
Though cutting and measuring are the hallmark skills of a tailor’s art, these pressing tools – a tailor’s clapper, tailor’s blocks, trouser board, sleeve board and tailoring iron (a 15.5 lb weight) – donated by a member of the Nelson family are essential to giving the wool its proper shape and a crisp finish to the seams of a garment.
Included in this donation is an image of tailors at work in the shop of A. V. Ljungkvist in 1908; see below. Paul Nelson is seated in a modified tailor-fashion at the far left.
Linda McShannock, Objects Curator