Monday, February 15, 2010

Tailors of the past: Earl Benham

Mary, a Sleevehead reader, recently posted a comment, inquiring about Earl Benham, a New York tailor who has long since closed shop.

Earl Benham (Evening Independent Feb 6 1937)
Evening Independent (February 6, 1937)

Curious, I did a quick search online and read a bit more about him. As Mary points out in her comment, he operated in New York City for decades and last operated out of a Midtown shop on 53rd St. Benham seemed to attract clientele from the performing arts, movies and entertainment. You can see him standing on the left in the photo above dated 1937, wearing presumably one of his own creations - a fairly trim jacket with full cut trousers and slightly extended shoulders.

Earl Benham dk blue suit (Ernie Kovacs Oct 1957)
Heritage Auctions June 2009

Above is a photo from the auction house Heritage Auctions featuring items of the 1950s comedian Ernie Kovacs. Among items from Benham, Kovacs also owned tailored items from the Savile Row tailor Dege (prior to merging with Skinner) and L.R. Ermilio of Philadelphia. Another customer was the classical music conductor Alfred Wallenstein, whose bill from Benham can be seen (purchased if you're so inclined).

Additional links
- Earl Benham on vests


Ebenezer Howard, Jr. said...

Looked at the bill, saw the 40% surcharge for "taxes"...what kind of scam is that? Was Wallenstein ignorant of the fact that he only had to pay NY city and state sales tax of probably 5 or 6% in 1975 (I don't remember)?

sleevehead said...

That is an unusually high surcharge, isn't it? This is purely speculation but perhaps Benham used materials and/or labor overseas which required import duties of some sort. Whatever the case might be, I would have certainly requested further clarification!