#Shortstops: Dressing up The Man

Written by: Matt Rothenberg

There were few major league hurlers who could undress Stan Musial.

For those who possessed this print advertisement, however, dressing – and undressing – Musial, as well as his son Dickie, was pretty easy.

The St. Louis-based Ely & Walker Dry Goods Company released this ad featuring Musial and son to promote its Quadriga Cloth product.

Though some of the language reflects 1940s-era gender roles – it was printed in the April 26, 1948, issue of Life magazine – Ely & Walker claims its Quadriga Cloth “leads the league for washability,” “goes through sun and suds with no runs, no errors,” and “makes a mighty big hit with the family budget.”

Individuals could, if one chose, clip out Stan and Dickie and dress them in pajamas (with “fade-proof cotton that stays as bright as Dickie’s pennant-hopes”) or everyday wear.

Though Stan may look comfortable in his undershorts (“They fit like a second skin,” says the ad), it is probable that a Cardinals uniform was his ensemble of choice.

This was not the only such advertisement developed by Ely & Walker. The company featured actress Marilyn Maxwell in a similar promotion for Quadriga Cloth and also allowed people to “dress” children.

What exactly is Quadriga Cloth? As more and more mid-20th century fabrics tended to be artificial creations – Celanese Fortrel, anyone? – Quadriga Cloth goes back to at least the turn of the 20th century and is “a cotton print famous for its finish,” according to a 1956 advertisement in Life. It is “a delight to sew” and “washes easily, stays fresh.”

As it turns out, Quadriga Cloth stayed so fresh, it outlasted the Ely & Walker Dry Goods Company.

The company incorporated in 1883 as Ely & Walker Dry Goods Company but was founded a few years earlier when Frank Ely’s Ely, Janis & Company partnered with David Davis Walker.

Successful from the start, the business remained strong under the Walker family’s leadership after Ely died in 1890. Walker’s sons were all involved with the company at one point or another, but shareholders in 1956 sold the company to Burlington Industries. Despite being transferred among several corporate owners, the Ely & Walker brand, though not the company itself, survives today on the labels of western-style shirts.

While the brand survives, so, too, does one of the company’s buildings, on Washington Avenue in St. Louis. It has since been turned into loft apartments and retail space.

Though D.D. Walker’s sons were all employed by the company, it ultimately left the family. One son, George Herbert Walker, chose banking and investing over dry goods, creating an enormous amount of wealth. But sports, especially baseball, would draw the attention of his descendants. His son, George, Jr., was one of the initial financial backers of the New York Mets. Walker’s nephew, George Herbert Walker Bush, was a Yale first baseman who later became President of the United States. Bush’s son, George Walker Bush, likewise would become President and previously served as owner of the Texas Rangers.

In addition to baseball, the Walker family was also integral in the United States Golf Association, serving in the organization’s leadership and creating the Walker Cup. George Herbert Walker also led a group involved in the 1925 construction of Madison Square Garden and reconstruction of Belmont Race Track.

Ely & Walker may be a corporation forgotten by many, even with some famous names descending from its co-founder. Despite that, the long-remembered Stan Musial proved well-suited to pitch its product, no matter what he was wearing.

Matt Rothenberg is the manager of the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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