Part IV: Ruth Porter's Goldmine, The Jackets

Foster and I, buzzed from a combination of excitement and old boot smell, started in on some of the jackets. Mrs. Porter and her colleagues have collected and hung them by decade. As we trudged deeper into the closet, the fabrication grew tougher, heavier. I imagined gearing up for a big hunt, lacing 12″ high Maine Hunting Shoes over heavy rag wool socks;  layering moleskin trousers over my dark red long johns; sporting chambray and wool over a red River Driver shirt and finally a coat fashioned of shearling, leather, and heavy duck canvas – topped off with a fur collar. The thought alone was exhausting.

And then Foster spotted a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.rainbow

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This “nugget” as Foster was quick to call it, a women’s jacket from the early seventies, immediately reminded me of a jacket that appeared last year in Japanese publication Free & Easy.

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I know Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments and Woolrich Woolen Mills has done something similar in recent years as well. The Rainbow Lake jacket was in pristine condition. It hadn’t been worn. The color, in particular the red and the blue were so lush, technicolor, they popped. As Foster and I stood there, gushing, he whispered, “Try it on.”

“No way!” I hushed back.

“You wanna try it on?” Mrs. Porter, rolling Maine accent, asked from across the room. “G’head.”

Go ahead I did.

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I’m not quite a women’s 10, but the jacket was so cool. I would love to see a designer pick this up and run with it.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes. One of the most handsome plaids I’ve ever seen, this Maine Hunting Coat from 1917 was a real find. The documentation that accompanied it included a photograph of the owner along with an inscription. Mrs. Porter mentioned that there are photos of L.L. Bean wearing the same coat. Mr. Bean’s personal endorsement was a selling point in their catalogues, and I imagine pictures of him using the products hammered the point home.

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Leaving the archives, Foster and I were thoroughly exhausted. He’d taken over 800 photographs, filling his memory cards to capacity. I couldn’t and I still can’t believe our good fortune. The time we were given there was plenty to get a feel for the archive. I would love to go back with a game plan. The folks who organized the visit could not have been more helpful, and Mrs. Ruth Porter in particular could not have been more warm or welcoming. I’ve said to friends it may have been one the best days of my life, and I laugh as I write it down here, not because it isn’t true, but because it’s most likely an understatement.

I look forward to posting more of these “field trips” in the weeks and months to come. If you have suggestions or comments for future excursions, please be in touch. I would love to know your thoughts.

Look this weekend for a round-up of stories and images that did not make it into our posts here at all plaidout and A Restless Transplant.

Be sure to check out Foster’s post from today as I’m sure you WWII buffs will love one of the coats he’s featuring.