Regrettably we leave the carefree days of summer behind, opening our textbooks for the start of the school year. For boys and girls of all ages, choosing the right outfit for the first day of school can present a challenge.
For young Vaughn Speer (b. 1924), the shirt he wore for his first day of school in 1930 was doubly significant: it was the first store bought shirt he’d ever owned. The garment was manufactured by the Cleveland-based company, Kaynee, which produced washable clothing for boys.
Kaynee was founded by Charles Eisenman and Jacob Kastriner in 1888. By 1919, the company was reported to have five manufacturing facilities, and its success was viewed as emblematic of the city’s growth in the apparel-manufacturing field. According to Elroy McKendree Avery: “It is roughly estimated that 7,234 miles of cloth are necessary to keep the Kaynee factory busy for six months, the supply usually kept on hand. This 12,500,000 yards of cloth is used in the manufacture of blouses and washtogs…. The most up-to-date machinery is used for perfection in manufacture, uniform quality and a high standard of excellence.” Kaynee acquired Hecht & Co., and its boys’ wear brand Oliver Twist, in 1928; both manufacturer and brand name are represented on the label of Vaughn’s shirt (figure 2).
During the mid-1930s, however, the company made headlines less for its fashions or manufacturing prowess than for a tumultuous labor strike in which it was embroiled. The strike turned violent, involving street fighting, tear gas, and vandalism to the homes of workers before it was resolved early in 1935. More detailed information on the history of (as well as numerous images related to) the Kaynee Company can be found on the Cleveland Historical website article, “Kaynee,” by Danielle Rose [http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/723].
On Vaughn’s first day of school his Kaynee shirt may have been immaculate, but it was clearly worn often over the subsequent weeks and months, as evidenced by the extensive repairs visible on examination. It appears that Vaughn’s resourceful mother even removed a piece of the striped fabric from the back of the shirt (where presumably it would have been tucked into his trousers) to patch worn areas on the sleeves and shoulder.
We hope you find the perfect outfit to start off the school year, and that those garments are as well-loved as Vaughn’s first store-bought shirt.
Jennifer Farley Gordon
 “Children’s Wear,” Women’s Wear, August 19, 1919, 48.
 Elroy McKendree Avery, A History of Cleveland and Its Environs: The Heart of New Connecticut, Vol. 3 (Chicago and New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1918), 125.
 “Kaynee Co. Absorbs Hecht & Co., Chief Competitor in Field,” Women’s Wear Daily, May 9, 1928, 23.
 “First Parley on Kaynee Co. Strike Fails,” Women’s Wear Daily, November 6, 1934, 16; “Kaynee Shuts Its Factories in Cleveland,” Women’s Wear Daily, November 13, 1934, 31.
 “Tear Gas is Used in Bucyrus Strike Riot,” Women’s Wear Daily, December 4, 1934, 30; Danielle Rose, “Kaynee,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 9, 2016, http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/723.