On The Road: Back in Billings

We went back to Billings again yesterday. It’s an easy 140 mile drive which makes for a busy day trip or a relaxed overnight. We opted for the overnight, staying at the Dude Rancher again. There are pics of it in the first post of this thread. We hit town around 5:00, just as the sun was setting, but still with enough time to get an hour in at a big antique mall on the fringes of downtown, Marketplace 3301. There were definitely some things there I wish I had bought, but that were just too high- an 1800s bearskin coat for $250, or the sign off the Great Falls Hub store, from which I’ve had a number of pieces that were originally sold there over the years. But if I bought everything I wanted, I’d be broke with a houseful of unsalable things. Not that that’s too far off the mark as it is.


The next morning, we went back to 3301, to finish up the second floor, as we ran out of time Thursday evening. We went for breakfast at a place called the Muzzleloader. It boasted having been in business since 1957, and was out on the industrial side of town. I had visions of a typically western cafe- knotty pine, worn stools and a rifle hanging over the counter. Pulling up we were met with an enormous Cracker Barrel reject looking building, half cafe, half casino. Inside was large and impersonal, with that certain combination of beige and pastel that only late ’80s remodelings can yield. But, it was packed with locals and had a chicken fried steak special, so what the hey, we gave it a shot.

Then on to downtown Billings, for Yesteryear’s antique mall, a sprawling 3 story place. It has remarkable turnover in their stock, and I’ve always managed to find good things there. Oxford Antiques, in business for 31 years, was closed for the day. Last I was there, I was chatting with the owners and they were mentioning that they were easing somewhat into retirement, ramping down their hours and marking lots of the stock in the store down 50% to move it. So hopefully they were out enjoying the last bit of good weather before winter hits in full and I’ll catch them next time.

I made my requisite stop to Montana Vintage Clothing- if you’re ever in the area, you must stop. They have racks and racks of vintage menswear, 1920s-1960s, suits, ties, jackets, shoes, hats, you name it. And while their men’s section has the scope and sheer volume that would make people here weep, it’s small when compared to the women’s side. They’ve been in business 17 years, are extremely knowledgeable and friendly and being located in Billings, have affordable prices. You could score yourself a ’30s suit, tie and hat all for under $200.

Then on to the thrift shops, the big Goodwill outside town, the two St. Vincent DePauls, the Montana Rescue Mission, the Family Service Secondhand. I swear they’ve raised their prices, with better deals to be found at the antique shops. $30 for a mothy ’50s overcoat? That’s more than I could charge with all my experience and contacts. We passed abandoned warehouse buildings bearing the signs of two defunct antique malls, and the abandoned Salvation Army. For a town that’s always been reliable as a source of vintage for me, it seems it hasn’t always been kind to the shops that sell it. There’s a certain desperation to Billings.


We made one last quick stop in Big Timber, where I finally bought a ’30s/’40s suit (sans jacket) that I had seen on the pricing rack the better part of a year ago, but had been unable to buy then. It took its time, but finally made its way out. As we got closer to Bozeman, the temperature dropped and the snow closed in, white specks on the horizon growing into snowy mountains.

Exhausted, we settled back in. This was the trip of Open Roads. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be another one.



1930s Albert Richard Grizzly jacket

This vintage jacket was made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Fried Ostermann between 1936 and 1938 under the Albert Richard Sportswear label. The jacket is made of front quarter horsehide leather, with mouton panels and collar. Originally sold as a “Laskinlamb jacket”, this style has come to be known by collectors as the Grizzly. These were popular in the mid to late 1930. The jacket has a Talon main zipper with a grommet style stopbox. The slider is of the deco sunburst design with oval slider-to-puller connection, which was only produced in the mid 1930s and which was replaced by a simpler design around 1938. The pull is a rectangular holed, plain backed version, also typical of mid 1930s production. The jacket is lined with plaid wool, with leather pit guards and ventilation grommets. The sleeves have knit storm cuffs to keep out the wind.

Chest (pit to pit): 21″ (doubled = 42″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 18″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 23-1/2″
Length (Base of collar to hem): 21″

A history of Albert Richard which I wrote for “The Art of Vintage Leather Jackets”: Fried-Ostermann was founded c.1902 as a glove manufacturer. They bought out their competitor, Price Gloves, and relocated production of that company’s products to their original factory, located at 617-645 Reed Street, Milwaukee, WI. By 1915, the company had gained a partner, and was known as the Fried, Ostermann, Meyer Co, but that looks to only have lasted until 1917. As the company grew, they relocated to 1645 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee, WI. Fried-Ostermann diversified out of gloves and into outerwear in the late 1920s with the formation of a new division of the company, called Albert Richard. The leather jackets, mackinaws, overcoats and sportswear produced by Albert Richard would soon come to eclipse the glove-making side of the company. Pre-war advertising stressed health and sports, with endorsements from college football players. These ads also talk about bringing items of clothing which were previously thought of as workwear, like mackinaws and leather jackets, into the realm of ordinary streetwear, citing their comfort and durability. During WWII, the Albert Richard factory made A-2 (contract AC 23383), M-422A (contract 1406A), M444A and M445A flight jackets under the name of their parent company, Fried-Ostermann. They advertised leather jackets, overcoats and sportswear heavily during WWII, giving their jackets model names like the “Spitfire” and the “Meteor”. During the war, the company gave away wall-sized posters showing a range of american military airplanes. 850 workers were employed by Albert r in 1946, with plans to hire another 400. The company was one of the first to use fiberglass insulation in coats, a technology borrowed from b-29 bombers Sheepskin collared “storm coats” became a signature model after the war. President of Fried-Ostermann, Richard Fried, sold their Albert Richard Division to the Drybak corporation of Binghampton, NY in late 1952. Drybak, a maker of canvas hunting clothing was looking to diversify their line. In the deal, they got the licensing, branding, patterns, dealership network, but other than the Vice President and designer for Albert Richard, all of the employees and equipment stayed at the plant in Milwaukee. Fried-Osterman re-focused the attention of their plant on the production of gloves, and on producing leather jackets under house labels for mail order and department stores. Starting in 1953, under Drybak’s ownership, Albert Richard clothing was once again produced, this time under contract at a factory in New Jersey, which Drybak declined to name. The plan at that time was to have production moved to New York by 1954. Labels were changed in this period to read “Albert Richard by Drybak”. In 1955, Drybak acquired the Martin Mfg. Co. in Martin, TN. They closed their Binghamton operations in that same year and relocated their hunting clothing manufacturing and their Albert Richard division to the Tennessee plant to take advantage of the lower labor costs in the south.

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1930s Merrill Woolen Mills chinstrap work shirt

This vintage shirt was made in the 1930s in Merrill, Wisconsin by the Merrill Woolen Mills. It is made of red and black wool, with a two-button extended stand collar chinstrap. It has a half-length placket, long tails and two breast pockets.

Collar: 15″
Chest (pit to pit): 22″ (doubled = 44″_
Shoulder to shoulder: 18″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff):24″
Length (base of collar to hem): 31-1/2″

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Duxbak half-zip chinstrap work shirt

This vintage shirt was made in the 1930s by Duxbak in Utica, New York from plaid wool fabric from the Newton Woolen Mills of Homer, New York. It has a half-zip front with an early Talon zipper and a two button chinstrap.

Collar: 14″
Chest (pit to pit): 20-1/2″ (doubled = 41″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 16″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 24-1/2″
Length (base of collar to hem): 31″

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1920s Duxbak PakBak canvas hunting jacket

This vintage hunting jacket was made in the late 1920s-early 1930s by the Utica Duxbak Corp, makers of Rain Proof Sportsman’s Clothing. This is their Pakbak model, which has a large, expandable game pouch, bearing a Feb 1926 patent. The jacket is made of canvas, with a corduroy collar. It has an early style front entry game pouch.

Chest (pit to pit): 25″ (doubled = 50″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 19″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 23-1/2″
Length (Base of collar to hem): 30-1/2″

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1930s-1940s half-belt canvas work jacket

This vintage workwear jacket was made in the late 1930s-1940s. It has a mid-late 1940s Talon zipper, but the stitching is crude and doesn’t match the rest of the stitching on the jacket, so it is very likely a replacement. The jacket is made of heavyweight twill, with handwarmer pockets, a breast pocket, half-belt back and side adjuster belts.

Chest (pit to pit): 21″ (doubled = 42″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 18″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 23-1/4″
Length (Base of collar to hem): 22-1/2″

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