Few people associate the Kentucky countryside with fashion production. Oh yes, there are Fruit of the Loom mills in the state and a fine thing they are , but that is another story. Yet Helen Bond Carruthers in Versailles with her cardigans, Maud Hundley in Anchorage with her needlepoint purses, and Eleanor Beard in Hardinsburg with lingerie and quilting were among many who had successful businesses. We have focused on Helen Bond Carruthers already. Let's look at Eleanor Beard.
The Eleanor Beard Studio was located in Hardinsburg,Ky. Hardinsburg was, and indeed still is, a small city of a couple thousand plus. Located in Western Kentucky in Breckinridge County, it's not too far from the Ohio River. Beard was originally a Louisvillian with a husband, Marvin,from Hardinsburg. His farm there was where they started the business when wool prices were low in the early 1920s. According to the company history at eleanorbeard.com: "...by 1929 Eleanor Beard had offices and outlets in New York (across the street from the Nancy Lincoln Guild), Pasadena, Santa Barbara and Chicago. At the height of its business, the studio employed around 1,000 people". They made quilted comforters, pillows, drapes,slipcovers, bedspreads, robes and accessories such as lingerie bags and bed jackets. There was national print coverage, a mail order business, and celebrity customers. The patterns were old ones, but the fabrics and approach were high quality and style conscious. But they also made at least some non-quilted items, as you shall see.
Ownership eventually passed into other hands, and since 2002, Eleanor Beard has owned by Jane Scott Hodges of Leontine Linens. And it's still in Hardinsburg, Ky.
For more on the history of Eleanor Beard
and a 1930s catalog can be seen here
Two robes we have just made available this month are from the Eleanor Beard Studio. First up is a typical hand quilted robe from the 1940s. The quality was very fine, with carefully placed motifs on silk taffeta and a matching silk lining. The second piece is not a typical Eleanor Beard. It's an elegant 1930s black bias cut velvet robe with an asymmetric closure, velvet jabot and glass buttons. The jabot and cuffs are lined in cream silk satin.
1940s Hand Quilted Peach Silk Ladies Robe by Eleanor Beard
1930s Black Velvet And Cream Satin Ladies Robe by Eleanor Beard