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Title: Gloves - Past and Present
Author: Smith, Willard M.
Language: English
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                            PAST AND PRESENT

                            WILLARD M. SMITH

                                NEW YORK
                        THE SHERWOOD PRESS, Inc.

                            COPYRIGHT, 1917
                          BY WILLARD M. SMITH
                          All rights reserved



Most men, apparently, take their gloves for granted. In these days the
little refinements of civilization are accepted among us without a
thought; but in so doing we lose a great deal of enjoyment which we
never were intended to overlook. Least of all are our gloves
commonplace. Mr. Chesterton has something to say about Tremendous
Trifles. To my mind, he might have been talking about gloves. If you
choose to think of them as trifles, then they are tremendous.

For thirty years I have devoted myself to the practical problems of the
glove industry, and my connection with one of the substantial firms of
master-merchant-glovers in the world has taught me how little gloves are
known or appreciated by the millions of persons who buy them and wear
them. The pursuit of glove lore—the historic romance of the glove—has
long since been with me a selfish recreation. Now I desire to share it,
as well as the practical knowledge, with all men and women who have
missed seizing upon the real relation which gloves bear to life.

In the work of gathering together and arranging the material in this
book, I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to Miss Marion Savage, who has
collaborated faithfully with me, and has shared in no small degree my
own enthusiasm for gloves, past and present.

                                                       WILLARD M. SMITH.

 June, 1917.


             CHAPTER                                   PAGE

                  I. Why Gloves                           1

                 II. Ancient History of Gloves            9

                III. The Language of Gloves              18

                 IV. How Gloves Came to Grenoble         30

                  V. Glovers in the Eighteenth Century   41

                 VI. Gloves in Many Marts                52

                VII. From Artist to Artisan              67

               VIII. Annonay and Its Industry            79

                 IX. The Gloves We Buy                   90

                  X. Gloves of the Hour                 107

                        GLOVES, PAST AND PRESENT

                               CHAPTER I.

                              WHY GLOVES?

  “None other symbol—the cross excepted—has so entered into the
  feelings and the affections of men, or so ruled and bound
  in integrity and right the transactions of life, as the
  glove.”—_William S. Beck._

It is no unusual thing to meet American women who are connoisseurs of
the hand-made laces brought to this country from abroad. Laces, like
painting or sculpture, are an object of study; they have been raised to
the level of the fine arts. But how often do we come across a woman—it
matters not how intelligent she may be—who has any real standards to
guide her in the selection of gloves? Whether we have need, in a
business sense, of expert knowledge on this subject or not, nearly
everybody spends enough money yearly on this single detail of dress to
be interested to know just what he is getting. Yet, there is scarcely
any other department of merchandise with which the average person has so
hasty and superficial an acquaintance. Nor is this by any means the
layman’s own fault entirely.

Let us look for a moment at the fabrics which go into the making of
women’s suits and gowns; shoes, men’s shirts, carpets and furs: we
recognize that all these long have been a matter of public education.
Where is the woman who does not know the leading materials for coats and
dresses? She may live far from the great commercial centres, but her
women’s magazine, published in New York, Philadelphia or Chicago, brings
her descriptions by an expert, with colored, photographic reproductions,
of the fashionable novelties. As for the experienced city shopper, if
she were tested with her eyes shut, simply by touching the fabric she
could identify it in most cases and could readily distinguish between
goods of fine and inferior quality.

In the carpet department not infrequently a customer talks intelligently
of “three frame” and “six frame” Brussels, or insists upon being shown
“hand-cut” Wilton. Even the male shopper is not so indifferent in these
days as not to know the names of the several varieties of fine cottons
of which his shirts are made. He is aware of the difference between
plain woven madras and crepe madras; he may prefer cotton cheviot, and
will stipulate whether it shall be the Oxford or the “basket” weave. But
if he be really fastidious, the chances are that he will demand
“soisette.” In the last few years an amazing amount of style and
seasonal variety have been introduced into shoes and furs. The result is
that in these lines we feel obliged to be informed up to the minute.
But, while fabrics and fashions in gloves constantly are changing, how
much discrimination do most persons display in the selecting of this
equally important item of apparel?

A well-dressed woman enters the glove department of a large shop on
Fifth Avenue, New York. She may be an independent professional woman or
she may be the wife or daughter of a man of means. In either case she
should be concerned to know what value she receives for the money she
spends. She asks for mocha gloves; but finding these rather more
expensive than she had supposed, she may be persuaded to accept a sueded
sheepskin under the misnomer of mocha, which substitute—could she but
know it—is a fraud, as even the finest suedes in point of durability are
invariably inferior to, while they strikingly resemble, the Arabian
mocha. The fallacy consists in her not being educated to know that it is
the genuine mocha which she requires and for which she should be
perfectly willing to pay. The unqualified superiority of real mocha to
sueded sheepskin is worth every cent of the difference she would put
into the purchase.

On the other hand, a man has been told that the only serviceable heavy
glove for common wear is the cape glove. He insists, therefore, upon
having the genuine cape—a name originally and properly used to designate
gloves made of superior skins from the Cape district of South Africa. As
a matter of fact, the soft, pliable, widely-worn glove in various
weights, now commercially known as cape, is made from skins grown in
many lands—principally lamb, tanned and dressed by the “napa dipped”
method. In consequence of having wool hide, these skins are not so tough
as the Cape Hope goat with the hair hide. One pays less for them than
for the real cape, but, for ordinary appearance, they are a fair
substitute, and their wearing qualities undoubtedly meet the average
requirement. A practical saving of this sort the public should be taught
to appreciate.

But not for material reasons alone should gloves be given a prominent
place in the curriculum of popular “uplift.” In the most obvious sense
they are too little known, too vaguely appreciated, to be sure; and yet,
the satisfaction of being well-gloved consists in something more than
merely the delightful sensation of having one’s hands neatly, warmly and
substantially covered. We think of gloves first, no doubt, as a daily
necessity. But we also value the finer qualities as a mark of elegance.
Beautiful gloves impart the _coup de grace_ to the formal costume of
either man or woman. At the same time, clinging to this luxury, like a
perfume of old, we are dimly conscious of an aura of half-forgotten
associations, linking the glove with royalty, chivalry and romance; with
famous affairs of honor, with the pomp and ceremonial of the Church,
with countless dramatic episodes in history and literature.

How does it happen that, instinctively, we invest this trifle with so
much meaning? Can it be that we are the repository of memories of past
splendors, invoked by a familiar object which has all but lost its
symbolic and poetic significance of ancient times? Even to-day the
wearing of gloves lends to the individual a sense of dignity and
personal distinction. Like Mrs. Wilfer, of Dickens fame, our grandeur is
increased by our gloves.

In the pages which follow we shall discover that the background of our
subject is one of the richest and most picturesque we could desire to
explore. Gloves have deeply affected the lives of human beings from the
very earliest periods. They have descended to us from a remote
antiquity, and are in very fact our inherited title to nobility, for
they were bequeathed to us by the princely prelates, the kings and
over-lords of the past, whose chief insignia and most treasured badge of
honor was the glove. To comprehend all that they have brought with them
down through the centuries we must retrace a vast deal of history, and
let our imaginations play over scenes and customs far removed from our
own day.

We shall find the glove intimately bound up with the development of
social usages in every land. To solemn observances in which the glove
filled a special role, much of the impressiveness of the stately rites
of the mediæval church was due. The white linen glove on the hand of a
bishop literally represented to the people the stainless purity of the
revered palm raised in benediction. The glove itself was holy. No layman
dared to clothe his hands in the presence of the clergy. Kings and the
military, however, wore gloves with quite a different meaning. In
appearance, also, their gloves were utterly unlike those consecrated for
religious use. Of heavy leather, elaborately tooled or decorated, or the
mailed gauntlet which formed part of a warrior’s armor, they signified
authority, power, and were often conveyed from one prince to another as
an expression of hostility, or as a promise of good faith.

Princely etiquette, indeed, revolved about the glove to such a degree
that the latter became, as it were, the proxy of its master, his
embassador, the mute herald of the royal will. What a high ethical bond
and pledge of honor that leathern effigy of a ruler’s hand actually
constituted! And as the glove descended with the customs of feudal
tenure from sovereign to liege lord, and became gradually the regalia of
a growing landed aristocracy, how the manners of semi-barbarous Europe
were moulded and softened by the glove! At first we find it the jealous
device of the royal few. Then it becomes the badge of superiority among
the over-lords. Their followers receive it; and, slowly, through the
centuries, this fascinating bit of personal apparel works like leaven
until it at last is recognized as the mark of gentlefolk everywhere. It
spreads in proportion as liberty and culture are diffused among the
people. Follow the progress of the glove, and you trace the growth in
enlightenment and refinement of the nations. One of the true forerunners
of democracy—as democracy means the elevating, not the levelling, of
mankind—the glove takes its place among the civilizing forces of the

No small part of the importance which attaches to the subject of these
investigations lies in the relation gloves bear to the history of modern
industry. We shall find that the position of the glove-makers among the
mediæval craftsmen was unique, and of the utmost consequence to the
industrial evolution of Europe. The life of a French city has depended
for many centuries upon the development of the glove drama. And, in
their turn, what have not the glove-makers of Grenoble meant to the
wealth and artistic prestige of France? In the annals of the world’s
trade—from the early days of barter and exchange down to the present
methods of international commerce—gloves have always been conspicuous.
The product in itself is worthy of our wonder. We may marvel at the
beautiful finish, that anything so delicate can also be so strong; we
may admire the style, the cut, the fit of the glove of to-day. And yet,
the perfection of the glove art has by no means been reached.

To the simple prototype of four fingers, thumb, palm, back and wrist,
the glove-makers of our time have added all that makes the present glove
elegant beyond any which has preceded it. Here we have, perhaps, the
most interesting article of personal apparel regardless of the wearer’s
sex. For a glove is a glove, whether it graces a woman’s slender hand or
a man’s stouter member. The same cannot be claimed for the shoe—at
least, not since the passing of the mannish girl. The high-arched,
French-heeled, parti-colored footgear which to-day is patronized by the
feminine species has little in common with the broad-built, low-last
article in which the male walks comfortably about his business. The
tradition of the glove, however, is less erratic, and equally applicable
to man or woman.

It is perfectly possible to out-countenance boredom by turning to our
simplest, our most casually accepted, possessions. Even our gloves may
kindle in us delight by their beauty, or may plunge us into the
mysteries of the past. Gloves are history. Gloves are an art. Far from
being the humble member of our wardrobe we sometimes have carelessly
supposed them to be, they are of exceedingly ancient lineage, and have
retained much of their original regal and aristocratic character. Though
once a symbol and a cult, gloves have been adapted to our Twentieth
Century needs, and the subtleties of a new age are finding expression in
the tireless multiplying of the finest gloves to suit every conceivable

The glove which encases your hand—no matter how much a part of yourself
through daily familiarity it may seem—never can be anything but a
stranger to you and unappreciated, until you know gloves. Even the sense
of politeness and prestige which you enjoy is not enough; the glove
legend also should be yours. Not without good reason are we inspired to
live up to our gloves.

                              CHAPTER II.

                       ANCIENT HISTORY OF GLOVES

  “A man plucked off his glove and gave it to his neighbor: and this
  was for a testimony in Israel.”—_Old Testament, Chaldaic Version:
  Ruth: ch. iv., vs. 7._

Gloves are so ancient that the first mention of them in literature is to
be found in a great classic of three thousand years ago—the Bible.
Zealous disputants in all kinds of causes have had a trick of twisting
Holy Writ to serve the purpose of their arguments. But in appropriating
the above lines from the Book of Ruth, the writer has not been guilty of
taking liberties with the Scriptures—even though the passage does not
read as he has quoted it in the King James Version.

Turning to the authorized text, we find: “Now this was the manner in
former times in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for
to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his
neighbor, and this was for a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman
said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.”

A certain learned Hebrew of high literary attainments, M. Josephs, a
noted authority in the early part of the nineteenth century, in dealing
with this passage bids us follow the Targum, or Chaldaic version of the
Old Testament, which renders, instead of shoe, the word _glove_. He
reminds us that the men who wrote the Targum lived fifteen hundred years
before the translators of our English Bible; that their rendition grew
directly out of the oral interpretations and paraphrases of the
Scriptures read in the synagogues—a custom which began, probably, soon
after the return of the Jews from captivity. The Targumists, of course,
were much closer to the original Hebrew usages than the mediæval
scribes. The disputed phrase in their version, _narthek yad_, means “the
covering of the right hand.” It is derived from the Hebrew text,
_nangal_, which, employed verbally, means to close or enclose. The
expression, _nangal regel_, is, literally, “to enclose the foot” and
signifies a shoe. The use of _nangal_ alone, however, as a noun, always
implied an article enclosing the hand—in other words, a glove. There can
be no doubt that the writer of the Chaldaic version accepted the term as
a hand-covering, not a foot-covering—even specifying that the glove
given as a testimony in Israel was drawn off the _right_ hand.

Both ancient and modern rabbinical scholars, we are told, agree in
rendering the word from the original as “glove,” not shoe. And Joel
Levy, a distinguished German translator, gave, instead of shoe, his
picturesque, native idiom of _hand-schuh_ (hand-shoe), by which gloves
are known in Germany to this day.

Added to etymological testimony, moreover, is the evidence of ancient
custom. Gloves, in the symbolical sense, have been employed as a token
of good faith as far back as history can be traced. The shoe, on the
other hand, never is used figuratively in Holy Writ except to express
humility or supine obedience. The man who wished to make a compact with
his neighbor, as Boaz when he bought the lands of Ruth, must offer his
glove as pledge in the transaction. The very same practice is common in
the Orient to-day.

Challenge by the glove also appears to have been customary from
antiquity. In the one hundredth and eighth Psalm, the prophet in an
ecstacy of triumph cries: “Over Edom will I cast out my glove!” Had this
warrior of the spirit merely thrown a shoe over the city he had vowed to
reclaim to Jehovah, what boastful promise would there have been in that?

Among the Jews, however, three thousand years ago, gloves were by no
means in common use. Probably they were worn only by men of high rank,
and then solely on ceremonial occasions. We have reason to suppose that
kings wore them, for in the mural paintings of Thebes ambassadors are
depicted bearing from some far country gifts of gloves. The women
certainly did not wear them, for they are not mentioned in the
exhaustive list of “bravery,” enumerated by Isaiah (Chapter III.), the
vainglorious fallals of which the daughters of Zion in their pride were
to be despoiled on the Day of Doom. “Feet-rings, neck chains, thin
veils, tires or bonnets, zones or girdles, jewels for the nostrils,
embroidered robes, tunics, transparent garments, fine linen vests,
armlets”—all such fineries as these must the fair Israelites relinquish
at the sound of the last trump. Surely, had gloves been among their
vanities, these also must have been confiscated by the Inexorable Judge!

Nearly a century after the Book of Ruth was written, Homer relates how
he came upon Laertes, the father of Ulysses, working in his garden (for
he was a farmer) “while gloves secured his hands to shield them from the
thorns.” So, we know that the early Greeks wore gloves. It is striking
to note that they employed them, too, for humble and useful purposes.
They were not monopolized by priests and kings. However, we are given no
hint how Laertes’ gloves were shaped nor of what materials they were
made. Probably they resembled the modern mitten, for it is not until
under the Roman emperors that we actually learn that gloves were made
with fingers. These were called, specially, _digitalia_, to distinguish
them from the _chirothocae_, or fingerless variety.

Virgil makes reference to gauntlets worn at the Trojan contests, as “the
gloves of death”; and he describes gloves worn by Eryx, “composed of
seven folds of the thickest bull’s hide, sewn and stiffened with knots
of lead and iron.”

The gloves of the Persians, we may suspect, were not of the warlike
type, but were sported simply for luxury and display. Zenophon who,
somebody has remarked, “had the courage of his dislikes,” despised the
ancient Persians and stigmatized them as effeminate because they gloried
in their gloves. In his _Cyropaedia_ he lays stress on the fact that on
one occasion Cyrus was actually known to go forth “without his gloves”!

Varro, contemporary of Cicero, observes in his _De Re Rustica_ that
“olives gathered by the naked hand are preferable to those pulled with
gloves on.” The Epicureans evidently had adopted the theory that fruit,
to be fully enjoyed, should not even be handled in the plucking. Again,
among the Romans, we find gloves an article of utility, worn by
agriculturists—though it is likely that these hand-coverings were in the
shape of mittens and not of the _digitalia_ style. To the latter appear
to have been attached far greater prestige.

At the same time, the fingered gloves also had come to be used for a
practical protection. Pliny, the younger, speaking of the private
secretary of his illustrious uncle, writes: “His amanuensis” (who
accompanied him on his notable journey to Mount Vesuvius) “wore gloves
upon his hands that winter, lest the severity of the weather should make
him lose any time” (from his duties as scribe). It is to gloves, then,
that we are indebted in part for some of the most remarkable passages in
the works of the celebrated Roman naturalist, whose scientific
enthusiasm eventually cost him his life in the eruption of Vesuvius, 79

Not until the age of Musonious, the philosopher, who lived near the
close of the first century of the Christian era, do we find gloves among
the Romans falling into disrepute. Musonious ejaculates: “It is shameful
that persons in perfect health should clothe their hands with soft and
hairy coverings!” The denunciation of the dress-reformers of those days,
however, seems to have had as little effect in stemming the tide of
fashion as in our times.

A truly revolting use to which gloves are said to have put—if we may
believe certain tales of the famous story-teller, Athenæus (200 A.D.)—is
described in a bit of ancient fiction in which he relates that “a
well-known glutton,” one of his own contemporaries, “always came to the
table with gloves upon his hands, that he might be able to handle and
eat the meat while it was hot, and devour more than the rest of the
company.” No wonder the early Fathers of the Church looked upon gloves
as vicious and corrupting! But their biting invective was directed
principally against the effeminancy of those who fell victim to the
pleasurable practice, and about the beginning of the ninth century
ecclesiastical authority forbade the monks from wearing any gloves save
those made of the tough, unyielding sheepskin. Such, it was thought,
could not possibly afford the brethren any sensuous enjoyment, nor tempt
them into love of luxuries.

There is an ancient story of Saint Gudula, patroness of Brussels, which
well illustrates the early Christian distrust of gloves. In Butler’s
Legends of the Saints, it is related of this holy woman—who died in 712
A.D.—that one day, kneeling at prayers barefooted, one of the monks,
moved to compassion, “put his gloves upon her feet” to protect them from
the cold stones of the floor. St. Gudula, however, snatched off the
offending articles and contemptuously tossed them ceiling high. And
there they remained, says the legend, miraculously suspended in midair
for one hour.

The first legal enactment concerning gloves occurs in the records of
France. About 790, Emperor Charlemagne granted unlimited rights of
hunting to the abbots and monks of Sithin for the purpose of procuring
deer skins for making covers for their books, and also for gloves and
girdles. The bishops, however, grew to feel that theirs should be the
exclusive privilege of wearing gloves of such fine quality; and by the
Council of Aix, in the reign of Louis, Le Debonnaire, the inferior
clergy were ordered to abstain from deer skin and to wear only sheep
skin, as was formerly deemed fitting for monks.

In England gloves virtually “came over with the Conqueror.” The French
importation—which several centuries later was to be the cause of such
intense commercial rivalry between the two countries—was the mailed
glove of stout deer or sheep skin, with joined plates of metal affixed
to the back and fingers. The early Saxons, however, wore gloves of a
rude sort, for the derivation of the word from _gluf_ is distinctly
Saxon, and they are mentioned in the epic of _Beowulf_, composed in the
seventh century, A.D. William S. Beck thinks that the early Britons may
have been quick to appreciate the comfort afforded by the gloves worn by
their Roman conquerors. It is known for a fact that the Britons of that
age wore boots of untanned leather, and it should be no tax upon the
imagination to suppose that if they protected one extremity they
probably did the other.

But Professor Boyd Dawkins, without a doubt, has pushed the history of
the glove farthest back of any antiquarian. Professor Dawkins assures us
that the cavemen wore gloves. He actually defines their style; they were
“not of ordinary size,” he tells us, “but reaching even to the elbows,
anticipating by untold ages the multi-button gloves of the Victorian
era.” Now just when did these pre-historic, glove-wearing men live?
Another eminent geologist holds that they inhabited the south of France
before they were driven forth by the excruciating cold of the glacial
period. It is impossible accurately to fix the date of the great ice
age; Dr. Croll, however, and other celebrated scientists, appear to
agree that it began about 240,000 years ago, that it lasted about
160,000 years and ended somewhat over 80,000 years since.

Here, then, is an antiquity for gloves which should satisfy our fondest
ambitions! This theory also restores to France with a vengeance the
original prestige for glove-making of which that country is so jealous.
_Theory_, should we say? The cavemen’s gloves, as we are distinctly
told, were made of roughly dressed skins, sewn with elaborate bone
needles; and an unmistakable drawing of such a glove was discovered by
Professor Dawkins, rudely etched upon a bone, found among pre-glacial

The glove, accordingly, dates from the twilight of mankind. The ancient
peoples wore gloves; and by the tenth century in Europe we find them in
fairly general use—to some degree as a practical protection and
hand-covering, but, more strikingly, as the badge of royal or
ecclesiastical authority and dignity.

The gentler sex, however, at that time had by no means come into their
own, so far as gloves were concerned. Among the early nations men seem
to have enjoyed the monopoly of this article of dress, and the reason is
plain to see, when we remember that gloves, in those days, were worn
almost exclusively as part of the regalia of public office. The
daughters of Israel, and the ladies of Persia, Greece, Rome and mediæval
Europe, adopted the voluminous sleeve which came down over the hand and
rendered gloves, for practical purposes, unnecessary. A manuscript of
the tenth century, however, describes a hand-covering worn by an
Anglo-Saxon lady which resembled a muffler provided with a separate
division for the thumb. This was reproduced by Planché in his History of
British Costume, and is colored blue. But the long, flowing sleeves were
customary, and were even worn by both sexes—men in the ordinary walks of
life, apparently, being compelled to content themselves with sharing the
feminine expediency for keeping the hands warmly covered. For a man to
be gloveless at that period certainly spelled humiliation!

It was not until the thirteenth century that the ladies of Europe
blossomed forth in gloves—not of the mitten variety, but boasting four
fingers as well as a thumb. The first to be introduced for the fair sex
were made of linen, of simple design, and reached to the elbows to
accommodate the short-sleeved gowns of the period. Not before Queen
Elizabeth’s time, however, did the elaborately embroidered, bejeweled
and perfumed glove captivate woman’s fancy and satisfy her feminine
dreams of beauty and extravagance.

                              CHAPTER III.

                         THE LANGUAGE OF GLOVES

  “Right, Caxon, right as my glove! By-the-by, I fancy that phrase
  comes from the custom of pledging a glove as a sign of irrefragable
  faith.”—_The Antiquary_: _Sir Walter Scott._

We are so matter of fact in these days that, rarely, if ever, do we
speak in symbols. The elaborate code of the glove has almost entirely
dropped out of use. “And speaks all languages the rose,” the poet
reminds us, but it is doubtful whether the most romantic of flowers ever
conveyed such wealth of meaning, even between tongue-tied lovers, as the
glove. Certainly, in addition, the latter has expressed a far greater
variety of lofty sentiments not connected with affairs of the heart. In
the Church, on the throne, in civil law, on the bench, in private
breaches of honor, at festivals of rejoicing and in the last solemn
rites accorded to the dead, gloves for many centuries were an important
part of the ceremonial, and still, to-day, are not without meaning.

Sometimes it is claimed that gloves became a symbol in the Church long
before kings singled them out to embody a monarch’s good faith or the
royal consent. Of course kings wore gloves before the Christian Church
came into being. But, as we have seen, the ancients seem to have
attached less allegorical significance to gloves and to have regarded
them more as a personal luxury. In the Orient, however, as the Bible
shows, challenge by the glove was a recognized institution. Also, in the
sales of lands, the purchaser was given a glove to symbolize delivery or
investiture—of which the passage from Ruth which heads the previous
chapter is, probably, the most famous instance. From the Oriental custom
Mediæval Europe derived the challenge, so picturesquely employed in
history and in literature. A certain charter of the thirteenth century
also names a case of re-investiture, or restitution of property,
symbolically expressed by the person restoring the lands casting his
glove upon the ground.

If the Greeks and the Romans were somewhat literal and coldly
materialistic in their attitude toward gloves, it remained for mediæval
Europe to raise them to a cult. In the Middle Ages men had a passion for
glorifying the common utensils of life. Whether it was the clergy or
royalty which first seized upon gloves to exalt them into the realm of
the mysterious, causing them to be scarcely less revered than the king’s
or the bishop’s own person, it would be difficult to say. But, as the
gloves bestowed upon the kings of olden France at their coronations were
blessed and presented by the archbishop of the realm—who, in this act,
was simply following the ancient Eastern practice of performing
investiture—it would appear that gloves were granted by the Church to
the thrones; and that thus the monarch received this sign of his
sovereignty as the gracious gift of the Spiritual Power, which enjoyed
precedence in honoring the glove.

Certainly gloves were a mark of religious dignity at an extremely early
period, and played a distinctive part in the rites and services of the
ancient Church. Officiating priests invariably consecrated the Holy
Sacrament with gloves on their hands. This custom still obtains in the
Church of England. Moreover, the laity always drew off their gloves
within the sacred portals, where it was sacrilege to cover worldly hands
even as the Fathers covered theirs.

To teach truth by sight was one of the great endeavors of the mediæval
Church. We should not forget that the masses of the people in those days
were untaught and childlike in their mental processes. The clergy were
profound scholars, but they understood how to appeal to the minds of
their communicants; they knew that their imaginations should be
impressed, that sacred imagery should be indelibly stamped upon the
sensitive-plate of the soul. Not lipparables only, but allegories for
the eye—visible symbols—conveyed sacred meanings where words could not.
Thus art became the handmaiden of religion, and familiar objects were
invested with hidden significance. In this catalogue gloves were by no
means forgotten.

Bruno, Bishop of Segni, tells us that the gloves of the clergy were
originally made of linen to denote that the hands they covered were
chaste, pure, without blame. In 1287, Durandus, Bishop of Mende, went to
great pains to prove that the sacred _chirothecae_—for the old Latin
name had been kept—were white. He says: “It was specified that by these
gloves the hands would be preserved chaste, clean during work, and free
from every stain.” The gloves which encased the hands of Pope Boniface
VIII., at the time of his burial, were of white silk, beautifully worked
with the needle, and ornamented with a rich border, studded with pearls.

Considerably later—exactly when is not known—ecclesiastical gloves
ceased to be invariably white, but changed their hue, like the other
vestments, according to the current church seasons. Then the gloves of
the church became glorious indeed in color, texture and design! St.
Charles Borromeo prescribes that “they shall be woven throughout, and
adorned with a golden circle on the outside.”

The most famous gloves of this type which have been preserved—though the
circle is of red silk, not of gold—are those of William of Wykeham,
Bishop of Winchester, treasured to this day at Oxford. These gloves are
at least five hundred and thirty years old. William of Wykeham was the
founder of New College, Oxford, in 1379, and the gloves were probably
worn by him at the opening religious ceremonial, April 14, 1386. It is
extremely likely that they were made especially for that great occasion.
They are still in a wonderful state of preservation, and some idea of
their magnificence may be had even from their present appearance. They
are made of crimson purl knitted silk, embroidered on the back and cuffs
with gold, now faded and tarnished. The octagonal designs around the
cuffs are separated by squares of emerald green silk; the cuffs are
lined with crimson silk; and a double band of gold adorns each finger
and thumb. The circles are on the back of the hand, and with their
sixteen flame-pointed arms, worked in gold, surround the sacred

In inventories of church furniture in the Middle Ages, gloves,
elaborately decorated, frequently appear. These usually were encrusted
with precious jewels and were so valuable that they were left as
legacies. A pair of gloves was among the bequests of Bishop Riculfus who
died in 915 A.D. Even Thomas à Becket—though it is reported that he
never bathed—was buried in immaculate gloves. And we have proof that old
mother Becket had to be handled with gloves, for at her baptism,
pictured in an ancient illumination, the officiating bishop is
represented in long, white _chirothecae_ reaching clear above his
venerable elbows.

Gloves in the Church symbolized purity of heart and deed. In an olden
missal, ascribed to the seventh century, the officiating bishop, just
before offering mass, draws on his snowy linen gloves with this prayer:
“O Creator of all creatures, grant me, unworthiest of Thy servants, to
put on the clothing of justice and joy, that I may be found with pure
hands in Thy sight.”

The royal glove, with which the king received his authority from
earliest times, was usually purple, ornamented with pearls and precious
stones. Such “were anciently deemed ensigns of imperial dignity,” as
Pachymenera records. Previous to the French Revolution, at the crowning
of the Kings of France, it was customary for the archbishop to bless a
pair of gloves and present them to the sovereign as an emblem of secure
possession. In the English coronation ceremonies the glove plays a
double rôle. His Majesty being seated in Westminster Hall, the champion
enters, caparisoned as an ancient knight, and the herald-at-arms
proclaims the challenge. The champion then throws down his gauntlet
which, after it has lain a short time, is taken up by the herald and
returned to him. The herald make a proclamation of some length, and the
gauntlet is again thrown down by the champion of the realm. His Majesty
next drinks to the champion’s health and presents him with the cup. The
champion then takes up his gauntlet and retires. At the installation in
the Abbey, the Duke of Norfolk presents the king with a right-hand glove
of elaborate and beautiful design, and the monarch, putting it on,
receives from the Archbishop of Canterbury the sceptre with the dove.

That gloves were actually synonymous with kingly power is shown by an
instance which occurred in the year 1294, when the Earl of Flanders by
the delivery of a glove into the hands of Philip the Fair, “granted him
possession of the good towne of Flanders.” The wealth of sentiment they
enshrined is further manifested by the act of a woman of royal blood.
After the coronation of Louis XIII., we are told, Mary de Medicis, his
mother, “had the piety to desire the king’s shirt and gloves, in order
to preserve them carefully in her cabinet.”

One of the most dramatic episodes of its kind—when a glove under
romantic circumstances was taken as the very embodiment of royal
authority—is related in some papers of D’Israeli. Young Conraddin, the
last of the Hohenstaufer male line, having fallen into the hands of
Mainfroy, who had usurped the crown in 1282, was brought up for
execution. On the scaffold the young prince raised his voice in
lamentation and declared his right to the succession. In proof of this
he cast his glove among the assembled crowd, beseeching that it might be
carried to his kinsmen who would avenge his death. It was taken up by a
knight and brought to Peter, King of Aragon, who, _in virtue of the same
glove_, was afterwards crowned at Palermo.

The kings of France on the point of death religiously gave their gloves
to their sons as a token that they were to be invested with the kingdom.
That such should have been almost their last thought and act shows how
real to them was the power symbolically invested in the glove.

Gloves, royalty, feudalism—these three are inseparable in history. The
granting of lands by the king was the root of the feudal system, in
which modern society had its rise, and the lein of the monarch over all
lands was the first doctrine of Divine Right. Thus, the glove, by which
tenure was given, became also the pledge of the service by virtue of
which tenure was held; and on the hand of him who could both bestow the
one and demand the other, it was indeed a symbol of supreme authority.
In the attire of English monarchs, gloves were especially conspicuous
under the Norman and the Plantagenet dynasties when the feudal system
was yet young. One would infer that as the emblematical embodiment of
the new order, kings found them indispensable to their dignity.

Kings were even buried with gloves on their hands, when “arrayed in
ghostly state, they were gathered to their fathers.” Richard I. and John
in their tombs wear richly jeweled gloves. It is said that Richard’s are
the identical ones by which he was recognized in Austria on his return
from the Crusades. In Canterbury Cathedral the gloves of Edward, the
Black Prince, are hung above his last resting place.

The Bench inherited gloves direct from the Church. On the judge’s hands
they symbolized incorruptibility, uprightness. In England a maiden
assize—that is, a county session in which no malefactor is put to
death—is commemorated by a gift of white gloves, even to-day. White
gloves here typify a clean record, an absence of felony in the judge’s
precinct. “They represent the zero of crime,” says Beck, “the antithesis
of the black cap. They afford a foretaste of the millennium. The
occasion of their presentation is held to reflect credit on any town or
neighborhood, and is widely noticed in the newspapers.” The recorder of
Cambridge was the happy recipient of this honor, we are told, three
times in succession.

Pardoned outlaws, restored from a living death to all the pleasures of
home, the privileges of citizenship and the protection of their king,
were accustomed to thank their judges by presenting them with gifts of
gloves. Later, however, this practice was abused. The offender was
compelled to appear in person, and by a present of gloves filled with
coins to implore and obtain the judges’ favor. Thus, by degrees, the
glove fell away from its original significance and came to be synonymous
with the bribe.

Sir Thomas More once received in grateful appreciation of a case won for
a lady, a pair of gloves “lined” with forty angels. As was the custom,
this delicate acknowledgment was conveyed to him on the first day of
January. “Mistress,” wrote the honorable judge in reply, “since it were
against good manners to refuse your New Year’s gift, I am content to
take your gloves; but as for the lining, I utterly refuse it.”

So, gloves, like most of the good things of life, were exalted and
degraded by turns, and made to contradict themselves. Persons taking
legal oath are required to-day to do so bare-handed; and a Portuguese
proverb expressive of private integrity, is, “He does not wear gloves.”

Keeping the hands covered in the presence of superiors was one of the
worst social breaches one could commit in former times. No doubt, the
practice of presenting gloves to visitors by universities meant that
they recognized their guests to be of such personal standing and
learning as to make them worthy of remaining with hands clothed even
before the highest collegiate dignitaries. In addition to symbolizing
religious, kingly and judicial eminence, therefore, gloves typified also
a university honor and were the insignia of the scholar.

At the Trojan games, nearly one thousand years before the Christian era,
the gauntlet was used both as a defensive weapon and as a symbol of
defiance. Warlike challenge by the glove, accordingly, had a very
ancient origin, and in the days of knightly adventure may have been
deliberately imitated from the early epics by a more consciously
romantic race of heroes. Challenge by the glove frequently is described
by Sir Walter Scott—who, by the way, has more to say about gloves than
any other writer, even excepting Shakespeare—but nowhere more
eloquently, perhaps, than in _Ivanhoe_, when the Jewish maiden demands a

“‘I am unskilled to dispute for my religion’ (says Rebecca), ‘but I can
die for it, if it be God’s will! Let me pray for your answer to my
demand for a champion.’

“‘Give me her glove!’ said Beaumanoir. ‘This is indeed a slight and
fragile gage for a purpose so deadly! See’st thou, Rebecca, as this
slight glove of thine is to one of our heavy steel gauntlets, so is thy
cause to that of the Temple, for it is our order which thou hast

In the life of Sir Bernard Gilpin, relative to customs of the
Scottish-English borders it is recorded, that in the year 1560, the
reverend gentleman observed in one of the churches in which he was
preaching, a glove, hung high against the raftered roof. On making
inquiries he learned that it was placed there in consequence of a
“deadly feud” prevailing in the district, and that the owner had
suspended it in defiance, daring to mortal combat anyone who took it

The last instance of defiance by the glove occurred in 1818 in a wager
of battle. The battle, however, never came off; and the instance was the
occasion of the repeal of the law permitting the ancient trial by battle
and ordeal which existed in England for more than eight centuries.

Gifts of gloves at funerals is a relic of ancient times, as was also
their presentation at marriage festivals. In Ben Jonson’s play, _The
Silent Woman_, we learn that a wedding without this token was
suspiciously regarded, and passed for a jest. Cries one of the guests:

                 “We see no ensigns of a wedding here,
                 No character of a bridal!
                 Where be our skarves and _gloves_?”

In Italy and Spain the glove was cherished with the most romantic
feeling ever accorded it throughout all its long and impressive history.
No king of olden days exercised more despotic rule over his feudal
dependents than the Spanish and Italian ladies over their “cavaliers,”
to whom even to be allowed to touch the fair one’s glove was a favor
which sent the aspiring lover into ecstacies. Many a yearning Romeo of
that chivalric age must have exclaimed:

               “Would that I were a glove upon that hand,
               That I might touch that cheek!”

Coquetry by the glove seems to have persisted down to a fairly recent
period. The _Spectator_ observes that “Ned Courtly presenting Flavia
with her glove (which she had dropped on purpose), she received it, and
took away his life with a courtesy.” Charles IV. of Spain appears to
have been in Ned Courtly’s class, for His Majesty was so extremely
susceptible, we are told, to any lady who wore white kid gloves, that
the use of them at court was strictly prohibited. A charming picture is
called to mind also by the recollection of a novel by William Black, in
which the guileless heroine all unconsciously captivates the hero the
first time he sets eyes on her, by the graceful, ladylike manner in
which she draws on and fastens her gloves.

But if the symbolism of gloves and their old, romantic usages largely
have fallen away, leaving us an article of familiar, practical, everyday
concern, the language of gloves for us is not dead. When we take pains
to be fittingly costumed for an important occasion, there is no detail
of our dress which we are more anxious should be in perfect keeping,
than our gloves. To them still clings a halo of sentiment, part and
parcel of our own dignity. In view of their history we are justified in
our feeling. “Gloves,” says Beck, “outweigh all other articles of
apparel which have been the outward and visible signs of hidden things.”

                              CHAPTER IV.

                      HOW GLOVES CAME TO GRENOBLE

  “A French town ... in which the product of successive ages, not
  without lively touches of the present, are blended together
  harmoniously, with a beauty _specific_—a beauty cisalpine and
  northern—and of which Turner has found the ideal in certain of his
  studies of the rivers of France, a perfectly happy conjunction of
  river and town being of the essence of its physiognomy.”—_Deny L’
  Auxerrois_: _Walter Pater._

Many centuries ago, certain chieftains of the Allobroges were inspired
to plant their little village of Cularo at the supremely strategic point
of all southern Gaul. They built it a trifle to the East of the meeting
place of two rivers, the Isère and the torrent of the Drac; north of
them stretched the high, unbroken wall of the lower Alps. And there in
the sheltered valley they lived and were protected against incursions of
other more warlike tribes—until the great conqueror of the world poured
its invincible legions over the mountain barriers, and Rome seized the
little Allobrogian defence town to be a colonial outpost of considerable
military importance. On the site of Cularo sprang up the strongly
fortified Gratianopolis, thus called in honor of the Emperor Gratian who
reinforced the walls begun by Diocletian and Maximian. Later, with the
decline of the Roman power and the development of the Frankish nation,
the Latin name was abbreviated to Grenoble—by which the modern city is
known to-day as the chef-lieu of the department of the Isère in France.

The town, from its birth to the end of the sixteenth century, was
familiarly styled “_la ville du pont_,” the city of the bridge. For more
than a thousand years it commanded the only point where it was possible
to cross the river Isère. It was also designated “the old Roman route
town,” for it lay on the natural highroad which linked Italy on the
north with the country of France, the valley of the Po with that of the
Rhone. The quaint, turreted bridge which spanned the river in mediæval
days provided passage to the Alps from French soil, and was the gateway
to France for strangers approaching over the mountains. While its
strategic position in time of war must be apparent, the site of the city
was no less vital to trade and to later industrial development. As early
as 1615 Grenoble was known, far and wide, as “the city of glovers.”

The earliest records of the consuls of Grenoble, which have been
preserved almost intact since 1244, tell us only of “drapers, tailors,
apothecaries and shoeing-smiths” in the city; and in 1489 they mention
in addition sailors, pastry cooks, carpenters, barbers—but not glovers.
Only the weavers, tanners and curriers of wool and hemp presage the
industrial future. There seems to be some question of a lone glover in
1328 who gave his services to the dauphin. But probably this workman
made numerous things for his fellow-citizens, gloves included,
and at the same time was a dealer in furs and perfumes. In
the statutes of the glovers of Paris, dating from 1190,
they are styled “_marchands-maîtres-gantiers-parfumeurs_,”
mastermerchants-of-gloves-and-perfumes, and are accorded the exclusive
right to prepare and sell these luxuries. Furs were usually added to
their stock in trade. But the solitary glove-maker of 1328 was in no
sense a pioneer of the glove guild in Grenoble, else had he apprenticed
to himself other workmen, and the town been filled with glovers fully a
hundred years earlier than it was.

The latter part of the sixteenth century was a period of war and
domestic upheaval for Grenoble, during which the city government was
tossed back and forth among predatory barons until, in 1590,
Lesdiguières, “the King of the Mountains,” took the town by siege in the
name of Henry IV. Under Lesdiguières’ remarkably public-spirited
governorship, peace returned, commerce was resumed, and natural
resources, scarcely recognized before, were drawn upon for the
development of new crafts, whose products, now for the first time, were
to be exported to all parts of France and even into other countries.
Among these new crafts glove-making instantly sprang into prominence.

For the raw materials were everywhere at hand. On the slopes of the
mountains, enclosing like the tiers of a vast amphitheatre the city
seemingly chosen by Nature to become the mis-en-scène of the glove
drama, millions of wild goats fed. Already the tanners and tawers had
tested the admirable quality of their skins, and those of the females in
particular were found to be of the fine, soft variety, peculiarly free
from flaws, so admirably adapted to the making of gloves. For the
process of tawing the skins, moreover, the waters of the Isère, because
of their singular purity, were incomparable. And in the city itself—its
population now greatly increased by prosperity and peace—lived scores of
skilled artisans and their sons, well fitted for the careful cutting and
shaping of gloves; while the women, equipped with three-cornered
needles, quickly became adepts in sewing gloves by hand.

Other occupations, which now received special impetus in mediæval
Grenoble, were the weaving of hemp textiles—for hemp was the most
prolific crop of the alluvial river valleys—paper-making, and the
manufacture of playing-cards; about 1630, the fruit of the vineyards on
the mountain slopes, was turned into wine for exportation, and beautiful
pottery and tiles were made of the rich clay deposits of the Drac. But
of all these crafts, the one taking first rank from the very start, and
the one which quickly identified itself with the town, was gloves. In
the municipal acts, glovers often appear after 1606. In 1619 Claude
Honoré, a master glover, was elected consul. And in 1664 a certain
skilled workman, Jean Charpel, an artist in his line, proclaims himself
glover to the king.

“One sees the glovers,” observes a noted traveller of those times,
“filling all the streets after 1610, and especially the _rues_
Saint-Laurent, Perrière, Très-Cloître, and the suburb, together with the
curriers, tanners and tawers, and the combers of hemp.”

Although most historians date the close of the Middle Ages and the
beginnings of modern Europe from the era of the Protestant Reformation,
spanning the period from 1517 to about 1560, Grenoble remained for a
hundred years longer a mediæval city in every sense of the word. France
continued a Catholic country, and Grenoble, sequestered in a southern
province, scarcely felt the disquieting breath of the great religious
revolution which was sweeping mid-Europe. Its ideas and its civilization
changed little, even while fresh consciousness of its natural powers and
material resources was impregnating the city with new industries. The
spirit of craftsmanship—that joyous love of perfection, not only in the
fine but also in the useful arts, which characterized the
Renaissance—was still the ruling temper of its citizens; and the guild
of glovers, the most numerous and influential of all the artisans,
particularly personified this civic character. If we would gain some
notion of the part glove-making actually played in the lives of these
people, and the status of the glove-craft as it first appeared in
mediæval Europe, we have only to journey in imagination to Grenoble in
the middle of the seventeenth century, on the occasion of the great
annual festival of the glovers.

It is a clear, tranquil morning in the latter part of July, 1650, and
the sun, scarcely an hour’s march above the mountains, is flooding with
almost tropic brilliancy the matchless paradise of the Dauphiné. In its
confluence of rivers and fair valleys, the ancient capital city,
Grenoble, shines in the midst of the green plain of Grésivaudan.
Impossible to describe the ever-changing charm of the horizons!—as, from
the city itself, the eye sweeps eastward, northward, westward, over
range upon range of snow-crowned mountains, under a sky so pure, so
glowing, that distant peaks apparently loom near, and the cool breath of
Alpine heights gently smites the cheek.

Eastward, the prongs, the pinnacles, the clear-cut outlines of a sierra;
it is the chain of Belledonne. From the devastation of its summits and
terraced slopes, one divines beneath its summer cloak of verdure
concealing only its lower descent, the adamantine rock moulded for all
time by the glaciers of the ice age. It is indeed the advance guard of
those massive crystal formations, the veritable backbone of the Alps,
which penetrate into France from Mont Blanc. On a morning like this, the
Swiss peak itself can be seen, cleaving the far-away heavens which
overhang Savoy.

In the west the spectacle changes. Beyond the vast plain of the Drac
appears a long, white cliff, little carved out—a rigid line of limestone
falling sheer to the valley where lies Grenoble. This is the compact
mass of Vercors, almost impassable. Yet, suddenly, the cliff makes way;
the vale of Furon leaps through the chasm in the mountain wall. An
ancient road, winding ribbonwise to westward, puts into communication
the valley of the Isère with the wooded brows, the vast grassy hollows,
of the Vercors countryside.

Northward, the limestone reappears in the Chartreuse. But these
mountains, unlike Vercors, are twisted and broken, resembling a half
demolished castle with great apertures and rents in its once impregnable
sides. Their countless little vales and fertile levels glow with
stream-fed pasturage and with billowy forests. And everywhere, among the
foothills of the encircling ranges, roam herds of goats and cattle,
without suspicion of the fate which awaits them with the coming of the
great Fair of the autumn at Grenoble.

On this July morning the old town gleams like a strange jewel, set in
the spacious, lush meadow lands, stretching league on league, to the
mountains. Vast gardens of hemp wave to its very walls. Vineyards veil
the nearer hills, and the mulberry dots the plains of the southeast. The
Isère, restless, ever seeking new outlet, interlaces with a network of
sparkling tributaries the great expanse of Grésivaudan. All the richness
of the region, all the amazing variety and beauty with which nature has
surrounded this ancient city, seems concentrated, in the early hush and
radiance, in an act of worship.

Now the sun has penetrated the shadows below the city walls, and is
stealing through the sinuous, crowded streets, peculiar to towns which
long have been cramped within the precincts of strong fortifications.
The tiled eaves lean so close one upon another, as in some places
actually to shut out the sky. If we might fly up like a bird and look
down over the Grenoble of 1650, we would be gazing upon a confusion of
multi-colored roofs, set at every conceivable angle of picturesqueness,
and upon a bewildering congregation of chimneys and chimney-pots. Also,
we would note that the town lay on both banks of the Isère, connected by
a tower bridge, and protected on the north by the fortress of the

Down in the roughly paved _rue Saint-Laurent_ the clatter of sabots on
the stones announces that the townspeople are astir. Shutters are thrown
open. Bursts of song herald the holiday. Crowds of goats, driven through
the streets, are being milked at the house doors. Then, from the
Cathedral of Notre Dame—whose foundations, it is said, were laid by
Charlemagne—the bells proclaim with sweet solemnity the call to early
mass. Out of the houses pour the people in gaily embroidered holiday
dress, group joining group with merry exchange of salutations, until,
trooping through the narrow streets, the colorful procession appears
like a wandering rainbow threading the grey mazes of the old town.

House after house they pass and shop after shop, each bearing above the
portal a shield emblazened with the selfsame coat-of-arms—the heraldic
device of the guild of the glovers. Their occupants, gayest of the gay,
fast swell the throng, with masters and their families and
apprentices—the young boys in the retinues stealing shy glances at the
pretty daughters of their masters, the maidens covertly returning their
admirers’ bashful looks.

And now the multitude melts into the tender gloom of the ancient
cathedral; their voices are hushed in the sweet fluting of the choir.
Above the heads of the kneeling populace glows the shrine of Saint Anne,
lit with innumerable candles and smothered in exotic, summer flowers.
For this is the annual fête-day of the mother of the Virgin, the patron
saint of _les gantiers_, revered by all good glovers throughout France.
At Grenoble, however, the feast is observed with greater magnificence
than anywhere else, for the glovers constitute by far the most numerous
body, and the most prosperous, of its citizens, and theirs is the
crowning festivity of the whole year.

According to monkish legend, the good Saint Anne made a livelihood while
on earth by knitting gloves. “The knitting saint,” in homely terms of
affection the people liked to call her. They were wont to regard her as
one like themselves—only holier far, for the great honor God saw fit to
confer upon her—fulfilling her simple task from day to day, the needles
always busy in her fingers. Their love for her was so strong, indeed,
and so enduring, that early in the nineteenth century the glovers
ordered a statue of their saint set up in a public square of Grenoble,
where it may be seen to-day. It represents the mother of Mary, knitting,
with a half-finished glove in her hand and a basket of gloves at her

Mass celebrated, the long summer day is given over to street
festivities, to feasting, dancing and pageantry. The doors of the
glovers’ guild-hall, converted into a flower-adorned banqueting room,
stand wide open. The glovers’ shops and houses overflow with
hospitality. As at a great fair, popular arts and pastimes occupy the
squares and spaces before the public buildings; several such
distractions begin at once and continue simultaneously. Mountebanks and
musicians, folk dances, Columbines and Pierrots, flower-girls, venders
of bon-bons and _petits joujoux_ of every description, all commingle in
a laughing, jabbering, singing, whirling, shimmering, merry-making
throng. A wheeled street-stage, drawn by donkeys, with bells jingling
about their necks and on their trappings, makes the rounds of the town.
Wherever it stops, the gay curtains of the miniature theatre are parted
to disclose the play-actors who give a mediæval burlesque of Don Juan,
amid the noisy applause and high-pitched laughter of the onlookers.

But the great feature of the day is the pageant of the glovers, in which
each master, with his apprentices and family, has his special part. This
takes the form of a procession of carnival vans, or floats, drawn by
gorgeously caparisoned horses, and followed by crowds of young
apprentices and workmen and workmaidens on foot, who enact in pantomime
the various processes of glove-making as it was practiced in mediæval
days. Beautiful kids and chamois from the mountains, wreathed with
blossoms as though for sacrifice, are led by troops of peasant _garçons_
in blue smocks. The cutters advance, rhythmically jingling their shears;
and the needlewomen move by more slowly, drawing their shining
implements in perfect unison through the unfinished gloves they carry in
their hands. A spice of rivalry enlivens the exhibition, for every
master-glover has taken pains that his own personal retinue shall be as
large and as brilliant as possible. Every apprentice is fired with the
desire to so comport himself as to be an honor to his master—and,
incidentally, to attract the admiration of the maiden of the house he
hopes to win.

Angelus finds the merry-makers still romping, singing, dancing; a little
wearily the couples break apart, and the townsfolk once more flock
through the streets, transformed in the afterglow to running rivers of
gold, and are lost in the stilly dusk of the cathedral. And now the
tapers gleam like stars upon the altar of Saint Anne, and the fading
flowers send forth a sweet, benumbing perfume, as heads are bowed to
receive the evening benediction. On the rough, uneven stones of the
floor they kneel, imploring in their hearts the good saint who protects
and prospers all devout glovers, that the craft may wax stronger with
every year in the city of Grenoble.

So we see an entire community uniting in a great religious, civic,
industrial and social festival to celebrate and re-consecrate the craft
of glove-making. The place of honor this calling held in former times is
unique and striking. In the chapters which follow we shall observe how
gloves—and especially the gloves of Grenoble—have sustained their early
tradition through three hundred years of political vicissitude and
commercial struggle.

                               CHAPTER V.


                     “Lo, the old order changeth!”

How the glove craft of Grenoble spontaneously sprang up, took firm root
and grew until it controlled, to a great degree, the fortunes of that
city, has been shown in the foregoing brief summary of events. The many
phases of life with which glove-making was bound up in mediæval days,
its social and economic importance to the community and its pre-eminence
among the early industries, cannot have failed to be apparent. From
about 1600 the chief city of the Dauphiné underwent an astonishingly
rapid development.

But, if the seventeenth century was little short of phenomenal in glove
history, glove-making in Grenoble was not fated to become one of the
leading enterprises of the world without a struggle. The hundred years
that followed were at once the most sterile and the most fecund in the
annals of the trade—and, for that matter, the same is equally true of
the eighteenth century as regards its bearing upon the destinies of
Europe. Destructive of immediate results and of contemporary prosperity,
this era which endured the birth throes of modern states and the
upheavals of the Revolution, was, nevertheless, big with prophetic good.
And it is to the everlasting honor of the glovers of Grenoble that they
bore their part in this vast social and political movement, which
temporarily threatened death to their personal interests, with their
eyes fixed, not upon gain, but upon those high ideals and principles to
which their faith clung, even in the midst of business paralysis and
social chaos.

While the flame of the Revolution did not break forth until nearly the
close of the century, the spirit of modernity and unrest attacked the
French people fully a hundred years before the fall of the Bastille. In
Grenoble the transition from the old order to the new was anticipated as
early as 1691, in response to a proclamation of the king that the
business of the country be taxed to refill the royal treasury.

After the brilliant victories of his early reign, Louis XIV. had
suffered severe reverses. He was gravely in need of money to repair the
military organization. New resources must somehow be found, and that
immediately. The only adequate answer which presented itself took the
form of taxation imposed upon the business interests of the realm. The
glovers of Grenoble, accordingly, in 1691, organized themselves into the
_Corporation des Gantiers_, or Corporation of Glovers, to determine how
heavily their industry should be taxed in support of the régime. While
they felt loyally obliged to contribute all they were able to the king’s
cause, by the very act of their organizing and by virtue of the funds
they furnished, they became masters at home, respected by the monarch,
independent and self-governing. Their sacrifice of money to the
government had, in the same hour, bought them their freedom in all that
pertained to their local affairs.

The importance of this initial association for an economic purpose
scarcely can be overestimated. The Corporation later proved the unit of
strength which was to render the glovers, as a body, invincible through
the endless chain of vicissitudes, political, moral and industrial,
which all but swept away, in the next hundred years, the totality of
progress gained in the seventeenth century. In 1590 Grenoble had not
10,000 inhabitants. In 1692 Vauban values the population at 33,000.
During the seventeenth century, then, its numbers had more than tripled,
and this must needs strike one as the more remarkable inasmuch as city
life in that epoch was little developed. Such growth, as we have seen,
went hand in hand with the evolution of its industries. In 1692, Vauban

“The city contains a very numerous bourgeoisie, and is filled with a
high quality of artisans which furnish a great variety of products to
the largest part of the province. Its increase has been such that it
actually is bursting out of its new ramparts. The city has dire need of
expansion; all ranks of people demand it irresistibly.”

In 1700 Vauban submitted a plan for enlarging extensively the city
proper. This was not to be realized, however, until one hundred and
forty years later. Already the tide had turned. The people were passing
out through the gates of Grenoble, never to return. The eighteenth
century was destined to be such a period of sacrifice and retardation,
in a material sense, as the town had never known, even in the
pestilence-ridden, war-mad days which preceded the advent of

The explanation of the exodus which ushered in the new century leads us
back, for a moment, to certain events which, until now, we have not had
occasion to mention. A great blessing to Grenoble in the past had been
the Edict of Nantes, by which Henry IV., in 1598, had put an end to the
religious wars. It had paved the way for the uninterrupted peace of the
seventeenth century, and thus for the efflorescence of Grenoble’s crafts
and industries. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV., in
1685, really marks the turning point in that city’s prosperity. The
testimony of contemporaries confirms this opinion, and the verdict of
those living twenty years later in the famous glove town, assigns to the
same cause the steady shrinking of the population during the second
decade after the Revocation.

The sudden withdrawal of religious liberty cost France three hundred
thousand of her people who emigrated to Germany, Holland, and other
Protestant countries. A large element in these emigrations were the
skilled artisans. Grenoble alone was deprived of nearly three thousand
persons, among them the family of the Lèsdiguieres, many others of the
nobility and the gentlefolk, and a large body of masters and

In 1705 the city lost five hundred individuals of the religious
profession and seventy-three families of “gentilhommes,” whose
disappearance was no trifling matter, as these personages had been
liberal patrons of the glovers, and it was their wealth which, in great
part, had made business move. Industry in Grenoble, on every hand, was
in a grievous state—but especially glove-making, the home demand being
suddenly removed, and foreign trade little developed at that period.

Such was the deplorable effect of the Revocation. The glovers, however,
proved themselves possessed of almost unbelievable powers of
recuperation. In 1729 we find the sale of Grenoble gloves spreading
rapidly in Germany, Switzerland, Savoy and Piedmont. Foreign trade
steadily increased, despite the fact that the population of Grenoble
remained, virtually, at a standstill. But trade abroad brought also
foreign competition. While the Revocation had actually served Grenoble,
indirectly, by causing the ruin of her rivals in France—Blois and
Vendome, which could not support the drain of their emigrations; and
especially Grasse, which was seriously crippled by loss of its master
glovers and the departure of most of its families of wealth—these
selfsame emigrations doubtless stimulated the manufacture of gloves
outside France. Many of those who had served their apprenticeship in
Grenoble, and master glovers holding the secrets of her arts, probably
became rivals, in other lands, of the city they once had called their

All this complicated subject of commercial relations, the advantages and
disadvantages of foreign trade, and the history of the glove market,
will be treated separately and in detail in the chapter which follows.
For the present, let us keep to our main issue—the vicissitudes in
general of gloves and glove-makers in the leading glove city of the
world during the stormy years of the eighteenth century.

From 1737 to 1746 we learn that the life of the Grenoble glovers—on the
surface, at least—was comparatively monotonous. The manufacture made
some progress, but the possibilities of expansion were not such as to
stimulate very keenly those at the head of things. The masters and the
workers lived without disagreement, apparently; the time-honored rules
of the craft continued to be observed on both sides. In the Corporation
a public magistrate managed the affairs of the association; the glovers
themselves, it would seem, being too indifferent to take an active part.
Prosperity appears to have been just about commensurate with the needs
of the Corporation.

And yet, beneath this evident torpor, a vast inquietude was moving, like
an earthquake under the sea. A fermentation of social discontent—bred by
the philosophy of the times, by the glaring disparity between the ruling
class and the working people, the latters’ distrust of the morals and
the assumed authority of the former, by the teachings of freemasonry and
the trades unions—was slowly gathering momentum. In working
centres—conspicuously in Grenoble and throughout the Dauphiné—the
wealthy people were constantly framing remonstrances, begging the Royal
Council to curb the mutterings of the proletariat.

The outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, in 1756, increased the industrial
depression by cutting off a part of the foreign demand, particularly for
gloves, and by calling away from France many men for the army. In 1759 a
heavy tax was imposed by the crown upon skins. This proved the last
straw. It meant that skins for tawing were hardly to be had, and thus
the glovers were without materials for their manufacture. Their
irritation was acute, and the parliament of Grenoble was obliged to
carry before the king the united protestations of the _Corporation des

This defence in behalf of the Grenoble glovers was at once an act of
justice and an achievement of admirable foresight. The parliament did
more than merely present the honest grievances of the industry. With a
commendable vigor and pride it laid before the king a constructive
measure which was to become the occasion in France of an economic
revolution in the skin and glove trades. This was the beginning of the
breaking down of custom duties on gloves between provinces. After a few
years the internal taxes on this product were entirely abolished. Thus
vanished all unfair competition at home, and neighboring glove cities
ceased to come under the title of “the foreigner.” At the same time, the
selling of skins from province to province became free and general.
Great fairs were held by the skin merchants, the tawers and tanners, for
the benefit of all the surrounding region. Exportation of skins
decreased, while home manufacturers rejoiced in the abundance of
excellent materials.

The Corporation of Glovers, however, suffered meanwhile from the growing
restlessness and vague ambitions of its workers. The old regulations
were gradually and inevitably giving way before the awakening
consciousness of a new race of wage-earners, grown almost morbidly
distrustful of vested authority. The Dauphiné was afflicted with the bad
example of many of its aristocrats. The nobility was indeed unworthy of
its rank. The pervading restiveness and insubordination of the working
class sprang out of a deep, instinctive resentment against the
prevailing order. Of course, the first point of friction lay between the
apprentices and the masters.

Though the severities of apprenticeship were modified, the former good
faith between these two was irretrievably lost. Fear of foreign
competition faded into insignificance before this intimate situation—the
suspicious attitude toward one another of masters and workmen. Such was
bound to be the price of a last, furious assault upon the mouldering
ramparts of long-decayed feudalism.

The master glovers, on their side, shared in the social discontent, and
participated in the long drawn-out struggle between the aristocracy and
the bourgeoisie to determine which of these should predominate in the
local tribunals. The glovers of Grenoble contended that they, as an
organized body of people, no longer merely having a trade, but enjoying
also a social position encroaching on the importance of the man of the
robe, the magistrate and the attorney, should have the largest voice in
the making of the laws. Their product, they argued, was bringing money
into France from England, Germany, Switzerland, and other northern
countries, where more than one-half of their gloves were sold. In 1775,
it is stated, out of 100,000 dozen pairs of gloves made in Grenoble,
60,000 were on commission for the foreigner. Naturally enough these
manufacturers and merchants felt that over an idle, and even vicious,
aristocracy, their opinions and practical needs should lead in shaping
public legislation.

Further, bitter contention involved the business men of Grenoble with
the lawyers of that city, for the latter persisted in looking down upon
plain citizens not bred in their profession, and in excluding them from
public affairs. In 1789 all glovers were shut out of the city council.
In view of the fact that they “gave work daily to more than eight
thousand persons, and thus enabled to live one-third of the population
of Grenoble,” the glovers resented bitterly this deliberate indignity
from “les hommes du robe.” It only fired them the more to throw
themselves into the great conflict ahead; to prove that, even if they
could not discourse so eloquently upon public matters as those who had
insulted them, “at least they knew how to talk less, act more, and give
all they possessed” to the cause of justice.

Thus, with the greatest crisis, perhaps, of modern times approaching,
the glovers found themselves, workmen and masters alike, drawn almost
before they knew it, into the very heart of the maelstrom. Industry
itself was at a standstill. Nay, it was slipping backward; for in the
midst of such internal suppression of terrible passions, such scorching
hatreds, and ideals to set the world on fire, what footing could there
be for the arts of peace?

And then the black cloud burst. Grenoble was drained of men whom the
actual eruption of the Revolution forced to flee its walls. It was
emptied of soldiers departing for the centre of action. The Revolution
put out of business many of those following religious vocations, whose
offices now were enlisted in grimmer callings; it wiped out of existence
the gentlemen of leisure. There had been many of these latter in the
beautiful, old city of the Dauphiné.

And who was there left to wear gloves, in all the length and breadth of
France? What was to become, in such an hour, of an industry which
addressed itself to the pleasure-loving rich, and to the privileged
classes? The rich? There were no more rich. Privilege—the title, the
robe, the gown? Lost off in the wild scurry of fugitives! In the
appalling reaction, such a harmless mark of elegance as the glove,
became, so to speak, branded with horror. To be seen in gloves in those
days was to be marked for a criminal against mankind; to be suspected of
being a Royalist, a lover of the king, a Judas to the People.

So we have the spectacle of the glovers, “plain men of business,”
throwing over every material advantage, to hurl themselves and all they
possessed into the French Revolution. “The Revolution!” cries M. Xavier
Roux in his invaluable book, _The Glovers of Grenoble_, published for
private circulation in that city in 1887, “they themselves desired it.
They sacrificed to it their money and their effort.” Again he says:

“It would seem as though, in their eyes, there were no longer practical
‘interests’; there were only _ideas_. Never, perhaps, as then, has a
whole people forgotten its industry, it business relations, and suffered
itself to be moved by principle alone.”

And yet one spectacle more remains—the silent factories on the Isère.
For the first time since the founding of its main industry and source of
prosperity in the past, we behold the paradox of a gloveless Grenoble!

                              CHAPTER VI.

                          GLOVES IN MANY MARTS

             “She of the open soul and open door,
             With room about her hearth for all mankind.”
                         —_Trade_: _James Russell Lowell._

The first glove-makers in Europe, we may suppose—certainly the first,
skilled in that art, to work together in brotherhoods—were the monks of
the early Middle Ages. In common with many other old-established
handicrafts, the glove trade is deeply indebted to the Church. On this
point, William S. Beck, the leading English authority on glove lore of
thirty-five years ago, has summed up the conditions most interestingly
and clearly. He says:

“Muscular Christianity is no new doctrine. Faith and works were once
literally united in a secular sense. Before corruptions crept in, and
while monastic establishments maintained the simple lines on which they
had been founded, their inmates were the most skillful and industrious
of artisans. Weaving, illuminating, gardening, embroidery,
woodwork—these and many other occupations were practiced sedulously by
the holy friars. The original idea of the founders of these institutions
was to bring together a company of Christians who were workers. Benedict
enjoins his followers to fight valiantly against idleness, the canker of

“‘Therefore,’ he prescribes, ‘the brethren must be occupied in the labor
of the hands, and again at certain times in divine study.’

“The brethren not only practiced,” says Beck, “but taught. The monastery
became as much the centre of industry as of intellect; and religion was
made an active worker with commerce in furthering national interests.
The efforts of the brethren often resulted in raising local manufactures
to great excellence, so that they obtained more than local celebrity. To
the monks of Bath, for instance, is attributed much of the fame which
the stout, woolen cloths of the west of England yet enjoy; and under
their active auspices, we are told, the manufacture was introduced,
established and brought to perfection. In their commercial curriculum
glove-making was certainly included, as well as the dressing of

As early as 790, as has been mentioned in a preceding chapter,
Charlemagne granted to the abbots and monks of Sithin in ancient France
unlimited right of hunting the deer for skins of which to make gloves,
girdles and covers for books. These gloves, made in the monasteries,
assuredly were worn, not only by the higher orders of the clergy, but by
the king and his nobles. They may have been a direct means of revenue
among the monks; in any case, they were a favor exchanged for the
patronage and support of the feudal lords in maintaining monastic

Needless to say, gloves were one of the luxuries of early trade and
barter, and it was a late period before they became, to any extent, an
article of common exchange. As gifts to kings and personages of high
rank, they were borne from country to country, and thus, to a limited
degree, were put into circulation. The Earl of Oxford, on one occasion,
curried favor with Queen Elizabeth by presenting Her Majesty with
beautiful, perfumed gloves which he, personally, had brought to her from
Italy. The Queen, we are told, was so vain of this particular pair of
gloves that she had her portrait painted in them. Little by little, as
the privilege of wearing gloves spread from sovereign to subject, their
trade was popularized, and the glove market, in the modern sense, grew
up in response to the increasing demand.

In France, glove-making as an industry, independent of the monasteries,
was certainly well established in the twelfth century. In 1190 we find
the Glovers of Paris organized under a settled code of statutes received
from the king. Across the channel, gloves are first mentioned, as an
incorporated trade, in Scotland, where the glovers formed a company
called “The Glovers of Perth” during the reign of Robert III., who
figures in Scott’s _Fair Maid of Perth_, and ruled between 1390 and
1406. This company was principally employed in making buck and doeskin
gloves. Thence the trade spread over Scotland, but it did not long hold
its importance. “Dundee” gloves enjoyed a picturesque fame; but Hull
remarks, in 1834, that “they had little more than the term to recommend
them.” Indeed, the greater part of them were made in Worcester, England,
and were sewn cheaply, with cotton, instead of silk. A few gloves were
also turned out in Montrose, Scotland; the leather for these, however,
was sent from London.

In London, the glove trade had existed for many centuries, and
originally was carried on in connection with the making of leather
doublets and breeches. Deer and sheep skins were used chiefly; but after
the introduction of kid gloves into England from France, the former
country began to make kid gloves also, under the name of “London
town-made gloves,” and thus to follow the more fastidious fashions of
the French. The glovers of London were incorporated in the fourteenth
year of the reign of Charles I., who, on the sixth of September, 1638,
granted them a charter, in which they were styled: “The Masters, Wardens
and Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of the City of
London.” As early as 1464, however, they had received their
coat-of-arms. Even so, the Paris glovers must be acceded priority in
importance, as their statutes date from 1190. Moreover, it has justly
been said that gloves “came over with the Conqueror,” and were really
introduced into England from France. Previous to 1066, the glove
produced by the Saxons was a rude and shapeless thing, while the Normans
brought with them the clever prototype on which the future glove of
England was destined to be modelled.

Very early in their history the English began to experience commercial
rivalry with the French, and one of the first products to be strongly
affected, to England’s detriment, was gloves. As far back as the reign
of Edward IV., in 1462, we find the English glove trade protected by
prohibitory laws. These laws, in later years, must have become obsolete,
as they do not appear ever to have been repealed, and foreign gloves
were imported into the country soon after the Reformation. In 1564,
however, England forbade any gloves from abroad to enter her ports.
Nothing was said about the raw materials being brought from other lands;
but France saw fit to curtail the shipment of kid skins outside her
boundaries, and thus the English were thrown entirely upon their own
resources. French kid gloves—whose quality, after all, it has been
impossible to equal in other countries—continued to be smuggled into the
British realm to a greater extent, we may believe, than the authorities
then realized. The titled people, accustomed to having the best of
everything, infinitely preferred the French luxury to the homemade
article; and so, it was secretly procured. But, generally speaking,
after 1564, the English manufactured their own gloves from native skins,
and the trade increased and became prosperous.

On the occasion of the granting of the charter in 1638, certain abuses
had crept into the industry, and it was to obviate these conditions that
the document was demanded and granted by the king. It reads:

“Whereas, by an humble petition presented unto us by our loveing
subjects, living in and about our Cities of London and Westminster,
using the arte, trade or mistery of Glovers,

“We have been informed that their families are about four hundred in
number, and upon them depending about three thousand of our subjects,
who are much decayed and impoverished by reason of the great confluence
of persons of the same arte, trade or mistery into our said Cities of
London and Westminster, from all parts of our kingdome and dominion of
Wales, that, for the most parte, have scarcely served any time
thereunto, working of gloves in chambers and corners, and taking
apprentices under them, many in number, as well women as men, that
become burdensome to the parishes wherein they inhabit, and are a
disordered multitude, living without proper government, and making
_naughtie and deceitful gloves_: And that our subjects aforesaid, that
lawfully and honestly use the said arte, trade or mistery, are, by these
means, not only prejudiced at home, but the reputation the English had
in foreign parts, where they were a great commoditie and held in goode
esteeme, is much impaired. And also, that by the engrossing of leather
into a few men’s hands, our said subjects are forced to buye bad leather
at excessive rates, to their further impoverishment....” etc. ... etc.

In view of such abuses as these, the London Company was given very
exclusive powers, one of which was “to search for and destroy bad or
defective skins, leather or gloves.”

The name of the first Master of the Glovers’ Company has come down to us
in certain parish registers of the seventeenth century, in which he is
mentioned as “William Smart, of the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate,
_Glover_.” In his parish the trade seems to have been especially

Perhaps the London industry labored under greater difficulties, on the
whole, than glove-making elsewhere. It had constantly to contend against
the secret importation of French gloves into the capital city, and also
to maintain its superiority over the imitations of the country
manufacturers; for, in England, as in France, competition between the
various glove centres was intense. Many London manufacturers, because
they could not make their ventures pay, actually became importers and
dealers in French gloves—either underhandedly, or openly, as the laws of
the land would permit. Invariably they found this greatly to their
advantage, since the price of French gloves was low, and the manner in
which the duty could be evaded, at that date, ridiculously simple.

Despite the feelings and the best efforts of those Englishmen who sought
to foster and strengthen the home glove trade, the prohibitory laws
remained always more or less lax—chiefly because the aristocracy and
gentry preferred the French glove, and, for the most part, were not
interested in the welfare of English glovers and artisans—until, in
1825, the ban on imported gloves was officially removed. The effect upon
France was electrical. The British ports were flung open to her at a
time when Grenoble, Paris and her other glove cities were swinging back
on the crest of the new wave of industrial prosperity and progress which
had received its momentum in the days of the Empire—a period which
witnessed the revival of much of the former elegance of France, so
lately eclipsed by the Revolution. In 1832, the legal importation of
French gloves into England was 1,516,663 pairs. As many more, in that
same year, we may believe, were also smuggled into the country by the
old methods. To France—and particularly to Grenoble—the English change
of policy was one of the greatest boons which could have befallen a
commercially ambitious people.

To English glovers, on the contrary, the results were anything but
fortunate. A brief survey of the vicissitudes of the English glove towns
may serve to show how dearly the glove industry was forced to pay for
the new national system of Free Trade.

In Worcester, close rival of London, the glove craft is known to have
existed since 1571, and in 1661 the Glovers’ Company of that city was
incorporated. Here an elaborate manufacture was carried on, including
“Venetian” gloves, made in imitation of those originally imported from
Venice. As long as French gloves were not freely admitted, the beaver
gloves of Worcester also enjoyed great prosperity; but with the
re-importation of the former, beaver gloves went out of fashion, and the
Worcester makers turned their attention to alum leather gloves which
were produced in large quantities until 1825.

The complete removal of the prohibitory regulations, however, was fatal
to this last-named article, which could not hope to compete with the far
finer product from abroad. From that date, the English manufacture
rapidly decayed, despite every effort of the masters and the work people
to readjust their difficulties. How hard Worcester itself was hit, is
shown by a statement given by the Committee of Operative Glovers in
1832. It reads:

“There are in Worcester 120 master manufacturers, who have been in the
habit of making, upon an average, one hundred dozens of gloves each, per
week, which would be 12,000 per week for the whole; but they are now
making something under one-third of that number. By this means, about
£3,000 (or $15,000) per week is taken out of circulation in wages alone;
which money used immediately to find its way into the hands of the
retail trader in the purchase of articles of consumption.”

In the year 1825, immediately before the introduction of French gloves,
there were few, if any, work people idle in Worcester, and the trade was
prosperous. On January 10, 1832, out of one thousand men, the state of
employment stood as follows:

                           In full employ 113
                           Partial employ 465
                           Unemployed     422

Of the 465, many did not average more than two shillings, sixpence, per
week. The number of children totally dependent upon these one thousand
men was 1,748. The poorhouses were overrun, and large sums for relief
were paid out of the public pocket. Worcester, the chief glove city
outside London, continued to decline.

In Woodstock the Glovers never were incorporated, but the manufacture
was pursued from a remote period. Some of the finest English craftsmen
labored here to produce a very beautiful glove; and that they attained
to a high degree of perfection is certified by the fact that the
University of Oxford, in 1616, presented James I. with “very riche
gloves” in Woodstock. Queen Elizabeth also received gloves from the
Woodstock makers in one of her festal “progresses.” In those times only
English deer, sheep and lamb skins were used in the Woodstock shops.
Since 1825, however, and the introduction of French kid skins, most of
their ancient prestige has been lost.

Hexham furnished a peculiar glove—so long-established that we may regard
it as having descended unbrokenly from the old Saxon _gluf_—called the
“Hexham tan glove,” made from native sheep skins. The gauntlets attached
to suits of armor were made in the same style; and many centuries ago it
was an important trade in that place. But even its modern substitute
fell into disuse about 1830.

York “tans” were popular in the days of protection. Beaver gloves
occupied 3,000 persons in Hereford, until the sudden industrial collapse
of that town in 1825. Ludlow turned out 70,000 dozen pairs of gloves
annually, and employed one-fifth of its population in that trade,
collecting the skins from Scotland. In 1832, “not six men,” we read,
were employed in glove-making there. Kington was another glove centre
which failed before the middle of the nineteenth century. The glove
workmen of Leominster numbered 900 in 1825; and on the eve of legal
re-importation its factories were among the busiest in the kingdom. In
1831, its shops were deserted by all but 163 artisans.

A community whose associations with gloves are particularly interesting,
was Yeovil, where the craft was established as early as the middle of
the sixteenth century, giving employment for hundreds of years to
peasant workmen and workwomen living over an area of some twenty miles.
At one period the number of its masters, cutters and sewers was 20,000,
and about 300,000 dozens of gloves of all kinds were produced annually.
An ancient folk song of the Yeovil glove-women has recently been revived
by the Fuller sisters, to simple harp accompaniment, just as it used to
be sung, as a “round” or “part song,” by the diligent sewers as they
drew their triangular needles in and out of their work. It is very
quaint and tuneful, marking the time of the motions in sewing; and its
rhythm, no doubt, facilitated the speed and ease with which the women
plied their task.

Yeovil was famous for its military gloves for many years. Later, a fine
imitation of kid gloves was made there; but these were crushed out by
the return of the genuine foreign product. An idyllic industrial
community was transformed almost over night into a desperate and
dangerous populace, demanding by force the means of bread-winning which
so suddenly had been denied it. Hull tells us that to quell these
disturbances, two troops of dragoons were kept continually in the town,
where, a few years before, “a horse-soldier would have been looked upon
as a sort of centaur by the lower orders of the people.”

A territory, not yet mentioned, which was closely bound up with the
prosperity of the glove trade in England, was Ireland. Limerick, Dublin
and Cork formerly were noted glove cities. The “Limericks”—a glove named
for its birthplace—were of exquisite texture, and were greatly in favor
among the aristocratic English for their property of rendering the hand
of the wearer smooth and soft. These gloves were made of “morts” or
“slinks,” the skin of the abortive, or very young, calf, lamb or kid.
Some of them were so beautifully delicate that they could be enclosed in
a walnut shell. “No glove ever exceeded the Limerick in beauty,”
declares Hull. Skin collectors went all over Ireland, and the trade was
a great boon to the peasantry. But after 1825, the skins were no longer
worth the trouble of collecting, and a great resource of the country was

To one who views these facts it must be apparent that England never was
intended to compete with France in the skilled making of the finest
gloves. She could content her people with the home product only by
excluding all foreign gloves; and even then, the privileged, who could
bribe the government, insisted upon the secret importation of gloves
from France. To be sure, the wave of protection rose high in 1462, in
1675 and in 1744; but, in every event there came a reaction, as far as
the complete prohibition of gloves was concerned. Instead of supplying
her own colonies with the home product, England even imported gloves
from France, stored them in her warehouses, and then shipped them at an
_ad valorem_ duty to her East Indian possessions!

The truth of the matter was, French glove-makers early had won the first
place in Europe. Struggle as she might, it is exceedingly doubtful
whether her rival across the Channel ever could have equalled her
prestige. In the heavier varieties of leather gloves, English makers did
enjoy—and still do to-day—an enviable reputation; but here their fame
stops. England had neither the inventive skill nor the natural climate
to produce the perfect kid glove, for which France is so celebrated.

In France itself, we already have traced in the course of other
chapters, more or less definitely, the development of the glove market.
Particularly we have followed the fortunes of the trade in Grenoble, as
being, most distinctively, _the glove city_ of the world. We have seen
Grenoble guarding her precious art from “the foreigner”; holding herself
on the defensive against other French cities, of which, under the old
laws and internal duties, she had no choice but to be jealous. We have
noted how the Revocation ruined many of her neighbors, even while it
stimulated competition beyond the confines of France. In the seventeenth
century, Paris and Grenoble enjoyed the monopoly of the glove markets of
Europe. During the eighteenth century, however, these cities began to
cope with Germany, Italy, Austria, and even Russia, in glove-making. The
vexed question of the exportation of skins was settled to the advantage
of the manufacturers at home, and unnatural rivalry between the
different French cities was smoothed away.

The Revolution saw the entire industry, apparently, snuffed out. And
yet, so deeply had the glove trade taken root in French soil that, at
the first breath of the revival of culture and refined manners, under
the patronage of the Empress Josephine, this ancient art again sprang
into being; and, like a miracle, the resurrection of the glovers was
complete. At this point the great clients of to-day appeared—the United
States, reconstructing itself, and building up its commerce with the
foremost marts of the world. The Americans demanded, among other things,
the most beautiful gloves of Europe.

Grenoble, on recovering from the shock of the Revolution, the long, dark
days of the Terror, found, to her chagrin, that she had a formidable
rival in Paris. Naturally, the capital city, the centre of the court,
was the first place to feel the effects of the renaissance of
glove-making. Paris swarmed with workers, and could get more sewers at
lower wages than Grenoble contained within its gates. In 1810, however,
the southern city began to reach out into the surrounding country for
apprentices; and quickly the peasant people responded by the hundreds
and thousands. Many of them flocked to the town, filling the places left
destitute by the violent events of the last twenty years; and, for miles
about, sewing was portioned out, to be done in the small villages and in
isolated households scattered among the mountains. Grazing and goat
rearing once more became a profitable occupation.

It proved a long, proud pull—but the glovers of Grenoble were not to be
daunted. At last that city’s ancient prestige was restored. The War of
1870, instead of being a set-back, was really a help; for the remoteness
of Grenoble from the seat of war permitted her to continue working, and
orders from England and America—which, ordinarily, might have sought
other channels—she filled in her factories and home shops. In 1872, to
be sure, Grenoble, and all the French glovers, suddenly found themselves
up against tremendous, and totally unexpected, competition with Saxony,
Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium. These countries had devised a means of
placing on the market remarkably handsome lambskin gloves, which
rivalled in appearance the fine French kid product and sold for far
less. But a few years of obstinately insisting upon the high prices they
always had exacted for their goods, soon taught the French manufacturers
the necessity of finding a less expensive kid; and with the development
of new mechanical inventions for cheaper cutting and sewing, Grenoble
presently regained her firm footing.

If the seventeenth century must be considered little short of marvellous
as regards glove-making in Grenoble—and it may be compared, indeed, to
the first five years of a child’s life, in which he makes,
proportionately, his most astonishing progress—the achievements of the
industry in the nineteenth century, if possible, have been even greater.
Apart from the facts of the vicissitudes the trade had had to face, the
battles it had waged—and won—all the vast accoutrements of modern
machinery and scientific appliances now come into play. Also, a great,
inventive genius has arisen, destined to revolutionize the art of

                              CHAPTER VII.

                         FROM ARTIST TO ARTISAN

  “There is nothing impossible to industry.”—_Clio, one of the Seven
  Wise Men of Greece._

Until now we have been dealing with revolutionary movements in the
political sense, and, indirectly, their effects upon the glove trade. We
presently have to consider the great revolution within the industry
itself, which came with the introduction of machinery in the nineteenth
century, whereby productive labor was completely transformed and
glove-making permanently modernized.

Early in the nineteenth century, the factory system was firmly
established in England. The French, however, held out against the
system, in great measure, as might be expected of a people who recently
had fought so passionately for individual liberty. Child labor was an
evil against which the French economists were vehement in their
protestations. Apprenticing the young was an entirely different matter,
without doubt, from enslaving children from dawn to dark in mills, where
they were compelled to repeat unceasingly some mechanical detail of the
process, with very little hope of enlightenment or advancement in their
occupation. The French, progressive but not greedy, sought to maintain
industry upon a humane basis.

With the revival of glove-making at the time of the First Empire, the
honored methods of craftsmanship still were in practice. Gloves were
made entirely by hand, and the glove-maker—whether designer or
workman—was, in the true sense, an artist. Patterns, cut from thin
boards, were laid on the leather, and the shape traced with lead pencil.
These designs were cut out with a pair of long scissors. The parts were
then sewed together. In order to keep the stitches uniform, the pieces
were placed between a pair of jaws, the holding edges of which were
serrated with fine saw teeth; and the sewer by passing the needle
forwards and backwards between each of these teeth secured neat,
even-length stitches. The embroidery on the backs was done with very
great care, and necessarily consumed much time. Although these gloves
possessed the charm peculiar to most hand-made articles, the matter of
fit was purely accidental, for it depended partly upon the elasticity of
the leather and even more upon the skill of the maker.

In point of skill no glove workers in the world at that time surpassed
those of Grenoble. Relying wholly upon the art of her workmen and the
dexterity of her sewing women, the ancient glove city still set the
standard of excellence for the rest of Europe—even in the years when she
was not in a position to turn out so many gloves, nor sell her product
so cheaply, as Paris. Though forced for some time to take secondary
place, quantitatively, Grenoble never yielded to her rivals in the
matter of quality. If she could not produce the _most_ gloves, she at
least would furnish the market with the _best_ gloves.

The finest tawed skins to be had were prepared for the Grenoble glovers
in the mills at Millau and Annonay. Their value excelled that of any
skins tawed by foreigners. On this fact, however, the prestige of the
Grenoble glove did not rest. These beautiful skins were sent abroad to
manufacturers all over Europe, so, in themselves, they did not create a
monopoly in favor of the city really responsible for their superiority.
No, it was her method of making gloves, the cutting and the sewing of
them, which actually distinguished Grenoble. Her workers enjoyed a
privileged position in the industry; they were celebrated far and near.
Other localities did their best to entice them away; especially did
Germany, Piedmont and Switzerland offer inducements, and, whenever
possible, strangers would enter the Grenoble shops to spy upon these
artists and steal their secrets. But they were never able to carry this
far enough to establish any great competition in the international
markets. The Grenoble glove continued to be much sought and exceedingly
envied. Not able to procure elsewhere gloves of equal beauty,
shapeliness and finish, merchants far and wide were obliged to supply
themselves from the city of inimitable artists in the Dauphiné; and
thus, without the slightest compulsion from the Grenoble manufacturers,
these traders stimulated their business and spread their fame.

The sewing women, M. Roux tells us, constituted a peculiar source of
wealth to the Grenoble industry. Their exquisite handwork defied all
rivalry; there were no other such accomplished sewers in all France, nor
in any other country. To-day they are still celebrated; but then they
formed an exclusive factor of Grenoble’s prestige. Apprenticed while
young girls, they looked upon glove-making as a career, an art in which
they desired to perfect themselves. The traditions of glove-making
forebears held them to the ancient _metier_ of the place; and even more
than the glovers and the male workers, they met the encroachments of
self-seeking foreigners with an intuitive distrust and proud resistance.

Under such conditions as these, the glove industry in Grenoble was able
to support successfully the extreme vicissitudes of the
post-Revolutionary era. Even while the wave of prosperity rolled, now
high, now low, in face of other manufacturers it maintained an
invincible superiority—none excelled the skill of its handwork. Others
were unable to counterfeit this; it could not be imitated; never
elsewhere was it equalled.

But meanwhile, right at home, unsuspected forces were slowly working,
which were destined to prove at the same time propitious and full of
danger for the Grenoble glovers. The real revolution was approaching;
the great, internal change which was to be the undoing of the old, the
uprearing of a new industrial system upon the razed foundations of the
old. The days of the craftsman and the artist were numbered.

Every genius has his forerunner. About the year 1819, Vallet d’Artois, a
French glove manufacturer, invented steel punches in three sizes, each
of which would cut, or punch, out of leather two dozen gloves at once.
This invention was the first step toward the introduction of modern
machinery into the glove industry. It multiplied the efficiency of the
glove cutter, so far as speed was concerned, twenty-four times.

In the same year, the genius who was finally to revolutionize
glove-making was barely entering young manhood. Xavier Jouvin has
sometimes been called a Parisian. He was born, however, in Grenoble, on
the eighth day of December, 1800, in the house in the rue St. Laurent,
now bearing the number 57. Jouvin was in Paris as a student in 1817, and
he lived there again in 1825. But he never felt at home in the least in
the French capital. He was a provincial by tradition, birth and natural
inclination; a student and a dreamer whose spirit was nourished by
seclusion—by journeying inward and exploring its own solitudes rather
than by contact with men and affairs.

It seems significant that the first year of the new century should have
ushered into the world one of the leading mechanical minds of that
epoch. It is also strikingly appropriate that Jouvin should have been a
native of Grenoble, since his name, above all others, is identified with
the modern industry of glove-making. He was a visionary, whose single
need was the necessity of inventing something all his days. He could not
see any kind of work going on near him but he must think how he could
make it easier by the creation of some mechanical instrument. Without
ambition for fortune or for fame, he was only too contented to proscribe
his life within apparently narrow limits. Returning from Paris in 1825,
he was resolved to enjoy obscurity, the provincial and rural environment
in which his talent throve; while occupying his mind almost exclusively
with the study of mechanical processes necessary to assure exact
regularity in cutting gloves.

Already this young man had invented a mowing machine, and a planisphere,
by means of which, automatically, one could determine the position of
the stars for every night in the year. Now, in turning his attention to
the problem of regularity of cut in gloves, he was really broaching the
great factor which has given modern glove-making its ascendency over the
old method—namely, the element of _fit_. At the outset he perceived the
exact terms of the problem which he had set himself to solve. First, he
must make a general classification of the different sizes and shapes of
hands one meets; secondly, he must ascertain the precise extension of
the skin required for the measurements of the hand he wished to fit.

By minutely studying hands in the Hospital of Grenoble, Jouvin
discovered and wrote out in a rectangle thirty-two different sizes of
hands. He furthermore recognized five types—very broad, broad, medium,
slender and very slender—each type being divided into two classes. As
there were thirty-two sizes for each class, and five types altogether,
this made three hundred and twenty different numbers of gloves, which
proved more than requisite to the demands of the finest trade.

The dies which Jouvin invented and perfected for cutting out these three
hundred and twenty different gradations of gloves consisted of the
calibre, or glove pattern, and the punch, or _emporte-pièce_, and were
made of fine tempered steel blades fastened to a back of cast iron. In
making the heavier grades of gloves, the die was struck with a ponderous
mallet, cutting only one thickness at a time. By cutting only one piece
in this way, the artisan avoided any holes in the skins which might have
been made in killing the wild animal or in dressing the leather. The
thumbs and gussets, or fourchettes—the strips inserted to form the sides
of the fingers—were cut with separate dies from pieces not large enough
for the body of the glove, thus utilizing nearly every scrap of the
material. As the leather was first placed upon a block to receive the
blows of the mallet, this grade of goods came to be called “block cut.”
In “table cut” gloves, however, the leather was tranked out on a table
and shaped for the size desired. Then, by means of a power press many
pairs were cut at once. The nicest part of this process consists in
getting the leather in proper shape. Different sizes may be cut with the
same pattern by estimating accurately the elasticity of the leather.
Jouvin’s calibre is the same by which—under many different systems, of
course—all gloves are cut to-day.

Jouvin also studied to determine what degrees of pressure the skin will
withstand in different parts, in order that, in every case, just the
right piece of material should be selected to produce the measurements
desired. Expert knowledge of skins is equally important with proper use
of utensils in producing an accurately fitting glove.

In his work Jouvin sought the satisfaction of the scientist and the
artist rather than any financial benefit which might have accrued to him
from his remarkable system. When he had completed his invention, he
hardly realized its pecuniary value; he took out a patent for France,
but not for any foreign country. The immediate effect of his achievement
was somewhat curious.

During Jouvin’s own lifetime his invention not only failed to profit the
glovers of his native city, but actually worked them harm. He himself
groped his way for several years, in an attempt to find capital and
workers which should prove the usefulness of his new method. But the
manufacturers scoffed at him. They declared that Jouvin had “vulgarized”
glove cutting. The glove cutter was dethroned; he was no longer an
artist. A machine did his work, and it was evident that with this
machine a good cutter could turn out good gloves from poor skins, while
a poor cutter would turn out poor gloves from good skins. The calibre
certainly was a mischievous device, and had turned the glove art

Like any inventor, Jouvin himself was not greatly affected by all this
talk, nor by the rebuffs he met whenever he tried to interest business
men; for he was absorbed in the possibilities of further improvement
upon his invention. He had discovered the calibre in 1834; in
1838—without having drawn a cent of profit thus far—he added the punch,
or _emporte-pièce_, for automatically cutting gloves to measure. In the
following year, however, his work suddenly received conspicuous public
notice. It was rewarded a bronze medal at the Industrial Exposition in
Paris. From that moment, Jouvin’s future as a glove manufacturer was
assured, for men with money rallied to his support. The first thing the
Grenoble glovers knew, Germany, Switzerland and Italy had all seized
upon their fellow-citizen’s admirable invention and were turning it to
tremendous commercial account. Their outputs were increasing by leaps
and bounds. But, in France, one factory only—that of the
inventor—worked, while his compatriots stood still for the benefit of
foreign competitors to whom the Jouvin system was free, while debarred
from French manufacturers under the terms of the patent.

Of course, lawsuits against Jouvin arose, as other glovers endeavored to
have the broad, general idea of stamping out gloves become _domaine
public_, or public property. But the industry had so far diminished in
Grenoble in 1840 that that city was not mentioned as one of the
principle producers of gloves.

Without doubt, the conservative manufacturers of that town learned their
lesson. For, in 1849, the year in which the Jouvin patents expired, they
hastened to shake off this decade of depression which had seen them
bound hand and foot, while the glove-makers of other lands rapidly
eclipsed them in importance; and immediately they installed in their
shops the new system. With their unrivalled skill and natural precedence
now reinforced by up-to-date mechanical methods, the glovers of Grenoble
effected a lightning recovery. Moreover, their misfortunes had not been
due to the lack of mechanical equipment alone. Financial panic in
America had robbed them temporarily of one of their best clients; and
the price of skins had risen to an exorbitant figure in France, even
while foreigners knew how to get them, without paying a heavy duty, from
Grenoble’s own mills at Annonay.

These conditions, however, were soon to be righted. But another
challenge to the old régime loomed a few years ahead. In 1867, at the
Paris Exposition, some Grenoble glovers paused in front of a fragile,
little machine, glanced at it with curiosity, and went home without any
idea that that modest piece of mechanism was going to cap the work of
the calibre; and that shortly the whole world would possess what, for
two centuries, had been the fortune and renown of their native city—the
ability to sew gloves perfectly.

The era of labor-saving, quantity-multiply, and cost-reducing machinery
had indeed arrived; and Grenoble, once she realized the full
significance of “vulgarizing” her ancient trade, did not lag far behind.
She faced and conquered great difficulties in the nineteenth
century—notably, the large increase in the “centres” of glove-making, as
the trade grew and improved abroad; and also she succeeded in finding a
cheap, but good, kid to compete with the German and Italian lambskins
which looked so well that they satisfied the taste of the general
public. These things she accomplished with the help of modern machinery;
for which, in a peculiarly thankless and round-about way, the city owed
a great debt to one of her own sons. The European glove world paid its
tribute to Jouvin in 1851, when the Universal Exposition held in Vienna
voted him a Diploma of Honor.

A later contribution to the technique of the glove was the modern style
of fastener, introduced, about 1855, by M. Raymond of Grenoble. His
factory was a valuable addition to the leading industry of that city.
Roux gives credit to Raymond for all the various changes and
improvements in glove fasteners which we have to-day. The old-fashioned
lacing has been completely replaced by the clasp, the neatness and
efficiency of which could hardly be bettered.

Thus, in the last century, we see virtually every trace of the
immemorial methods of glove-making vanish before the swift incursion of
modern machinery. A few hand-sewn gloves alone remain to remind us of
the days when the _couturières_, peasant women and girls gathered in
groups in cottages on the outskirts of Grenoble, or in the _ateliers_ of
the town, to sing as they sewed gloves for the nobility and the gentry
of a former time. But the art has gained by the inestimable assets of
fit and individuality in gloves: by the great numbers, also, in which
gloves to-day are supplied, that we all may delight in wearing them.

In respect to Grenoble, moreover, it should be observed that, through
all these changes and commercializing influences, she has sacrificed not
a whit of her invincible good taste. Against foreign competition and the
paralysis which she suffered under the Jouvin patent, she had only the
superiority of her product to offer—the suppleness of her skins, the
elegance of their cut, the beauty of the tints artificially applied, the
finish and durability of her sewing. But these were enough to keep her
art alive. They still prevail—and in even higher degree—in the gloves of
Grenoble makers to-day.

In the evolution from artist to artisan, there is little room for
regret. Already the glove-workers of France have readjusted very largely
to changed conditions within the industry; while the consumer and
producer alike may rejoice in the widespread accessibility of the finest
gloves in the world.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

                        ANNONAY AND ITS INDUSTRY

  “In France, kid-culture is carried to perfection.... To this is due
  the value of the French skins, which command higher prices than any
  in the market.”—_William S. Beck._

No history of gloves would be complete which failed to take into account
the old French town of Annonay and its celebrated industry. Annonay has
been mentioned several times already in the course of these pages, when
the subject of fine French skins was touched upon, and especially in
connection with the difficulties which arose over the free exportation
of these beautiful leathers to manufacturers outside France. At once the
foundation of the glovers’ prosperity, and the source to them of
hardship and bitter contention for want of proper domestic protection of
the trade in skins, both Annonay and the town of Millau were famous as
old-established centres of the tawing industry.

And right here, for the benefit of the layman, it might not come amiss
to define the distinction between the well-known process of tanning
leather, and the less familiar method of dressing skins, called tawing.
The latter is applied almost exclusively to leathers in preparation for
glove-making. It differs from ordinary tanning in point of the greater
care and cleanliness of all the operations. Also, the dressed skin is
submitted to a brief fermentation, by piling one piece upon another in a
very warm place, so that, under the influence of the heat and the
pressure, the softness and flexibility of the leather may be increased.
The actual “tawing” itself consists in treating the skins with a mixture
of flour, the yolks of eggs and alum. On the completion of this
operation, they are stretched by hand and dried as rapidly as possible.

The expert preparation of glove leather, then, was the chief
accomplishment of Annonay and Millau. In regard to the latter, it was
that city which particularly was embarrassed by the lambskin competition
of 1872. Millau long had made a specialty of tawing lambskin, but had
not discovered the secret of making the fine-looking gloves which now,
suddenly, were put upon the market by Germany and other foreign
countries. These manufacturers abroad redoubled their activities,
initiating new styles and even receiving compensations from their
governments. For a time Millau folded its arms and submitted, as M. Roux
tells us, “in tranquil despair.”

But before long Millau makers were hard at work studying and
experimenting to produce a cheaper grade of glove which, like its rivals
abroad should meet the growing demand for a popular-price article with
all the fine appearance of genuine kid. The glove trade, along with
other industries of the period, found that it must adapt itself to the
insistency on democratization of all products. It must recognize the
spirit of the times; and in the cause of social equality, it must
furnish those who could not, or would not, buy expensive kid gloves,
with an excellent substitute, as far as style and finish were concerned.

Lambskins, at this period, became the glove of democracy; and Millau,
quickly overtaking her foreign competitors, is to-day producing fine
lambskin gloves which are second to none in Europe.

But, to return to Annonay, whose name is identified with the ancient art
of tawing as far back, probably, as the fourteenth century! The place
has been called—and not inappropriately—the twin city of Grenoble. Its
industry, certainly, went hand in hand and ranked equally in importance
with that of the celebrated glove town. Without Annonay tanners and
tawers Grenoble would have lacked the fine skins indispensable to her
manufacture, and might never have held first position as a producer of
the most beautiful gloves in the world.

Also, geographically, there is a striking resemblance between the two
cities, which likewise has an important bearing upon their affiliations
in commerce. Annonay, in the department of the Ardèche, in south-eastern
France, is irregularly and picturesquely built on several small hills,
overlooking the deep gorges of the Déôme and the Cance. Thus, it stands
near the confluence of two large, swift rivers, almost exactly as
Grenoble does; and the waters of these rivers—torrential streams,
subject to sudden floods—supply power to the factories of the town. By
means of a dam across the Ternay, a tributary of the Déôme, to the
northwest of the city, a reservoir is provided, in which an additional
supply of water, for both industrial and domestic purposes, is stored.
Moreover, the river Ardèche flows in close proximity—like the Isère
unexcelled for its purity. By virtue of the especial qualities of its
waters, Annonay has become what it is—the chief home of French dressers
of glacé kid skins.

The climate, like that environing Grenoble, is particularly favorable to
the raising of goats and sheep. The Cevannes mountains almost cover the
department of the Ardèche, and their spurs provide rich grazing country.
The peasants are shepherds worthy of that ancient calling. The young
kids are as carefully nurtured and watched over as are the children in
the family, for absolutely nothing must be allowed to cause any defects
in their skins. They must be killed at a tender age, for as soon as the
kid begins to eat herbage, his pelt is injured for the finer qualities
of gloves. Indeed, the perfect glove animal is milk-fed—and necessarily

However, when the kids are allowed to grow up and become goats, their
skins are still useful for the heavier, stronger grades of gloves. Such
are termed chevrettes, that being the French name for goats. The same
care is exercised that these animals shall not meet with any injury to
their hides, and good chevrette leather is invaluable for piqué and
prick-seam gloves, which rank very high indeed.

Formerly, skins of chamoix, and both wild and domestic animals, were
collected all over the country by a class of people corresponding to
what were known in England as “higglers.” Ultimately, all these trophies
found their way into the hands of the famous dressers of Annonay. In
these days, the leading glove manufacturers of Grenoble buy their skins
“in the raw” at the Spring fairs, which are held at various centres
throughout France. When they have assembled their lots, they then ship
them to the dressing factory in Annonay.

“The dressing of leather,” says Hull, in his _History of the Glove
Trade_, published in England in 1834, “formed one of the earliest
occupations of mankind in all countries; and it is a significant fact
that Laplanders, Africans and Canadian Indians dress skins in the
highest perfection, altho’ their means and processes necessarily are of
the rudest kind. The Laplanders also make very tolerable gloves.”

With all due respect to the Laplanders, and other aborigines, we venture
to place the tawers of Annonay above even those primitive artists to
whom Mr. Hull gave first credit. Mr. Hull wrote his little book to prove
that the free trade policy would be the ruination of England’s home
manufactures—nor was he greatly mistaken, as far as the glove business
of his day was concerned. Naturally, this vehement protectionist had
little good to say of French methods—which accounts, perhaps, for his
going back to the uncivilized peoples to pay his debt for the art of
leather-dressing; in England, certainly, at that period, skill in
preparing glove skins was sadly lacking.

The finest qualities of French kid skins, suitable for glacé hand-wear,
come from the valleys of the Loire, the Rhone, the Poiton and Auvergne.
Inferior to these are those which emanate from the extreme south of
France, from Provence and the Pyrenees; as one nears Spain, the skins

At Annonay, the skin-dressing industry—like that of glove-making at
Grenoble—has been established for so many centuries, that long family
lines have devoted themselves for successive generations to that single
calling. Fathers, sons and grandchildren have passed their lives and
spent their efforts in furthering and perfecting the art of preparing
glove skins which should be without a rival. The “French National” skins
are the result. Doubtless they are the finest skins in the world.

To appreciate fully the perfection of this art, and its importance to
the science of glove-making, a visit to the largest skin-dressing
establishment in Annonay to-day would appear almost indispensable. In
imagination, accordingly, let us enter the factory in question, owned
and operated by Messrs. Briancon & Company. We find it a large, airy,
well-lighted, four-storied structure, recently built for the express
purpose for which it is now used.

When the skins “in the hair” arrive at this factory they are at once
hoisted to the top floor, where they are unpacked and piled up in
stacks. The dresser holds the skins on account of the manufacturer of
gloves who has bought them at the fairs. To each manufacturer is
allotted sufficient floor space in the fourth story of the dressing
factory to receive his supply of skins. Each stack is ticketed with the
name of the owner or owners—that is, the manufacturer—and its place of

Each layer of skins, as placed on the stack, is well sprinkled with
naphtha to disinfect and keep it wholesome. If the hides are to remain
long in the stacks before going into the dressing, they must be
unstacked from time to time, shaken out, aired, and restacked, to
prevent them from overheating. When the dresser receives from the
manufacturer instructions to put one of his lots into the dressing, the
first thing that has to be done is carefully to inspect each skin in the
pile; it is then classified as “hard,” “extra strong,” or “medium”; as
“fine” or “superfine.”

After all the skins in the stack have been looked over, and sorted in
this manner, they are carried to the ground floor of the factory and
placed in tanks of clear, cold water, in which they must remain for
forty-eight hours. At the end of that time, they are thoroughly washed
in running cold water, and are again put into the tanks, where they are
kept for another forty-eight hours.

The next step is one of the most particular in the entire process. The
skins are removed from the clear water into tanks of concrete, sunk in
the floor of the factory, which are filled with a mixture of water and
dead sifted lime. Every forty-eight hours they are taken out and well
swilled with a similar mixture; then immediately replaced in the tanks.
The length of time skins should be kept in this lime bath depends upon
their character and origin. The effect of the lime on the skin is to
render it very easy to scrape off the hair. According to the regions
from which they come, skins remain in the bath for from ten to
twenty-five days. This lime treatment is the most crucial point in the
dressing of kid skins, for it is only after long years of experience
that a master dresser knows exactly how long it takes to render—let us
say, for instance—an Auvergne skin “unhairable.” If the skins are left
even twenty-four hours too long in the lime mixture, they are so damaged
as to be useless for manufacturing into high grade gloves.

When it is judged that the skins have remained long enough in the lime
bath, they are taken out and then energetically washed in clear, running
water; after which they are passed along to another set of men who place
them, one by one, flat, over a smooth, rounded block of wood, and with a
blunt, two-handled, almost scythe-shaped knife, proceed to scrape the
hair and fat off the surface of the skins. The “unhairing” completed,
the skins, still wet and mussy, are passed on to women workers who trim
the edges—to which adheres superfluous fat—with large hand shears.

The next process is to rid the skins of the lime with which they have
been charged. Therefore, scraped and trimmed, they are submerged in a
large, wooden vat, containing hot water mixed with an entirely new
product, invented by Monsieur Louis Peyrache. This product is called
“peroly” and is an enemy to lime. When the skins are lifted out of this
solution they are found to be quite devoid of all traces of the latter.

Following the “peroly bath,” the skins are placed in another large tub
full of hot water, above which passes a crank connected with an electric
motor, from which crank four shafts terminating in wooden “stampers”
hang down into the tub. The tub also revolves on a spindle connected
with the motor. The object of this bath is to free the skins of every
vestige of the peroly; and the effect of the hot water is to open the
pores in the skins and render them more easily deprived of the animal
matter they contain.

The skins have now been well washed and thoroughly cleaned. They appear
almost transparent. But the series of “baths” is not over. However,
before another is attempted, the skins are laid again across the wooden
blocks and as much as possible of the fatty substance which still
adheres to them is scraped off with the blunt knives already described.
In this instance, as previously, the skins are scraped on the sides from
which the hair was removed in the first place, known as the “fleur” side
of the skin. Then comes the bran bath. In a mixture of luke warm water
and bran they are gently stirred around by means of long, wooden props
fitted with ferules of india-rubber. Once more the skins are lifted out
and laid on the blocks; and this time the scraping is done on the
“flesh” or inside. Another bran bath follows, and now the skins require
careful watching. When the master dresser judges that they have stayed
long enough in this second bran solution, they are again, one by one,
laid over the blocks, when all the remains of the bran are scraped off.

Now the skins are put into a large, closed receptacle, containing a
mixture of the yellows of eggs, meal and alum. This mixture “feeds” the
skins; it is a kind of “wrinkled paste” in the beautifying process. It
fills up the pores which have been impoverished through the loss of
their natural fat and oil. The next day, the skins are taken out of this
bath, and are strung up in a large room through which flows a current of
dry, heated air. In stringing up the skins here, care always is taken to
fold them with the “fleur” surface inside. After they have become
thoroughly dried, they are tied up into packets of six dozen each, and
left in a dry, normal atmosphere for fifteen days, or even a month. By
this time the skins are quite hard and brittle.

To take out the stiffness, the skins now are dipped into clear, cold
water for a few minutes. They are left in the air until the following
day, when they are passed through a set of rollers which help to make
them supple; after which they are sent immediately to the “palisson.”
This process reinvigorates the dressed skins, rendering them plastic and
easily stretched. By the old-fashioned method, it is performed by hand.
The “palisson” consists, as formerly, of a large, rounded, blunted steel
blade, pointing upwards, and fastened into a wooden block, over which
the skin is drawn backwards and forwards, with its flesh side on the
blade. After this operation, the skin is rubbed over another blade,
similarly shaped, but slightly sharpened. By means of this, the
remainder of the flesh is cut away from the surface of the skin, thus
giving it the softness and whiteness which, by this time, it will have

In these days, the “palisson” process is also performed by girls at
revolving wheels run by a motor, and the results obtained compare very
well indeed with the old-fashioned method of palisson by hand.

The skins are now completely dressed. Lastly, they are sent to the
classing room to be examined by experts and sorted according to their
qualities. They are then forwarded to the manufacturers at Grenoble.

In the United States kid gloves manufactured out of skins from all over
Europe, and even from northern Africa and China, are to be found on the
counters of the glove shops. But the best kidskins come from France, and
are invariably dressed in Annonay and manufactured into gloves at
Grenoble. The American, then, who buys gloves of French origin, Annonay
dressed, and made in Grenoble, may flatter himself that he is enjoying
perfection itself in hand-wear.

                              CHAPTER IX.

                           THE GLOVES WE BUY

  “There’s nothing like leather. Leather is a product of Nature. Take
  a piece of leather and observe the way the fibres are knit together.
  It is Nature’s work. It is so wonderful that man cannot hope to
  reproduce it. He cannot even re-create it. Boil a piece of hide or
  skin. It will turn to gelatine. No power known to man can turn that
  gelatine back into leather. Shred it. No machine can reweave the
  fibres into their former wonderful fabric. Take all the chemicals
  which go to make up a piece of leather, and mix them in all the ways
  that can be imagined, and man cannot make a single inch of leather.
  Synthetic leather seems farther away than the synthetic diamond.”

The person who enters a glove shop of reputation—or the glove department
of any high class store—to buy gloves, probably has a very limited
notion of the variety of fabrics and workmanship represented by the
goods before him. To this single line of merchandise nearly every
country in the world contributes to-day; not merely in the historical
sense, in which we have watched the glove evolve through the centuries,
but also in point of materials and processes actually used. The glove
counter, little as we may appreciate it, brings together the riches and
skill of the Orient, of Africa, of Europe, and of the Western World. A
glance at some of the names, familiar to us all, as cape and mocha,
immediately suggests their origin in far distant countries.

And yet, perhaps for economy of expression—if not from positive
ignorance—the general public divides all leather dress gloves into just
two classes, “dressed kid” and “undressed kid.” Everything with the
grain surface, or smooth finish, is designated by the former term; the
latter is popularly applied to gloves with the grain surface removed, or
finished on the flesh side of the skin. To the initiated, however,
gloves are distinguished primarily by the different kinds of leather of
which they are made; and, still further, by the great variety of
qualities which each kind of leather is capable of exhibiting.

In the glove trade men talk of “cape,” “suede,” “doeskin,” “lambskin,”
“kid”—nor is the meaning of each of these nearly so obvious, nor so
simple, as would casually appear. If, in every case, the name were
properly applied to skins which came from a distinct type of animal,
grown in one particular district, whose hide was tanned into leather by
its own peculiar process, then the quality and character of each kind of
leather would be practically uniform. But such is far from being the
fact. When first used, no doubt, each of these terms meant a certain,
well-defined thing. Now, however, in the evolution of processes of
production, the meaning has been enlarged; and virtually any of these
designations covers a much wider scope, even departing radically, in
many instances, from its original application.

Let us take, for example, the “cape” glove. In the first place this name
was used to distinguish a glove made of skins from the Cape district of
South Africa. These skins were large spread, heavy, rather tight
grained, and are still used in the production of genuine cape gloves.
But the soft, pliable, widely-worn glove, in various weights, now
commercially known as cape, is manufactured from sheep and lamb skins
grown in many lands, and tanned and dressed by the method called “napa
dipped.” What was once the name for a glove made from one type of skins
is now the designation for hand-wear made from leather of a particular
tannage, for which skins of many types, grown in many lands, are used.

Probably the best types of these skins come from Russia to-day—the
district furnishing the most desirable qualities being the province of
Kasan and the nearby territory of the Volga River. Others of varying
degrees of merit emanate from Spain, as well as from the European
Orient—Turkey, Roumania, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Servia; and, to a
small extent, from some other vicinities. All these are called Oriental
skins. Those with the finest grades of wool, oddly enough, are inferior,
usually, to those which have hairy, wiry wool—as far as their
desirability for glove leather is concerned. Evidently, then, the place
of origin, the character of the pelt, and the method of its tannage, all
have important bearing on the quality of the cape glove.

But if the cape is made from lamb skin, what, then, is the
distinguishing feature between the lamb glove and the cape glove? How
are we to tell them apart? Up to that stage in tannage referred to as
“in the white,” these two leathers are practically the same—except that
the skins which are to go into the capes are heavier and larger. It is
in the finishing and coloring processes that the distinction occurs. The
dressing and coloring—which, in fact, is a part of the tannage of the
capes and completes this process—is done by the “drum” or “dipped”
method. This colors the skin all the way through; whereas, leather for
the so-called lamb glove has the color brushed on the grain surface
only, leaving the flesh side of the leather, which is to be the inside
of the glove, in the white.

Thus, the visible marks of difference between the cape glove and the
lamb glove, so-named, are in the weight of the stock, and in the fact
that the cape, when colored, is dyed through the skin, instead of merely
on the grain surface.

German tanners have been the largest converters of lamb and sheep skins
into cape leather by the napa tannage, which is an alum process. And it
is the German stock which, until recently, was chiefly used in the
American-made cape gloves. In the year 1913, however, several American
tanners devised a chrome cape tannage, which appears to be even superior
to the napa process, and possesses the added merit that it may be
cleansed in water free of alkali of any temperature up to 212°
Fahrenheit. It is this leather—really an American discovery—which goes
into the gloves popularly known as washable capes. Since the outbreak of
the European War, in 1914, chrome tanning has been further improved in
this country; and as real Cape of Good Hope leather is used, the United
States is producing to-day the best cape gloves ever known, and the
German tanned napa cape is fast being discarded.

While mocha is made from skins grown in far distant lands, mocha gloves
are distinctly of American origin. With the march of civilization
westward in the United States, and the disappearance of the antelope
from the western plains of North America some thirty-five years ago, a
skin was sought by glove manufacturers in this country to take the place
of the antelope, which was used in making a glove in those days known as
doeskin. After patient search, and much experimenting with various
species of skins and different tanning processes, a tannage was
perfected for the skin of the Arabian hair sheep which produced the
strong, but soft, velvety finished mocha.

The skin derives its name, no doubt, from Mocha, a seaport town of
Arabia on the Red Sea, whence, it is said, these skins were first
brought. The Mocha hair sheep is a distinct type, and is not a species
resulting from cross breeding between the Mocha goat and a kind of wool
sheep, as often has been stated. While the Mocha goat and the Mocha
sheep herd together, they do not interbreed. The mocha market of the
world is Aden, at the southern end of Arabia. The buyers here keep
native collectors at the chief points to which skins are conveyed by
caravans. These points are Moka, Berbera, Bulhar, Djibouti and Zeylah in
Africa, and Hodeidah in Arabia. The skins are sorted and graded
according to size, weight and condition; then they are baled, about
three hundred in a lot. First, however, they are sun-dried, and are
treated with naphthaline to protect them from damage by worms.

In the vernacular of the trade, these skins are referred to as
white-heads, black-heads and red-heads. They are thus classified in
reference to the color of the hair on the heads of the animals, the
bodies being black and white, red and white, or all white. However, as
the head colors denote a type of skin with more or less well defined
characteristics, these designations are more scientific than would
appear. For glove leather the black-heads rank first in quality, the
white-heads second, and the red-heads third. The black-head type, which
comes principally from the African districts mentioned, is more
distinctly a hair skin than the other two types, and has a tighter,
firmer texture. With the white-heads, which are chiefly Arabian skins,
the hair is of a more woolly character and the fibre of the skin is
looser. This last is also true of the red-heads, in which these elements
are even more pronounced. Certain other kinds of sheep skins—notably
those found in the district between Cairo and Khartum, known as
“Sudans”—have been adapted for the manufacture of mocha leather. These
yield a much larger spread, coarser fibre skin than the mocha hair
sheep; but when tanned by the mocha process, sudans sufficiently
resemble the mocha to be sold for that article—except to the expert.

No other glove leather passes through so many different processes in
tanning and dressing as does the mocha. This is chiefly due to the fact
that the skins, at their source, are handled by the natives in a crude
sort of way, and under the crusted, sun-dried surface there are often
many defects which do not show until the skin is subjected to the
tanning process. Mocha skins invariably are scratched, scarred and
imperfect on the grain surface; for this reason the grain is removed. At
the same time, as much of the grain strength as possible must be
preserved while eliminating the imperfections.

This method, which is called “friezing,” distinguishes the mocha from
the suede glove. Though in appearance, when finished, they are very
similar, mocha and suede actually are extremely different in character.
In the friezed mocha, the outer or wearing surface of the glove, which
receives the finish, is on the grain and not on the flesh side of the
leather. Friezing merely removes the grain to take the finish, thus
leaving much of the strength of the outer skin—while in suede or other
“undressed” finishes, this strength is entirely lacking.

The name suede is derived purely from the sueding process, and not from
the kind of leather used. Skins with perfect grain usually are finished
on the grain surface side and are called glacé. But many with imperfect
grain are finished on the flesh side of the skin, by the sueding
process. Suede, then, is exactly the reverse of mocha, in that what was
the inside of the skin becomes the outside of the glove. Suede leather,
obviously, is inferior in strength, if not in appearance, to the same
types of skins dressed on the grain side. It has by no means the
durability of mocha—though a high-grade suede strikingly resembles

Although “chamois” is not chamois, it is by no means a sham. And that
the “doeskin” is most likely a eweskin is nothing to its discredit. The
chamois of commerce is not the skin of the Switzerland animal known by
that name, nor is the doeskin of to-day the skin of the one-time
antelope. Both are sheep skins, or parts of sheep skins, tanned and
dressed as chamois and doeskins. Collectors and dealers in sheep skins
at their source, in some districts find it necessary, or advantageous,
to split the skins edgewise, making two thinner skins. The upper part,
with the grain surface, is termed a “skiver,” and the lower section a
“flesher.” It is from these flesher sheepskins that the leathers
commercially known as chamois and doeskin are produced.

The tanning processes of chamois are many, the most common being the oil
tannage, alum and chrome. The finest selections of fleshers, split from
sheepskins of the Scotch mountains, and from France, Spain and Turkey,
are oil tanned and are used for the production of the washable chamois
glove. Another, and comparatively recent, tannage of fleshers, is the
formaldehyde process which supplies the leather commercially known as
doeskin. Properly tanned for that purpose, these leathers will wash
perfectly under the prescribed rules for washing. Trade in these gloves,
however, has suffered from intense competition which has forced a cheap,
quicker tannage, and one which will preserve the largest possible spread
to the skin. And sometimes the washing quality has been sacrificed to
secure a finer “face” to the leather. Tannages even are used which
render the leather not washable but actually impervious to water—simply
for the sake of the pleasing appearance of the skin when new. These
things, coupled with the wearer’s careless disregard of proper methods
of washing, have cast some measure of discredit upon what are really
meritorious gloves.

But, as regards the really reputable chamois glove of to-day! In the
first place, how absurd to the initiated is the question, so often asked
by the customer, “Is this genuine chamois?” Think of it! An animal grown
in the Swiss Alps, and, like the American buffalo, now almost extinct,
is supposed by many people to produce chamois gloves for the whole,
civilized world! As we have seen, “genuine chamois” is sheep or lamb
skin, tanned by a simple process similar to that used on the real
chamois, many, many years ago. Sheep skins give the best results; but
lamb skins are used to a limited extent. The latter make finer gloves,
but not so durable, as these skins scarcely can stand the hard usage
this leather requires in preparation.

The entire tanning process of chamois leather calls for absolutely
nothing but fish oil. No dye, no acid, no alkali goes into this leather,
and thus its washing qualities are unquestioned. After the skins have
remained in the vats in this oil a sufficient length of time—a month or
more, as is determined by experts—they are wrung out and hung up in
drying rooms, without ventilation, and a few fagots of wood kept
burning. When thoroughly dry they have what is known as the “natural” or
yellow color, and no two tannings come out alike in shade. When a cream
color, or white, is desired, another process follows. An expert goes
through the skins, selecting those that have body and strength enough to
stand the severe washing they are to get. These skins are put into vats
or tubs of clear water and washed “French fashion”—which means, beaten
with a club—and are then wrung out again and laid on the grass in the
sun to bleach.

If cream color is wanted, a day or two on the grass in the sun will
suffice. But if white is desired—and it mostly is preferred—a week or
ten days is required for this bleaching, depending, of course, on the
weather. Good, sunshiny weather means good, white chamois leather; while
a long spell of dull, cloudy weather means a poor shade of white, with
plenty of white chalk rubbed into the skins to make them appear whiter.
Irrespective of the sun, they will all get _some_ chalk, however. It is
interesting to note that these skins are supposed to imbibe a great deal
of nourishment from the grass as they lie exposed to the sunlight. White
chamois gloves, which have been put away for some time in boxes, will
begin to turn back to a dull yellow; but if placed in the light, in a
store or in a window, they will turn white again.

After the yellowing or bleaching process, the chamois skins—natural,
cream or white—have only to go to the doler to be ready for the cutter’s
knife. At the best, this glove is rather rough looking, but it is simple
and artistic, and especially in keeping with the travelling or sport
costume. Also, at the end of the journey, or after the out-of-door game,
such a glove may be washed as easily and successfully as a
pocket-handkerchief. So, its popularity is enduring.

Already we are somewhat familiar with kid gloves, from our detailed
study of the great industry of Grenoble, including the dressers’ works
at Annonay. Nearly all the kid skins used in glove-making are procured
in Europe, and the production really is limited to a very few countries.
As we have seen, France leads. Next comes Italy, then Germany, Austria,
and—up to the disaster of August, 1914—Belgium. Several months are
consumed, and a dozen or more processes are necessary, before kid skins
are in the market as glove leather. These operations have been fully
described in the chapter immediately preceding. When the finished skins
appear “in the white” they are ready for the dyer.

An expert goes through the skins and assorts them for the different
colors for which they are best adapted. For instance, some skins will
make good tan shades, but would not make greys—and so on, through the
entire list of colors. As all skins take the black dye well, it follows
that the last sortings go into black. Black and white are the easiest of
all to dye; and perfect skins, dyed white, show to the best advantage of
any—while grey is a color which is a _bête noir_ to all manufacturers
and dyers. Hundreds of dollars have been literally thrown away in an
attempt to produce some particular shade. Suede leather yields more
readily and accurately to the dyer’s art than glacé, and furnishes a
greater variety of shades. For this reason, and because of their fine,
velvety surface, they are considered by many the most beautiful of all
gloves; and by the fastidious are preferred for opera and evening wear.

Kid skins produced in other countries than France all have about the
same characteristics. But French Nationals remain invariably the best.
It may be added that kids raised in low, flat countries, like Belgium,
while presenting a fine appearance, never have the strength of the
highland skins.

Lambskins, like kid, are nearly all found in Europe, but they cover a
much wider range of territory. Like kid skins, they are carefully
nurtured and guarded against imperfections. They are grown in Italy,
Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia and
the Balkan States, the product of the latter being known—like the
sheepskins for “cape” purposes—as “Oriental leather.” For fine lambskin
gloves the best leather of all comes from northern Italy, and is termed,
commercially, “Tuscany skins”; these rival kid skins for fine grain and
durability. Next in value comes the fine French lamb known as “Rigord.”
Then follow the Spanish skins. The Russian (Kasan) and Oriental skins
are of equal value with some of the above named, many of them running
very fine in grain and producing remarkably durable gloves. As they tend
to be heavier in weight, however, the larger part of this class of
lambskins finds its way into men’s gloves. It is said that fully 80% of
Oriental leather goes to German and English tanneries, which prepare
more especially materials for the heavier grades of gloves.

In the tanning or dressing of lambskins, the processes are practically
the same as in the preparation of kid and goat skins for the glove
manufacturer. Lambskins also are subjected to the same examination by
experts to determine the colors they will take best. In fact, the only
real difference between fine kid and fine lamb gloves is that the former
is of a more delicate, yet firmer, grain, and produces a better wearing
article with more intrinsic value.

Nearly all colors, applied in dyeing both kid and lamb gloves, are put
on with a brush. The skins are laid on marble slabs, and the color
brushed on, a sufficient number of coats being given to produce the
desired shade and to fix it thoroughly and evenly. This explains why
colored gloves remain white on the inside, as the dyes do not strike
through. Some of the light, or extremely delicate tints, however—as
pink, cream, azure, lilac—will not take the color with brushing. In such
cases, the skin must be immersed in the dye, or “dipped”; and then the
color shows, of course, on both exterior and interior.

After the dyer’s work is done, and the skins would appear to a novice
ready for the cutter, still another process has to be gone through,
requiring an entirely different kind of skilled labor. This is the
process of “doling”—mentioned a few paragraphs back, in connection with
chamois—and it consists in reducing each skin to a uniform thickness
throughout, as nearly as possible. The doler lays the skin on a marble
slab and with a broad, flat knife, sharp as a razor, goes over the inner
surface, planing or doling off the uneven places. A thoroughly good
cutter always doles his own skins. Some manufacturers, however, employ
dolers for this purpose exclusively.

Such are the leading leathers used in the making of fine gloves.
Developments in tanning have also brought into use the skins of many
animals ordinarily considered of no value to the glove trade. While
deer, sheep, kid and calf skins in former days were used exclusively, in
our times the skins of dogs, foxes, bears, the cow, the colt, the
kangaroo—and almost every hair animal—are employed to some extent. Most
of these, however, could never pass for fine products, even among the
uninitiated—with the possible exception of colt; and they are used only
by inferiors in the trade, with whom the present discussion of
glove-making has nothing to do. These coarse leathers are honest enough,
however, in the hands of Esquimaux, backwoodsmen, and people who are
obliged to provide out of the materials within reach warm coverings for
the hands. But, in such cases, the fur is usually left on the hide,
deceiving no one.

And now we come to the actual turning of the leather into gloves. Since
Xavier Jouvin’s invention, the glove cutter has not actually cut out
gloves. The old method of tracing the pattern and following it with the
scissors has completely vanished. But the glove cutter, still so-called,
exercises a great deal of care and skill in cutting oblong-shaped pieces
of leather which will make exactly the size he stamps on them when,
later, the gloves are cut out by means of steel dies. In doing this, the
cutter uses pasteboard patterns, to be sure; but these are simply guides
to enable him to put exactly the right amount of leather into each piece
that he cuts, in order to produce the size desired. To the cutter each
skin he takes up becomes a new problem. As no two faces are alike, so
also no two skins are alike—not even those of the same class.

The cutter first stretches the skin carefully to ascertain or measure
its elasticity. Then he applies his pattern to see how he can get the
best results quantitatively. In other words, a cutter must exercise the
utmost ingenuity to get as many gloves as possible out of the skins he
is working on, and not let any of the leather go to waste. In many glove
factories, the foreman “taxes” the skins as they are given out to the
cutters; that is, he fixes the number of pairs of gloves the cutter must
turn out for a certain quantity of skins. After the cutter has
stretched, pulled, measured, and finally cut out his oblong piece of
leather, he marks the size on it and lays it aside for the calibres,
which will be shown in operation later on.

The skilled cutter’s work is done, and the pieces of leather he has cut
are called tranks. The cutter must know, of course, whether the tranks
he is producing are for overseam, piqué or prick-seam gloves, as each
requires a different pattern. The fragments of leather left from the
skins after the tranks are cut are used as far as possible for cutting
hems, bindings, fourchettes and “hearts,” which latter is the technical
name for the little “stay” at the bottom of the wrist opening. And
certainly there is very little of the skin which is not utilized after
all these items are subtracted. One would hardly realize what a jig-saw
puzzle, and in how many intricately fitting parts, a glove actually is,
until he paused to examine one and to count the different sections which
must be shaped and cut out to go into its making.

Next, the calibres demand our attention. These are the knives which
really cut the tranks into the shape of gloves and might, perhaps, be
called dies. They run, of course, in sizes; and the process might be
likened to the old-fashioned way of cutting cakes out of dough with a
tin cover, except that in stamping out gloves the position is reversed.
The calibre is locked into a heavy machine with the sharp steel
knife-edges up, and the tranks laid on top. A lever is pulled, a heavy
weight descends, and the cut gloves are then ready to sew.

Calibres are by no means uniform. That is to say, all manufacturers do
not use the same kind; and among the leading, large manufacturers, each
has his own cut, or set of calibres, differing from all others in some
one or more points. For example, one manufacturer will have the fingers
of his gloves made longer or shorter than the average; another will have
all the fingers gussetted, while another will have no gussets, not even
at the gore of the thumb. Still another has a cut with a specially short
little finger—and so on. This results in a very wide variety of “cuts”
in gloves, and each manufacturer of standard make is satisfied, and
thinks his own is the best. It is the discriminating woman who finds out
what cut or make fits her particular hand, and then sticks to that
manufacturer’s gloves.

Gloves are sewed in three different ways. First, the two edges are
brought together and sewed over and over. This is called overseam, and
sometimes round-seam, and is the method used on all fine, dressy gloves.
A second way laps the edges one over the other and sews through and
through. This is lap-seam, or piqué, and is popular on gloves for street
wear. Third, and last, the seams are brought together, the same as in
overseam sewing, but are sewed through and through. This method is
called prick-seam, and sometimes sadlers sewn, and is used only on heavy

The first machine invented for glove sewing was put on the market about
forty-five years ago and did overseam work only. It was fought by many
of the best manufacturers who continued to make the boast of their
hand-sewn gloves. Time has overcome this feeling, and the invention of
piqué and prick-seam sewing machines has done away with all
handsewing—with the exception of a few sadlers sewn, made in England,
and their quantity so small as to be negligible. Even the embroidery on
the backs of gloves to-day is done almost entirely by machine. There are
one or two styles still shown that are sewn by hand, called tambour.
Tambour work is very handsome and cannot be done except by hand—yet; but
the limit of machines has by no means been reached.

                               CHAPTER X.

                           GLOVES OF THE HOUR

An interesting modern development in glove making, and one which
undoubtedly has come to stay, is the vogue of the silk glove whose
popularity has grown to surprising proportions. Oddly enough, the first
gloves to be introduced into Europe for women in the thirteenth century
were made of linen, and were of very simple design. These may be
regarded as the ancestor of the chamoisette and cotton doeskins of our
day; while the knitted silk, or “purled” hand coverings, worn by the
early clergy, suggested perhaps the gloves of silk fabric so widely in
favor for the last half century. Quaint lace “mitts” and gloves of
spider-webby texture imparted to the costumes of our grandmothers a
charming femininity. But the practical silk glove as a substitution for
kid is a comparatively recent achievement of manufacturers who are
trying their best to meet the constantly multiplying new demands of
modern men and women.

The most hasty comparison of the earliest fabric gloves with those
produced in our own times cannot fail to impress one with the tremendous
strides the glove art has taken since it became a really modern
industry. The silk and linen gloves of mediæval days were loose and
almost shapeless; they possessed neither fit nor individuality. Roughly
measured to clothe the hands of a king, they might have been worn almost
equally well by the lowliest of his subjects. They were bulky and
awkward, concealing, rather than delineating, the character of the hands

Gloves of leather and kid were first to acquire those traits of
individuality which were made possible by Xavier Jouvin’s invention of
an exact system of measurements, adapted to virtually every size and
type of human hand. The perfection of fabric gloves, however, lagged
behind. Even silk gloves were indifferently made, and could be had in
only a very limited range of styles and sizes. As for cotton gloves,
these were conspicuous for their ugliness and cheapness, up to within a
very few years ago. And yet, to-day, we have velvety chamoisette and
imitation doeskins which, upon the hand of the wearer, are so deceptive
that they readily are mistaken for the soft-finished leathers from which
they have been named. These fabric gloves, made of white, yellow and
many other colored textiles, woven especially for this purpose, are
supple, snug fitting, and possess a style of their own. They retain
their shape even with repeated washing, and they wear amazingly well. It
cannot be disputed that they fill a long felt need in both the masculine
and the feminine wardrobes.

Particularly in warm weather the fabric glove, or the silk glove, almost
puts out of business the leather glove, which seems heavy, overheating,
unsanitary, and entirely out of keeping both with the light costume and
the altered mood of the wearer. As summer approaches, we naturally long
to have everything about our persons fresh, easily renewable, dainty,
light and cool to the touch. Leather and kid repell us for ordinary
wear. Only the finest and thinnest of kid dress gloves find a favored
place in the summer wardrobe; while the fabric glove, in countless new
guises, becomes increasingly popular with every successive season.
Through June, July and August, fabric and silk are worn almost
exclusively—and if the period be short, during these weeks at least the
washable glove is without a rival.

Just as the chamoisette, or cotton doeskin, provides an acceptable
substitute for cape and lambskins for general wear, so the silk
glove—the Italian or Milanaise—becomes the dress glove for summer and is
appropriate for all except the most formal occasions. The silk glove,
indeed, has recently been brought to a very high state of perfection
through the growing skill of textile experts and inventors, and by the
application of the best glove-cutting and sewing methods; the latter,
which have worked such changes in the style and fit of kid gloves, have
done no less, proportionately, for the elevating of the silk glove. The
soft, delicate, yet firm Milanaise silk fabric now clothes the hands as
smoothly, and renders their shape as comely and as full of character, as
the kid glove long has been wont to do. Indeed, it disguises the hand
even less, and is a real test of shapely knuckles and tapering finger
tips. Also, the glistening silk itself is peculiarly seductive, at the
same time that it delights the wearer with its luxurious and cleanly

While kid gloves must be regarded as an art whose secrets are best known
to the French, fabric, and particularly silk, gloves are manufactured
with enviable success in our own country. Doubtless one of the most
interesting glove mills to visit is a well-known factory located in the
Alleghany industrial district of Pennsylvania, which, though occupying a
comparatively small area, is wonderfully complete and efficient, and
turns out by the latest approved methods a large output of high class
Milanaise gloves. The president of this company, who is hands, feet and
brains to his mill—also a practical inventor and a lover of machines—has
made it possible, by courteous attention to every requirement of the
trade, to place upon the market a superior product, and to win and hold
the confidence of his business associates.

A visit to this particular mill is doubly affording to the student of
glove-making because here they weave and dye their own silk fabric. We
are able to follow the process from a skein of raw silk to the finished
glove in all its accuracy and beauty. Every step in its evolution is
attended with admirable carefulness and despatch—the glove emerging
almost miraculously from the crude material as it is passed swiftly from
one operator to another, each worker contributing one factor more to its
final perfection.

The silk strand arrives “in the raw” from Japan, packed in straw bales,
and might easily be mistaken for a shipment of tea. In this state the
silk resembles fine white hair or, even more closely, spun sugar. It is
sent in quantities, as needed, to the spinners, and on its return is put
through a boiling process to remove a gummy substance inherent in the
crude product.

The strand is now ready to make the acquaintance of the machines. First
of all, it must be wound by machinery upon spools. This process is
known, simply, as the winding process. The neatly, evenly wound silk is
then conveniently fed from the spools onto other machines which
transform it into the warp or foundation for the silk fabric. These
warps vary greatly in width—some being like ribbons, measuring about six
inches across, others measuring 144 and even 168 inches. They are
delicate webs of shining silk with the threads running in a single
direction—vertically, to be exact.

Weaving machines next receive the warped silk. Each of these machines is
equipped with four thousand needles, or twenty-eight needles to every
inch, which knit up the silken web into cloth. As fast as woven, it is
dropped and rolled upon a long cylinder; it is very soft and satiny and
astonishingly resembles a mass of molasses candy which has been “pulled”
until it is snowy white and of glistening smoothness. It is now ready to
be dyed. The dyeing is one of the few primitive steps retained in the
entire process. This operation is performed by hand, and the material is
lifted and worked on long sticks to ensure evenness of color. No machine
is capable of giving such satisfactory results.

The final step in preparing the fabric, however—the dressing or
finishing—is done by means of an elaborate machine, consisting of sets
of copper cylinders or rollers. The wet, freshly dyed silk cloth is
brought to the dressing machine a hopeless looking mass of soppiness and
wrinkles. It is rolled upon a large cylinder which passes it on to one
smaller in diameter, which, in turn, feeds it off onto a rectangular
frame provided with rows of sharp points, like pin points, on both
edges. Between these points the silk is stretched as tight as the
inflated skin of a balloon. The frame bearing the taut silk is then
carried through a long, narrow, heated tent, some twelve feet in extent.
It emerges at the opposite end, thoroughly pressed, smooth and finished,
and is again rolled on cylinders with layers of paper between the
breadths of the silk, in case the fabric may still be a trifle damp, in
order to ensure the perfection of the silk.

The Milanaise or Italian silk is now ready for the glove makers. First
it passes into the hands of the cutters, who block out and cut by means
of dies pieces of silk of the right size for each glove. These dies vary
according to the many different sizes of gloves. Another set of cutters
takes these pieces and places them in punches which mechanically cut out
the shapes of the fingers and the reinforcements for the tips of the
first three fingers. These reinforcements hang onto the ends of the
fingers. Still other cutters cut out gussets, fourchettes and thumbs
from scraps of the silk cloth, to be fitted into the glove when it is
sewn together later. In this way every morsel of the silk is utilized.

Before the gloves at this stage are handed over to the sewers they are
stamped in a press with the name of the company which has ordered them
for its trade. Aluminum leaf is used in this process, and silver
lettering is the result.

Women seated at sewing machines now receive the cut, marked gloves, and
the first step toward joining their many parts consists in stitching the
reinforcements onto the ends of the fingers. This, of course, gives the
double finger tip and is a protection against wear. The backs of the
gloves next are finished with fancy embroidery stitchery. In the
simplest and cheapest gloves this is accomplished by a single operation.
But as gloves rise in quality and price, the embroidered backs become
more elaborate.

The thumbs now are stitched together individually and then are put into
the glove itself. The next set of sewers stitch in the fourchettes—or
sections forming the sides of the fingers—seam up all the fingers, and
close up the long seam running from end to end of the glove. Passing
into other hands, the openings at the wrists are skilfully bound and
stiffened, or faced. Trimmers clip off all superfluous silk in the seams
and turn the gloves right side out on wooden sticks. The wrists are then
neatly hemmed. Clasps of metal, pearl, or covered with the silk, are
stamped into the wrist facings by machinery—and the glove is ready for
the examiner.

This is one of the most important steps in the whole process. It
guarantees the perfect condition of every pair of gloves which leaves
this factory, and ensures the merchant and his customer against any
possibility of fraud in handling or buying the output of this company.
The finished glove is turned on a stick resembling the glove stretcher
commonly used at the counter; every seam and crevice is carefully tested
and scrutinized. If no flaw is discovered the glove is pronounced ready
for the packing room.

In order that the goods may present the finest appearance possible and
that it may be restored to perfect freshness and shapeliness after
passing through so many hands in the making, the gloves are placed on
wooden forms in the packing room and enclosed in a heated box for from
six to seven minutes. They are then taken out, slipped off the forms,
and given to operators who stitch them together in pairs, label and tie
them, and pack them in pasteboard boxes according to size and color. The
finished glove is now ready to be placed on sale, and is fit to tempt
the most discriminating customer of either sex.

But while the silk glove of recent years has become a truly progressive
industry, let it not be imagined that the kid glove to-day is resting
upon its laurels—great as its historical prestige certainly is! The
methods of kid glove manufacture are being tirelessly improved upon; the
product itself is of finer grade than ever before, it presents greater
variety, it is all the time more cleverly adapted to modern uses. But
only the designer of new styles in this important phase of apparel can
fully appreciate the possibilities of the glove art as they open before
him at the present hour.

The designer of French kid gloves, it goes without saying, is an artist.
He may not be a Frenchman, however. It is a mistake to suppose that all
the originality and all the inspiration to create a beautiful article of
dress, acceptable to the fastidious of every land, must be of French
origin. French influence, to be sure, plays an invaluable part in the
education of such artists; but an American, with long training in the
glove business, may have both the taste and the talent to invent glove
masterpieces which will be eagerly adopted, not only in New York, but
also in Paris. A few American experts actually have accomplished this
thing, and their work is not to be lightly mentioned and passed over. It
deserves our very special attention.

An artist who designs kid gloves, first of all has the feeling for
gloves _as gloves_. His object is to originate something beautiful in
glove form. Next, he knows the technique of glove-making from A to Z,
just as the painter knows his pigments, the laws of color and of
drawing. The glove designer realizes the physical limitations of his
art, and equally he divines the developments of which that art is
susceptible. He is thoroughly familiar with the materials at his
disposal, with the machines and the skilled workers he must employ to
execute his ideas.

At the same time, he has to be something of a journalist; he must keep
his finger on the public pulse, and be able to prophesy what styles men,
and especially women, will take kindly to wearing a season hence.
Gloves, like everything else in dress, must satisfy the demands of
fashion. They must change because life itself is change. They must adapt
themselves to the costumes the shops are showing, to the mode of the
hour, the latest conception of smartness and good taste.

In the hands of the designer of practical experience, who is also an
artist, this becomes possible. Yet, to most people, gloves would appear
a very limited field for the expression of originality! Examine, then,
some of the new designs for this year and season. They will answer the
question whether so simple and necessarily uniform an article as the
modern glove is capable of much artistic variation, and from them also
we can learn how such novelties are evolved.

Every large glove company has its own classical models—that is, there
are certain standard styles of kid gloves of the best manufacture which
virtually do not change from season to season. These have names, which
are as well known in the glove trade as the names of real laces, of old,
established design, to exporters and importers of that delightful
commodity. For instance, in a famous glove shop on Fifth Avenue, New
York, we are introduced to three classical styles—the Florine, the
Seville and the Isère. These are all fine French gloves, of a cut and
finish familiar to many of us. They are the foundation of all the other
styles, which are simply clever variations of these three.

For example, the Florine, a simple, overseam glove, acquires a one-inch
cuff of a contrasting color—and with it the romantic title of
Bandallette. Many beautiful color combinations may be seen in the new
Bandallette—alabaster with a brown cuff, canary with white, gunmetal
with pale grey.

The Seville is distinguished by its crochet-embroidered backs, affording
a much heavier finish than the stitching which decorates the Florine and
the Isère. A deeply fringed cuff of kid is added—and lo, the Spanish
cavalier becomes a knight of quite another cycle! Hiawatha, this
picturesquely slashed glove of purely American inspiration is
called—most reminiscent of the fringed decorations of aboriginal
chieftains is the odd device which gives it its new-world _bizarrerie_
and flavor. It is especially striking in pure white and black.

On the other hand, a two-inch cuff sporting large diamonds of white kid
set in a black border—or the colors may be reversed—is known as the Van
Dyck, and doubtless has caught something of the character of early
Flemish design. The Van Metor may be mentioned as similar. This is a
particularly beautiful glove when made in white kid, stitched with
black, and adorned with white cuffs, scalloped or pinked, and appliquéd
with black kid cut in deep, sharp points which taper upward.

The Isère is especially adapted for variations of a dainty, delicate
character. While the Seville lends itself best to two-toned embroidery
in handsome, heavy effects, on the backs, the Isère is displaying just
now on a white kid model rows of fine, black feather stitching between
slender lines of plain stitching.

Another distinguished glove, the work of the same expert designer, is
the Fielder, vaguely reminiscent of an old English hunting glove. In
black, with a very long wrist, the striking feature of the Fielder is
the deep, fan-shaped piece of white set into the wrist on the under
side; it also fastens with a cleverly adjusted strap, clasped with a
white pearl fastener. This is a very dashing glove.

A black glacé with white stitching has a fancy embroidered design on the
back which gives to it its title of Dagger. The dagger is delightfully
managed in conventionalized form, and reminds one of the adornments on
crested gloves of ancient days.

Nothing could be more exquisite than the new gloves embroidered with
bow-knots. If they are black, the bow-knots are in white; if white, the
graceful design is embroidered in black. Either effect is charming; but
the white gloves seem redolent of old valentine customs, when the true
lovers’ knot might well have appeared upon a perfumed pair of dainty
gift gloves such as these. The wrists also are parti-colored, gaily
striped in white and black, like Pierrette.

A very long-wristed, modish glove is the Garnett, in white kid, with
four black straps confining the fulness of the flaring cuff which is
lined with black, and all the stitching black. Indeed, while delicate
tints are seen in many of the novelties, the effectiveness of the new
designs is best grasped in the black and white combinations. In any
case, mere description gives little or no notion of the many
interesting, beautiful styles which are appearing—nor of how much
imagination and invention goes into the devising of these styles from
season to season.

There is a world of comfort, too, in the thought that while such artists
as these continue to concern themselves with gloves as a thing of
beauty—gloves for gloves’ sake—we may rest assured that commercialism
will not devour the more subtle distinctions of life. If such a trifle,
let us say, as our gloves is being zealously guarded and saved to the
canons of good taste, certainly we may hope to retain a true sense of
elegance, and our requirements in respect to the little niceties which
make up the general deportment of a people shall be continually

If the foregoing description of the gloves of the hour may have seemed
redundant, or of too ephemeral interest, to the reader, let him pause
and reflect that, after all, we are ourselves makers of glove history;
and it may be that glove lovers of the future will be as grateful to
find on record the gloves of our times, as we have been gratified to
rediscover the glove annals of remote periods of human history.



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. P. 105, “demand out attention” to “demand our attention”.
 2. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 3. Retained anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

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