Friday, November 15, 2013

House of Shroyers: Vintage Dress Label

This "House of Shroyers" advertisement from 1960 shows dresses that seem typical for that era. The company was a long standing manufacturer of women's styles during the early to mid-twentieth century. I became interested in the label after finding a dress with this brand that was in excellent 'dead stock' condition.

My research led me to the Pennsylvania mining town, Shamokin. It seems that while the "House of Shroyers" label was produced there, several other apparel manufacturers were in town as well. The company that made this brand was the Shamokin Dress Company. It closed in 1984 and press releases at that time stated it had been in business for 70 years.

House of Shroyers workers, a partial view from the entire company portrait, 1946

The company produced an early brand, the Climax Dress Manufacturing Company, a label that was known for simple house dresses. The "House of Shroyers" logo was patented in 1949. A large employer for the town, at its height in the 1950's it employed over 600 people, mostly women. During the entire time, this business was owned by John E. Shroyer and family of Shamokin, who began at first by producing cotton bib front aprons that postal workers wore to sort mail.

The company produced both private label (for companies such as Leslie Faye) and their own "House of Shroyer". The private label dresses sold for considerably more than the company's own label. Locals still tell stories about their experiences working at this major regional employer.

While there is no mention of a designer, it is easy to see that this brand tended to focus on the half-size customer. The styles are not progressive, and seem to be created for an older customer base, both in silhouette and design.

The dress shown above is currently listed in my shop, HERE. <

This blog post has become a very popular article on my blog. If you are reading this from Shamokin or know more about Shroyers, please feel free to leave a comment here, thanks!"


Lynn Mally said...

I love the group photo--what a fabulous find!

Jen O said...

There is a terrific collection of historical 20th century photos from Shamokin on Flickr:

Lizzie said...

Very interesting story. Sometimes we tend to think that all dress companies used to have their own factories, but companies often did sewing for different labels. Love your dress.

Jen O said...

The private label info was in a comment on one of the photos that I found--the commenter remembered sewing both the private label and company label dresses at the same time, so I guess the quotas for each label were sorted after the entire line was produced (?)

Bob Shroyer said...

My name is Robert Shroyer. My father, Harlan (Barney) Shroyer was one of 4 sons to John U. Shroyer, the founder of Shroyer's and the Shamokin Dress Co.
My grandfather started the company in 1914 and made aprons for the US Postal Service. He then made WAC uniforms for the women in the service during WW1 and WW2.
He operated a number of retail stores ion the Penna. area. The comnnmay also did contract assembly for famous makers such as: Jonathan Logan, Robbie Rivers and Bobby Brooks. Every day they would run a truck into NYC with completed dresses.

Shroyers employed 600-800 workers in 3 plants in the Shamokin, Selinsgrove, and Milford areas.
At one point during the 1950's, my grandfather paid everyone in $2 bills which had just been minted by the Federal Govt., just to show how influential his company was to the region. Those $2 bills ended up everywhere!
The workers at Shroyer's were hard working central PA workers which a great work ethic. Although the work went elsewhere solely due to cost issues in the 1970's and 1980's, it is highly doubtful that the product produced offshore was of the same quality as those made by Shroyer's. The company went out of business in the early 1980's.
Update Sept 2014 - I was just at Pike's Peak in Colorado and met a German man that used to call on Shroyer's and other Singer Sewing Machine customers in the 1970's in Penna and the region. He too, like the House of Shroyer's, was a symbol of the times. A high quality, conscientious "player" in the textile industry in the USA during the 1930's -1970's. Shroyer's of Shamokin PA was a great employer and I am proud to carry the name forward. Like our forefathers, my wife and I have carried the tradition forward in the textile industry by becoming the World's leading manufacturer of ball winding and swift systems for the knitting world. I think my grandfather would be proud.
Bob Shroyer of Nancy's Knit Knacks LLC, Cary NC - Sept 2014

Jen O said...

Robert, Thank you for your valuable response. It's family members like you that are helping to provide information and details about the wonderful companies that produced apparel in the US for decades. I am sure that my readers and those who are researching this topic will find your letter posted here helpful,

Barb Schrawder said...

One of my childhood memories was going to the Shroyer's Dress Store in Sunbury, PA, which isn't far from Shamokin. I met John's wife I believe. I went away with a dress that I was so proud of because the label had my last name on. My father was Charles Robert Shroyer, he died when I was 7 months old. His family and my mother didn't keep in touch, he was one of 9 children and I do believe John was a brother or uncle. Anyone else out there relatives? I always thought I might see people I was related to and wouldn't know it. B.P.Schrawder Shroyer formally of Millersburg, PA now in Nebraska

Anonymous said...

I can stand on my kitchen porch and look up the street at the property that used to be Shroyer's Manufacturing Facility. I'm on the back side. The front faces Shamokin Street on Bunker Hill. It is a shame that it has fallen into such disrepair. If the city had its way it would be demolished. If I have my way it won't.

I'm happy to actually see some samples of what used to come out of the Manufacturing plant. Thank you for sharing your find.

Martin Blakley

Jen O said...

thank you Barb and Martin for sharing your wonderful memories of Shroyers. I feel that the many regional companies that once produced apparel in the U.S. are so important to our history, and it's comments like yours that help to keep that history alive.

Barb Schrawder said...

Bob guess we would be cousins. Mt father was Charles Robert Shroyer, everyone called him Bob. He died in 1948, I was 7 months old and always felt sad, because I didn't know any of his family except one wonderful Aunt Jennie, so I named you daughter Jenny Lynn. One memory of my childhood was going to Sunbury PA to the Shroyer Dress Store BD my mom bought me a dress with the Shroyer label. My brother had 2 boys, one died young, the second has 2 boys the name is still going on. Wishing you and yours the best.

Jen O said...

thank you Barb for your follow-up. It looks like Shroyer is ready for a reunion of sorts!

Anonymous said...

I lived in front of the factory all my life. My parents rented from Shroyers for many years. My monthly job was to take the rent up to the factory. Mr. John Shroyer insisted that I deliver the rent to his office every month and he would always reach in his pocket and give me a dollar.

When I was about 8, Mr Shroyer took me to NYC. Mr. Shroyer pulled one of his floor inspectors to take me around the city while he was in meetings drumming up business in fashion/textile district. I can still see racks moving through the streets full of garments.

The entire Shroyer family was known to be good to all! There is a pool in Shamokin named after Lawton Shroyer.

Robert, I remember your father well. I can still see him sitting on the stoop of the house on the corner of Rock and Cameron Street.

Jeff Grinaway

Jen O said...

Jeff, Your trip to NYC with Mr. Shroyer was fascinating! Thank you for sharing that with us here.

Judy Jordan said...

This is such an amazing find and one of the reasons that I LOVE selling vintage items! For one I think it is an ecologically important task because we keep things out of the garbage. But the other is when you can track down information on pieces that you find. I often feel close to the person that the item descended from and that I am honoring them by caring for it and sending it on.

So, to my story. I buy on occasion from a company that does mostly commercial stuff but will occasionally have personal property included. It is all online and since I never make the walk throughs because they are a couple of hours away, I just have to buy on intuition. They were selling the contents of this lady's house and selling her clothing by the closet. I bought 3 closets worth for .60 per closet -- I saw a few things peeking out that could be vintage but just figured there would be some good clothes for the Methodist Church clothes pantry at a minimum (sorry I am a long-winded story teller). When we got there, the bidder on the 4th closet didn't show so we got it too. I have a Honda Accord and they are bigger than they look. We filled the entire back seat up to the ceiling and the trunk with clothes.

When I got it home I took 8 kitchen bags to the trash with torn and stained clothing, 8 boxes to the clothing pantry along with some hanging items and started through the rest of it. She had cut many labels out but among the dresses was a beautiful black dress with a House of Shroyers label -- either for business or church, and VERY well made, right down to the little satin folded back cuffs with a little V cut out. I don't think this lady had ever thrown anything of her own or her family's away.

I found her obituary -- I don't know if it is acceptable to put her name here so I wont't but she was 104 years old. She was originally from York County, SC but moved to Norwood, NC (perhaps when she married) and went to church and to work for Collins and Aikman. They appear to still be in business. She outlived her husband, daughter, grandson, 5 brothers and 3 sisters!! She was tiny because all of her clothes are size 8 -- a "back then" size 8!! Wow, I imagine her as a strong person -- what a life!!

Thanks for sharing what you found and for letting me share my story!! Oh, BTW, 10 of the daily dresses with small waist and full skirts have already been purchased by a lady in the UK -- she says they don't have much vintage there. I have one dress listed on Etsy and the one above will go up soon. I love my items and I hope they all find grand homes!!

Judy In Winston Salem NC

Rachel Krieger said...

My grandfather's sister, Margaret Krieger Shroyer, was married to John E. Shroyer (b. 1914, d. 1985). I have a vivid memory of visiting John and Margaret at their home in Shamokin when I was about 10. So neat to know more about their family business since I've been hearing bits and pieces my entire life. I'm very into vintage, and am always on the lookout for a "family" piece! Thanks for the informative blog!