Tag Archives: John H. Stoutner

John H. Stoutner: Milliner, merchant and man about town

Sepia Saturday 389: Sixth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

The last post focused on Uncle John H. Stoutner as a possible influence on my grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence’s sense of style.

In the mid early 1900s, my grandmother’s uncle operated a women’s millinery and clothing store in their Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. hometown. But what led him to become a merchant? What more could I discover about his life and career?

An artistic home

Apartment of John H. Stoutner, Gloversville, N.Y., with his desk in the foreground (undated). My mom said my grandmother’s Uncle John was “aristocratic” and “artsy.” His apartment decor certainly bears this out. Scan by Molly Charboneau

In addition to the photo of his shop featured in last week’s post, I have one more picture connected with Uncle John — a large photograph of his well-appointed apartment.

I always thought it looked more like a furniture showroom, but on close inspection there seem to be no repeat items. There’s one couch, one dining table with chairs, one credenza, one desk — with lamps and accessories for each.

My mom once shared what she remembered about him. “Uncle John had a hat shop and he was very aristocratic,” she said. “He was the ‘artsy’ member of the family.” The photo of his home certainly bears this out.

Making of a milliner

Uncle John was married twice — first to Jennie Fairchild in 1890 (according to the Gloversville papers) and later to Josephine L. Bye in 1897 (according to Iowa marriage records).

However, after both marriages ended in divorce, Uncle John appears to have embarked on a new, career-focused life.

By 1905 he had secured bachelor quarters in the home of lumberman Jacob Van Arnam — a move that favorably impacted his personal and professional life.

Jacob’s son Crosby became a close friend and eventual business partner — and the 1905 N.Y.S. census, excerpted below, gives Uncle John’s occupation as milliner for the first time.

1905 N.Y.S Census – John H. Stoutner in the Van Arnum home at 187 Kingsborough Ave., Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. – Source: New York State Archives
Name Reln. Age Occupation
Van Arnam, Jacob Head 62 Lumberman
Van Arnam, Roseanna Wife 54 House Work
Van Arnam, Fitch Son 26 Lineman
Van Arnam, Crosby Son 22 Glove Cutter
Van Arnam, George Son 19 Leather Worker
Van Arnam, William Son 18 Leather Worker
Van Arnam, Hazel Dau. 11 In School
Stoutner, John H. Boarder 35 Milliner
Lavore, Edward Boarder 26 Glove Cutter

My grandmother was born in 1905 — so as she grew up, her Uncle John’s career in ladies’ fashion took off. The 1910 U.S. Census shows that John and Crosby were both milliners and employers. Crosby’s sister Hazel was a hat trimmer, possibly working in their shop.

By 1920, John and Crosby were retail merchants in the dry goods industry — and Hazel had graduated to dry goods saleslady.
Surely my grandmother’s family would have shopped at Uncle John’s store for clothing and accessories.

Man about town

Perhaps because he was a commercial buyer and seller, Uncle John’s comings and goings appeared in the Gloversville, N.Y. newspapers from time to time — summer jaunts to nearby Canajoharie, visits to Pittsburgh, buying trips to New York City.

And then there’s this: In 1895, a man named John Stoutner was awarded first prize in a waltz contest at the Booth & Co. employees’ picnic. Wait — a waltz contest? Was this my grandmother’s Uncle John?

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1915: Family fashionista John H. Stoutner

Sepia Saturday 388: Fifth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

In the last post, I introduced my Stoutner ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Among them was family fashionista John H. Stoutner — a ladies garment professional who had the most potential to influence the clothing style of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence.

Stoutner & Van Arnam’s Smart Shop in Gloversville, N.Y. (circa 1915). Growing up I was told that my grandmother’s Uncle John ran a “millinery shop.” Newspaper ads reveal this was a full-service women’s fashion store. Scan by Molly Charboneau

I knew little about my grandmother’s Uncle John growing up — just that he owned a “millinery shop,” according to my mother.

Born in 1870, Uncle John embarked on his career at a time when women still wore extravagant hats, so this explanation made sense.

Later I inherited a spectacular photo of his Gloversville shop (above) and sure enough, there was the profusion of ladies hats — some behind cases and others decoratively placed on the selling floor.

Stoutner & Van Arnam’s Smart Shop

Newspaper ad for The Smart Shop (1915). This ad from the March 22, 1915 issue of the Gloversville-Johnstown Morning Herald was one of many placed by Uncle John and his partner Crosby to advertise their women’s fashion store. Source: Old Fulton New York Post Cards

From the Stoutner family photo, I knew that Uncle John had a business partner, Crosby Van Arnam. I wondered whether newspaper research might tell me more — and I was pleased to discover several advertisements for their shop.

The one posted here, from the March 22, 1915 issue of the Gloversville-Johnstown Morning Herald, advertises the millinery portion of their store.

However, other Smart Shop ads on the same page featured clothing and outerwear, indicating they ran a full-service operation.

Uncle John and Crosby placed the ads to coincide with Gloversville’s Spring Style Show, giving the address of their shop as 13 West Fulton St. A Google search for a street view of this address reveals a row of charming row of storefronts right around the corner from Main Street.

Looking good a wholesale prices

The Stoutner siblings (circa 1916). From left, Andrew J., 7, Margaret C., 2 1/2,  and Elizabeth C. Stoutner, 11. My grandmother Liz, at right, was growing into a fashionable young lady. Did her Uncle John influence her style? Scan by Molly Charboneau

In the days before big-box stores, having an uncle in the fashion business meant my grandmother Liz and her siblings could be looking good at wholesale prices — and look good they did!

Here are the Stoutner siblings in a circa 1916 outdoor photo, each fashionably dressed. My grandmother Liz, at right, is nearly 11 years old and growing into a young lady.

Her outfit is hard to make out, but it appears to be a sailor-necked blouse with a tie and a matching skirt. White stockings and stylish ankle-strap shoes complete her look — and for the first time she is wearing what would become her signature collar-style necklace.

Next to her, Aunt Margaret is precious at age 2 1/2 with her long hair, little white dress, striped socks and black patent leather shoes. Rounding out the group. Uncle Andy, 7, sports an outfit that echoes my grandmother’s — with the variation of a low-slung belt and black stockings and shoes.

Did Uncle John play a part in dressing the family? Hard to know for sure. But I suspect his garment industry expertise was looked to by his relatives — and may have influenced my grandmother Liz in a stylish direction.

Up next: A bit more on family fashionista Uncle John H. Stoutner. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1908: My Stoutner ancestors in Gloversville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 387: Fourth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

Seeking the roots of my maternal grandmother’s signature style, I turned to a group shot that captures three generations of my German Stoutner ancestors from Goversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

My grandmother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence is the youngest family member. In her little white dress and hair ribbon, Liz was probably about three when the photo was taken — which dates it to circa 1908. Surrounding her are some spiffy-looking adults.

My Stoutner ancestors in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. (circa 1908). My stylish maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence is shown here at about age three sitting on the lap of my German great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner. The entire group is smartly dressed. Even the dogs are well groomed. Photo poss. by Rector Mann. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Standing, from the left: Edson Haggart and his wife Gertrude (Stoutner) Haggart;  my great-grandfather Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner and his wife, my great-grandmother Ceila (Mimm) Stoutner; and Crosby Van Arnum, friend and business partner of John H. Stoutner, who is seated in front of him.

Seated, from the left: Mary (Stoutner) Mann; my grandmother Liz held by my great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner; his wife, my great-great grandmother Christina (Aleitz) Stoutner; and their son Uncle John.

The two boys are Gertrude and Edson’s sons Clyde E. Haggart, at left, and Gilbert Haggart, standing in front. Mary’s husband, Rector Mann, was living when this photo was taken, but he does not appear in the picture — so he may be the photographer.

A tale of three families

My German immigrant great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner (b. 1832) had three families over his lifetime. According to family lore, his first wife died in childbirth — but I have yet to discover her name or further details.

He remarried and, with his second wife Elizabeth D. Stouther (b. 1844), had two children — William A. Stoutner (b. 1862) and Mary E. Stoutner (b. 1864). Mary appears seated in the photo above. Sadly, Elizabeth also died in 1865, leaving Andrew a widower with two small children.

Andrew and his third  wife — my great-great grandmother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner, also from Germany — had three surviving children together: John H. Stoutner (b. 1869), Gertrude Stoutner (b. 1871) and my great-grandfather Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner (b. 1875). They all appear in the photo above.

Generations of style

From whom did my grandmother inherit her style? If this photo is any indication, probably from her entire extended family!

Uncle John and his partner Crosby, who co-owned The Smart Shop, were women’s clothing professionals. They appear nattily attired at the right of this photo — and everyone else looks pretty good, too.

My great-grandfather Pete Stoutner, a strapping railway employee and Liz’s dad, shows a bit of flare with his white shirt and vest. Next to him, my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner, Liz’s mom, looks lovely in a Gibson Girl blouse and au courant updo.

Couture consciousness

The wall behind them may be the side of my great-great grandparents’ house at 4 Wells Street — constructed with bricks manufactured at my great-great grandfather Andrew Stoutner’s Gloversville brick works.

I suspect this three-generation photo of my German immigrant ancestors, their children, and grandchildren was carefully posed to send a message of success to relatives back home.

From oldest to youngest, everyone seems well turned out — even my grandmother’s cousins Clyde and Gilbert are snappily dressed. So is it any wonder that my grandmother developed couture consciousness — learning an early lesson from her elders about putting her best fashion foot forward?

Up next: More on Uncle John H. Stoutner, the family clothier. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1910: My fashionable grandmother at age five

Sepia Saturday 385: Second in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

In the last post I discussed my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashionable attire at age one. This trend continued as she grew, as shown in the photo below of Liz at age five.

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence at age five (circa 1910). She is wearing a fur-trimmed wool coat with fashion-forward accessories: a fur muff, a spectacular hat and satin bows. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My grandmother is wrapped in a fur-trimmed wool coat accessorized with a spectacular hat and muff — each sporting shiny satin bows. Her long, ringlet curls complete the look.

Clearly Liz did not select these toddler clothes or hairstyle herself — so I wondered whether her German-American family’s fashion sense contributed to her evolving clothing style.

Fashion in the family

My maternal ancestors lived in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. They were German immigrants on my grandmother Liz’s side and Italian immigrants on my grandfather Antonio W. Laurence’s side (Tony’s surname anglicized from Di Lorenzo).

Glove turning tool from Meyers Glove Company of Gloversville, N.Y.  Discovered  in my grandmother Liz’s sewing cabinet, this tool may have been used by my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner to turn gloves with internal seams when she worked at home sewing gloves. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When Liz was growing up, fur, leather and glove production were primary industries in Gloversville and nearby Johnstown.

Many of my German-American and Italian-American ancestors worked in these fashion-related trades.

Liz’s mother — my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner, — was among hundreds of women who sewed and turned gloves at home using materials provided by nearby factories. Her mother — my great-great grandmother Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm — was also a glove worker.

My strapping great-grandfather — Liz’s dad Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner — broke with this tradition and worked for the railroad. However, his brother — Liz’s uncle John H. Stoutner — made his career in fashion.

A commercial clothier’s influence

Uncle John and his partner Crosby E. Van Arnum operated The Smart Shop in Gloversville — a women’s millinery and clothing store carrying everything from undergarments to outerwear — and ran ads in the local newspapers.

A New York Times notice of Uncle John’s arrival in New York City as a buyer for the Argersinger Company of Gloversville, N.Y. (11 Nov. 1913). Did Uncle John’s garment expertise contribute to my grandmother’s fashion sense? Source: Old Fulton New York Post Cards

Did Uncle John play a role in recommending or providing outfits for my grandmother? There’s no way to know for sure — but he certainly had the credentials.

According to the New York Times, Uncle John traveled to New York City to buy the latest in suits, waists, corsets and millinery for the Argersinger Co. before opening The Smart Shop.

My grandmother Liz was the first female child born in her generation to the extended Stoutner family — so she was probably surrounded by doting adults.

They may have given fashionable gifts for her wardrobe — particularly Uncle John, who was 41 and single when my grandmother was born and knew his way around the garment business.

In whatever way it happened, one thing is apparent — by age five Liz was well on her way to a signature style that would last throughout her life.

Up next: The stylish Stoutner siblings. Please stop back. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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