Driving Mr. Stickley

Five period dusters donated to the Museum by Gustav Stickey's great-grandson.

It’s always an exciting day when the museum receives something new for the collection.  Most recently, Charles Nitchie (great-grandson of Gus) and his wife, Mary Ann, donated five Stickley-period dusters, or motoring jackets.  Although these dusters did not personally belong to Gustav Stickley and his family, they are of the same period and reflect the style of dress acceptable for ladies and gentlemen during a motor tour or afternoon drive in the 1910s.  It’s likely that the members of the Stickley family owned similar dusters, stylish yet practical garments that protected drivers and passengers from the elements.

The Nitchie's restored Brush car. Photo courtesy of Barbara Fuldner

Charles’s father acquired these five dusters when he took on the project of restoring a Brush car during Charles’s childhood.  His sister recalls riding in parades in the family’s restored Brush while wearing these dusters.   What fun that must have been!

Photo: Craftsman Farms Foundation archives. Looking westward through one of the pairs of stone piers in the vegetable gardens. The Log House is on the Left and the South Cottage on the Right. There are two automobiles in this picture. Click the image to zoom.

The Brush Motorcar Company was founded by Alanson P. Brush in Detroit in 1906.  The first Brush automobile was introduced to dealers in 1907.  The earliest version had a one-cylinder engine, open carriage, a hardwood chassis frame, and tough, resilient hardwood axles and wheels; it was exceptionally lightweight and resilient. The small, one-cylinder Brush, that topped out at about 35 mph,  appealed to many motorists because of its simplicity, relatively low price, and features that were well suited to unpredictable rural roads, perhaps like the roads in Stickley’s Morris Plains.  Brush cars were fairly popular, however financial difficulties and competition from better automobiles forced Brush out of business by 1913.

Detail 1. Two unidentified men and an open-carriage automobile of unknown make or model at Craftsman Farms probably around 1912. CFF archives.

While not much is known about the Stickley’s cars, we do know they had at least one family automobile.  And when any of the Stickley’s went for a drive, they almost certainly would’ve worn dusters of this fashion.  In the October 1910 issue of The Craftsman, in an article titled “A Country Home for the Business Man: A Second Visit to Craftsman Farms,” the writer talks about going for a ride in the countryside near Craftsman Farms in a car large enough to hold the whole Stickley family, but no mention is made of the make or model.

“Next day an automobile large enough to hold the Host, his guest and all the children whizzed over the country for a glimpse of other farms” (pg. 60).

Detail 2. Found near the upper right corner of the image. A second automobile parked in front of the South Cottage. c. 1912. CFF archives.

And later…

“As the automobile turned up the shady road at Craftsman Farms the Traveler was struck again by the charm of the houses – the air of content with which they nestled beneath their own protecting eaves” (pg. 61).

Want more period fashions?  Be sure to make plans to visit the museum this fall during the “Styling an American Family” exhibition.  Follow us on facebook for the most up-to-date exhibition news and behind the scenes photos of exhibition preparations!

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