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Personal Equipment

Automobile and driver's robe

Description:

This is an automobile and driver’s robe made by Chicago Auto Robe Supply Company. It provided drivers of open-air vehicles with protection from the cold and dirt. The driver’s robe, also called a lap robe, consists of rubberized canvas that is lined with forest-green wool. It opens in the back, is held about the body by a steel spring band in the waist, and is closed at bottom with leather overshoes.

Purchased by Forrest W. Crookham early in his career as a rural delivery service carrier, the driver’s robe helped Crookham face wintry weather conditions while delivering the mail on his country route out of Roseville, Illinois. Crookham began as a rural letter carrier in 1915 and was still working a route when he donated this article of clothing to the Smithsonian Institution in 1960. He described wearing the driver’s robe during the 'horse and buggy days', saying, “It has a spring loop that fits snugly around your waist and as you would raise up or lean over to reach a mail box the robe followed you and always staid [sic] in place. As for your feet, there were two pockets (shoe shaped) at the bottom of the robe and if necessary it was possible to walk to some extent with it on. It was a God-send to me as before wearing it I froze or frosted my feet every winter. . . .”

Reference:

Personal correspondence Forrest W. Crookham to Tommy Martin, President R.L.C.A., December 5, 1960. Smithsonian Institution accession file.

Date:
c. 1915
Markings:
“SPRING-BELT” / PATENTED / AUTOMOBILE AND DRIVERS ROBE / MADE BY CHICAGO /AUTO ROBE SUPPLY / COMPANY / CHICAGO [interior label]
Medium:
fabric (wool, cotton); leather
Dimensions:
Height x Width: 50 × 44 in. (127 × 111.76 cm)
Museum ID:
0.234863.276
Place:
Illinois


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