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JANTZEN KNITTING MILLS COLLECTION, 1925-1977
#233

(7 cu. ft.: 4DB, 2(.5)DB, 3 F/O; 5 sample catalogs; 4 film cans)

 by: Robert S. Harding & Evelyn Wagman, November 1986

History

Known primarily for its swimsuits, the Jantzen Knitting Mills are located in Portland, Oregon. John A. Zehntbauer and Carl C. Jantzen founded the company in 1910. It was then called the Portland Knitting Co. and consisted of a retail store and "a few knitting machines on the second floor" where heavy sweaters, woolen hosiery and other articles of clothing were manufactured.

The two partners were intent on expanding their company, especially by means of a product that would give them an edge in the highly competitive knitting industry. Fortunately, a member of a rowing club approached them one day and asked if they could make him a pair of rowing trunks "of a rib stitch." The success of this item led to the companyís specialization in the manufacture of swimsuits in the elastic rib stitch. A patent for this suit was granted in 1921.

Carl Jantzenís inventiveness was responsible for the development of an automated circular knitting machine, derivative of hosiery knitting machines, with a fine needle-bed which produced the light-weight material needed for swimsuits. It also reduced the cost of knitting dramatically.

In 1916 the company first used the name Jantzen as a trademark in advertising, and in 1918 they changed the name officially to the Jantzen Knitting Mills.  The name was again changed in 1954 to Jantzen Inc.

Early advertising campaigns were aimed at encouraging swimming. One of the longest used slogans was "the Suit that Changed Bathing to Swimming." An idea for a cut-out sticker of a "diving girlí in a red Jantzen suit and knitted cap was reported in a 1923 issue of Menís Wear N.Y. as "proving popular with auto-drivers--[and that] many windshields carry as many as 3 or 4 of the figure." It also became the Jantzen logo. Billboards were used extensively with artwork by George Petty and McClelland Barclay.  Ads in Life and Vogue in 1921 represented the first national advertising of the bathing suits and established the product as "first class."

Before the peak year of 1930, the firm operated factories in Canada, England, and Australia, in addition to exporting to many countries in Europe, South America, and the Phillippines. After the Depression years of 1931-34, a decision was made to license companies in Europe, rather than operating there. The decision was based on the uncertainty of U.S. foreign trade regulations and on the awareness of Zehntbauer, after a trip to Europe, of the political changes taking place there.

In 1936 Jantzen made one of its greatest plant investments: a new spinning mill which was considered "the most up to date dying and spinning mill in the U.S." It enabled Jantzen to experiment with different fibers instead of having to purchase them from other mills. In the same year the firm hired their first female designer.

In 1937 serious considerations of making satin latex swimsuits--which were cut and sewn--were resolved in favor of keeping the elastic knit stitch. By 1973 sales and earnings were the highest in the 63 year history. Employees numbered 4,500.

Currently, Jantzen is owned by Vanity Fair Corporation. The company also operates an archives which is limited to serious research inquiries. Some historical information may also be located on their website: www.jantzen.com

Scope and Content

This collection has a thorough representation of company newsletters, Jantzen Yarns, and many sample and print catalogues from the 1970s which show the Jantzen clothing and swimwear lines for misses, juniors, and men during that time. There are several company histories written by Zehntbauer which were printed in Jantzen Yarns. The photographs, though few in number, are a good sampling of what Jantzen headquarters  looked like, as well as how the employees functioned. The films, recently reunited with the paper materials, are aimed at store buyers and feature different lines of Jantzen clothing or swimwear, or are training films for sales representatives.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged into five series as follows:

Series 1: SAMPLE CATALOGUES, 1974-1976:

The sample catalogs are for misses, juniors, and men.

Series 2: PUBLICATIONS, 1925-1977:

This series contains issues of Jantzen Yarns (house organ), 1925-1973 (some of the covers of the newsletters include cover art by noted "pin-up" artists George Petty, Jon Whitcomb, Pete Hawley, and Rene Gruau); Intra-Views (company newspaper); and clothing and swimwear catalogues for women, juniors, and men, 1972-1977.

Series 3: COMPANY HISTORY, 1921, 1923-32, 1973:

Included here are photocopies of various company histories written by John A. Zehntbauer; a photocopy of a patent; and an annual report for 1973 (many volumes of Jantzen Yarns [Series 2] have annual reports as an issue).

Series 4: PHOTOGRAPHS, ca. 1920s/30s:

This series consists of a group of photos (originally from an album) showing the main office building, warehouses, and photographs of groups of employees at work or in posed groups.

Series 5: AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, 1951, 1976, n.d.:

Subseries A: Films, ca. 1951, n.d

Four films produced for store buyers and sales representatives.

Subseries B: Slide Presentation Materials, 1976

Slides, script, and audiocassette for an in-plant presentation on the Misses Fall 1976 line of Jantzen clothing.

Provenance

Donated by Jantzen, Inc. P.O. Box 3001 Portland, Oregon 97208. 11/73 and 11/78. Transferred from the Division of Costumes 8/8/86. Films reunited with paper materials 2/01.

Related Collections

Please see related collections in the Division of Social History--Costumes and Textiles. The collection includes bathing and swimming suits and menís, womenís and childrenís clothing (tennis and exercise outfits, blouses, trousers, etc.) (1912-1990s). Items have been donated by Jantzen as well as private donors. Also available in the Division are samples of advertisements from the 1940s to 2000 and news articles about Jantzen.

Container List 

Box

Volume

Series 1: SAMPLE CATALOGUES, 1974-1976

 -

1

Misses, Fall 1974 (light blue hardcover)

1

-

Misses/Juniors, Fall 1974

1

-

Misses/Juniors, Fall 1975

 -

2

Misses/Juniors Swimwear, Spring/Summer 1976 (hard cover)

3

-

Misses/Juniors, Spring/Summer 1976

2

-

Menís, Fall 1974

2

-

Menís, Spring 1975

 -

3

Menís, Fall 1975 (hardcover)

 -

4

Menís, Spring 1976 (hardcover)

3

-

Menís, Summer 1976

 -

5

Menís, n.d. [1976] (hardcover)

Box Folder

Series 2: PUBLICATIONS, 1925-1973

Jantzen Yarns, 1925-1973:

4

1-24

1925-1947

5

1-11

1948-1958

6

1-14

1958-1973

6

15-18

Intra-Views, 1970-1973

7

1

Misses catalogues, Summer and Fall 1972

7

2

Misses catalogues, Spring and Fall 1973

7

3

Misses catalogues, 1974

8

1

Misses catalogues, 1975

8

2

Misses catalogues, 1976

8

3

Misses catalogues, 1977

7

4

Menís catalogues, Spring 1975

7

5

Menís catalogue, Spring 1976

7

6

Menís catalogue, 1977

8

4

Juniorís catalogue, 1975

8

5

Juniorís catalogue, 1977

Series 3: COMPANY HISTORY, 1921, 1923-32, 1973

9

1

C.C. Jantzen Bathing Suit Patent # 1,390,135, patented September 6, 1921

9

2

"Autobiography of John A. Zehntbauer"

9

3

"History of Jantzen Knitting Mills," by J.A. Zehntbauer, President

9

4

"Ideas That Came to me from the Impressions Received While on My Trip to New York," by J.A. Zehntbauer (December 1923)

9

4

"Our Goal," by J.A. Zehntbauer (December 1924)

9

4

"A Trip Through the Orient," by J.A. Zehntbauer (April 1925)

9

4

"Proposed Jantzen Factory in Australia," by J.A. Zehntbauer (December 1927)

9

4

"History of Jantzen Organization," by J.A. Zehntbauer

(May 1929; July 1929; September 1929; November 1929; December 1929; March 1930; May 1930)

9

4

"History of the Jantzen Knitting Mills," by J.A. Zehntbauer, President (July 1930)

9

4

"Steering a Straight Course," by J.A. Zehntbauer (September 1930)

9

4

"History of the Jantzen Organization," by J.A. Zehntbauer (November 1930; December 1930; March 1931)

9

4

"A Survey of Our London Plant," by J.A. Zehntbauer (July 1931)

9

4

"History of the Jantzen Knitting Mills," by J.A. Zehntbauer (October 1931; December 1931; April 1932)

9

5

Annual report, 1973

Series 4: PHOTOGRAPHS, n.d.

9

3

18 photographs from an album, ca. 1920s/30s

Series 5: AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, ca. 1951, 1976, n.d.

Subseries A : Films, 1951, n.d.

OF 233.1

Clothes Harmony, ca. 1951

16mm color composite optical track print, 500 feet

Descriptive Summary: This is a marketing film for potential buyers of the Jantzen clothing line. It promotes Jantzenís Color Harmonies line of clothing using a fictional story line. The film includes factory scenes in which the viewer is taken from cut to finish. Different Color harmonies ensembles are modeled and discussed.

Creator:

Producer: Jantzen

Director: Erven Jourdan. Also directed The Half Pint, 1960

Performers/Persons Appearing:

Narrated by Delin Rudd and Hal Roy.

Susie - Jimmy Mitchell

Voice Teacher - Franz Roehn (6 Oct. 1896 - 12 Oct 1989). Also appeared in Frankenstein 1970 (1958) and had small parts in other feature films.

Delivery Boy - Frank Dern

Notes:

Music by Edward Ward (3 Apr. 1900 - 26 Sept. 1971). Has nearly 200 films to his credit. Oscar nominee 1938, 1941, 1942, and 1943; The Show of Shows (1929), Phantom of the Opera (1943)

Story by Peg Bracken

OF 233.2

Counterpoints, ca. 1951

16mm color composite optical track print, 524 feet

Descriptive Summary: This is a training film for Jantzen sales staff on how to become an effective seller of Jantzen bathing suits. It uses a fictional approach to illustrate its point. Different styles of Jantzen swimwear are shown in a dance sequence.

Creator:

Producer: Jantzen

Director: Erven Jourdan

Performers/Persons Appearing:

Helen - Nancy Rogers

Mary - Arun Evans

Mr. Kennedy - Pat Goldin (5 Dec. 1902 - 24 Apr. 1971). Appeared as The Tramp in The Half Pint (1960), Small fry in The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956); also played small parts in several other feature films.

Notes:

Music by Ernest Gold (13 July 1921 - 17 March 1999). Oscar nominee1959, 1963, 1969; winner in 1960 for Exodus. Additionally won two Grammy awards for Exodus. Composed scores for Itís A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) and Lincoln (1988).

Dance directed by Harriette Ann Gray (20 Nov. 1913 - 20 Apr. 1987). Humphrey-Weidman dancer; taught at Perry-Mansfield Dance Camp; Harriette Ann Gray Dance Studio at Stephens College named for her. Choreographed Down to Earth (1947).

Sun fashion magazines by Wolf & Vine.

OF 233.3

Figuratively Speaking, ca. 1951

16mm color composite optical track print, 690 feet

Descriptive Summary: This is a film directed to store buyers. The first half of film dedicated to history of Jantzen bathing suits and styles. Female and male models are shown in these suits. The viewer is taken to several Jantzen factories around the world including Mexico, South Africa and South America. Workers are shown in the factories in a number of these scenes. This segues into womenís figure types (long torso, junior, small bust, large hips, etc.) and the proper fit of the swimwear. Charts of the different figure types are explained and the proper way to put on a suit is demonstrated. Several suits are modeled inside out to view their construction elements. Fashions for men, women and children close out the film.

Creator:

Producer: Jantzen, Inc.

Director: Erven Jourdan

Performers/Persons Appearing:

Notes: Original script by Ernest Gold.

Song "Thereís Nothing Like a Jantzen in the World" by Wendell Adams and Elizabeth Eyerly.

OF 233.4

Now Playing Everywhere, n.d.

16mm color composite optical track print, 493 feet

Descriptive Summary: This is a training film for store sales staff about selling Jantzen swimwear. Themes include, ensuring the proper fit, different Jantzen fabrics, use of fitting charts, design features of the suits, and the information on the hang-tag of each suit. The "Sunmaker line of swimwear is focused on. The film ends with the demonstration of how the suits perform figure control which Jantzen calls "Curve Allure."

Creator:

Producer: Jantzen

Director: Erven Jourdan

Performers/Persons Appearing:

Store Model - Carla Lauterer

Salesgirl - Lois Pixton

Notes:

Series 5: AUDIO-VISUAL

Subseries B: Slide Presentation Materials, 1976

9

7

OTC 233.1

RTC 233.1

Fall Line Intro In-Plant Presentation audiocassette, 1976

Note: Labeled 1975 but follows the script(s).

9

8

Misses Line Intro scripts (2), Fall 1976

9

9

Misses Line Intro slides, Fall 1976

Note: on box: outside plants/from Eunice, Louisiana

Audio-cassette for Fall 1976 line found inside slide box.

Robert S. Harding & Evelyn Wagman, November 1986  

Revised by: Jennifer Snyder, April 2001; 
                     Robert S. Harding, June 2001

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E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised: August 17, 2001