As a duck and rabbit hunter, I know the importance of durable, warm clothes that can make or break a day in the field, whatever you are doing. I also know that despite the wonderful improvements in outdoor clothes, it is tough to beat wool for warmth and comfort outdoors. Wool can keep you warm in almost any circumstance, and even wet it still offers some protection from cold temperatures. Not only that, unlike synthetic fabric, wool is quiet, allowing a hunter to move quietly throught the woods.
What got me so hooked on durable clothes like those made by Woolrich for outdoor wear, was ironically, not a Woolrich. It was actually a hunting coat that I now own, passed down from my father’s uncle to me. It’s the classic red and black check pattern, so popular with hunters and outdoors people in the 50’s and 60’s and probably years before that.
I still recall my days as a child, looking out the livingroom window of our house, watching my Dad and his uncles heading off for Spring trout fishing weekends at their backwoods camp, all of them wearing the classic red and black checkered jackets and rubber hip boots. I so wanted to go and to wear one of those red and black jackets.
This particular wool coat has outlived so many other coats I’ve owned that it now holds a special place of honor among my outdoor apparel and equipment, and really only gets worn for special occasions like weddings and funerals….. It is a Humphrey wool coat, called a “mackinaw” to be precise.
This Humphry wool coat was made by a Canadian company from Moncton, New Brunswick, that began business in 1881 when John A. Humphrey started a mill making what he called, “Humphrey Cloth” a heavy duty, long wearing material for pants, tweed suits, fabrics and heavy overcoats. All of his products were sold bearing the Humphrey pure wool cloth label.
In the early 1900s tweeds and friezes were added to the original line and the Humphrey mill became one of Canadas best-known producers of woolen tweeds.
The company progressed and in the early 1930’s a descendant of the original John A. Humphrey, William M. Humphrey was in charge of things. The company started making a large red and black check design used for Mackinaw coats, which is the type of coat originally belonging to my Uncle, that I still have, although I don’t know exactly when mine was made.
Alas, the original company has changed hands a few times since the original John A. Humphrey opened his doors in 1881, however it is still in operation making textiles, but sadly not mackinaw coats, under the name of Heritage Textiles Ltd
That’s the kinda sad news, however, the good news is, these types of durable, practical, warm outdoor clothes are still available from companies such as Woolrich, who sell a similar coat, in black and red or green and black checkered pattern, called the Woolrich Classic Wool Field Coat for around $200.
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