Monday, September 27, 2010

Chester, Barbara, Susan, Zephr - All in the Family?

I love living in Connecticut. I love the rolling hills; the various sized cities and towns; and the history -- especially when it it is tied into my crochet world. I also love eBay.

One of my eBay finds arrived today. It is a an antique Susan Bates crochet hook, still in the original packaging.  It is known as a Clipson crochet hook.

On the bottom, it reads:

"C. J. Bates & Son, Inc. Chester, Conn. 06412
Made in U.S.A. Manufacturers Since 1873"

According to the papers turned over to the Dodd Center at UConn, C.J. Bates was Carlton J. Bates, born in 1848.  He founded the company in 1907 at age 59.  However, if we use the date on the crochet hook packaging, C.J. technically was producing manicure sets, crochet hooks, and knitting needles since he was 25!

In the early years of manufacturing, the name Chester was stamped upon the products, such as the crochet hook pictured below (I acquired it in 2008).  The manufacturing company was located on a 17-acre site in  Chester, Connecticut, until they discovered that the sludge waste stored in a lagoon was contaminating the groundwater.

Based upon a discussion on Crochetville, the Chester brand name was changed to Barbara Bates, and then Susan Bates sometime in the 1940s (after the passing of C.J. Bates in 1941).  In another online group discussion, is it said the name was changed from Chester to Zephr. Based upon an exchange I had with Jean Leinhauser, the Susan Bates name change happened in the 1930s.  The only evidence I have is what is before me ... a hook and its' packaging -- so I know the link between Chester and Susan Bates is solid. 

To further the discussion of Chester/Susan Bates hooks, you might find these links interesting: The Hook Lady's blog post: has some great pictures of more Chester/Susan Bates  hooks for me to add to my collection. (She's such an enabler! lol)   And, she has a great picture showing vintage & modern Susan Bates crochet hooks here:

Is this Susan Bates?

 Today Susan Bates is part of the Coats and Clark Company.   If you know more about the history of the Chester/Susan Bates crochet hook, I'd love to hear from you!  :)

Edited to add:  After reading this blog post, HHCC President Grace emailed me this evening stating, "'Marcia Lynn' is also a line of hooks & needles made by CJ Bates out of Chester Ct, not sure how this line fits into their history"

It seems CJ may have been very busy in the naming of his crochet hooks.  ;)


Unknown said...

It is interesting to see that so many are interested in something that I worked with for years, and thought nothing about! I worked at Susan Bates., Inc. from 1984 to 1990. I worked in the office taking orders. It was a very busy and thriving business. The Bates were still involved with the company at that time. They were John Bates and Dick Bates, I think.
I remember asking them that very question. Who was Susan Bates? And they told me the same thing. There was no such person. I recall looking at very old photos of C.J just getting started in the business. I thought they were cool. I guess I should have paid more attention. I just know I loved my job and the people I worked with. Thanks for the blast from the past!

Hooklady said...

Based on the limited research I have done, C J Bates and Son started out making hooks that were sold as private label. They started using Chester and Barbara Bates in the 1930's. These were changed to Zephr and Susan Bates in the ealy 1940's.

Hope the helps.


Unknown said...

I have been very interested in who the knitting company was named after since I was very young - about fourth grade when I learned to knit and crochet. You see, I was interested because my name is Susan Bates. No one in my family ever discussed this with me. I assumed our branch of the Bates family was very far removed from the knitting company. Anyway, I thought it was cool to have my own personalized knitting needles and crochet hooks. It also made me feel a little "famous".

Unknown said...

As a child I was very interested in who the namesake was for the knitting and crochet tools when I learned how to knit and crochet. You see, my maiden name is Susan Bates. My family were not related to the knitting company. I thought it was kinda cool to own "engraved" knitting needles but always wondered about the other Susan Bates. I also felt a little "famous" because it was my name being used for this big company.