Advertising the 19th Century Detachable Collar

A distinguishing characteristic of menswear in the ~1860’s-1920’s was the detachable collar. Collars were naturally more susceptible to dirt and deformation that the rest of the shirt. Detachable collars allowed men to achieve the appearance of neatness and cleanliness, while reducing the time and expense of laundry. One could replace the collar, but re-wear the shirt.

The detachable collar was first conceived in the 1820’s by Hannah Montague of Troy, New York, who was tired of washing her husband’s shirts when the collar got dirty. The idea spread rapidly, and Troy became a hub of collar manufacturing, nicknamed “The Collar City.”

Detachable linen and cotton based collars were starched in order to maintain a stiff shape, and they could be washed repeatedly. Other collars were paper based and disposable, such as the Linene brand which was manufactured by laminating a thin layer of cotton to paper.  During the 1870’s and onward, another option was celluloid, an early plastic. Unlike paper collars, celluloid collars were waterproof and could be wiped clean easily. They were stiffer than fabric based collars, but did not last as long.

The following are advertising trade cards for celluloid collars and cuffs, highlighting their waterproof, rigid, and easy-to-clean nature. Trade cards were invented in the 1700’s, but were most popular in the 1870’s-1890’s. After 1900 these cards were largely replaced by newspaper advertisements. The cards below were produced using the printing technique of lithography, which has enabled them to maintain their vivid color.

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Trade card, copyright 1895 by Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

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Trade card (reverse side), copyright 1895 by Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

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Trade card, Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

Celluloid trade card reverse side

Trade card (reverse side), Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

Celluloid trade card with girl walking in the rain

Trade card, Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

Celluloid trade card with suitor being hosed with water

Trade card, Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

Celluloid trade card with map of U.S.

Trade card, copyright 1888, Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.

All images shown are from the Arrow Collar Collection at the Dowd Modern Graphic History Library. Contact us if you would like to make an appointment.

See the City of Troy’s website for an overview of  the city’s history. Detachable collars are available for purchase to this day, for instance through AzRA Historical Resources and Amazon Drygoods.

About the author

Maria Dorfman is a student in the Olin Business School.