Vogart - Facts and Trivia

Researching Vogart has been something of an exercise in frustration -- the company is no longer in business and early records are scarce (especially online). Our research aim was to answer two questions:

  • When were Vogart hot iron transfers first introduced?
  • What is the relationship between Vogart transfers and the identical ones sold under the American Thread Co. logo?

Keep in mind that Vogart was also a well-known name in the area of stamped, ready-to-embroider linens. (Their tinted goods in particular are well-known and highly collectible.) Although there's a lot more to the company than its transfers, this page touches only briefly on the company's early years, their stamped goods line, or developments after the 1940s.

Before the transfers

Vogart tinted Mickey and Minnie Mouse pillow

Tracing Vogart's history takes us back to May 1930, when the art needlework manufacturer Vogue Needlecraft Co., Inc., opened its doors in New York City. The fledgling company quickly landed a licensing agreement with Walt Disney Productions, and in 1932 began selling a series of tinted pillow covers featuring the newly popular cartoon characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Twelve different Disney designs, all labeled "Vogue Art" were added to its standard line of stamped goods.

It's certainly not a stretch to imagine that the Mickey Mouse pillows must have been a huge success and increased sales in the rest of Vogue Needlecraft's line as well. Certainly the company prospered; and in 1935 Vogue Needlecraft relocated from New York City to a new facility in Waldwick, New Jersey.
Photo courtesy of F. Wilhelm and D. Lombardi

1935 also saw the appearance of small catalogs advertising Vogue Art Needlework Novelties... Original designs by Vogart made exclusively for the F.W. Woolworth Co. (Although the Vogart/ Woolworth partnership may have been established earlier, the oldest catalog we've seen is dated Fall 1935.) These black and white catalogs show the finished designs as well as guides to the recommended embroidery colors for the stamped goods line only. The catalogs do not chart the hot iron transfers.

In May 1940 Vogue Needlecraft returned to New York City after a 5-year absence, leasing part of the building at 275 - 7th Avenue for for showrooms and manufacturing. In August 1941 the company was acquired by another NYC art needlework manufacturer, B. Kugel Company, Inc.. From that point on, all references are to "Vogart Company" or "Vogart Co., Inc." but the former Vogue Needlecraft was run separately from B. Kugel's core business.

As a footnote, the sewing pattern maker and magazine publisher Vogue Co. is entirely separate and unrelated to Vogue Needlecraft and Vogart (or the Vogue Doll Co., also of New York).

Introducing the hot iron embroidery transfers

When this guide was originally published, the introduction date of Vogart's transfer line could only be narrowed to sometime between late 1941 (when B. Kugel Co. acquired Vogue Needlecraft and changed its name) and July 1943 (when the company's advertising plans for its transfer pattern line was mentioned in a New York Times business column.)

Vogart Fall 1946 catalog ad

We can now pinpoint the introduction date to sometime between November 1942 and July 1943. According the records of the NYS Department of State Division of Corporations (and their new online database!) we know that in November 1942 Vogart filed a trademark for the black and red banner used on the transfer packaging. We were also happy to learn, from a reader, that Vogart advertised its "32 original, exciting hot iron transfer patterns" in an S.S. Kresge catalog. (Unfortunately, the catalog is not dated...)

Another known date is the debut of transfer numbers 157, 158, 159 and 160 (the first dolls and toys) to the Vogart line. The ad shown here appeared in the Kresge/Vogart catalog dated Fall 1946; an identical ad appeared on the back cover of the Woolworth/Vogart catalog of the same date. The pictured transfers are touted as "just four" of the new additions to the line.


About those catalogs and stamped linens...

We've gotten zillions of emails from folks hoping to date a stamped linen. Unfortunately, that's outside our area of interest and we're not much help. But we do have a few very old Vogart catalogs and will be happy to post them online as time permits. If you have a catalog and would like to include it, please email us.


The American Thread transfer puzzle

Sooner or later the Vogart fan will come across a transfer pattern that looks just like a Vogart pattern -- except for the American Thread Co. "Star" logo where the Vogart name usually appears. A side-by-side comparison of the two shows that the only differences are the logo and the text on the envelope flaps. The envelope graphics, titles, text on the back, pattern numbers, and even the transfer sheets themselves are identical.

While not extremely rare, these transfers appear in much smaller numbers than their Vogart counterparts (perhaps one for every hundred or more Vogart black banner packages). Only the first quarter of the Vogart designs appear under the American Thread logo (the last number we've seen is 154) and the packages tend to show lots of wear and tear -- it's much harder to find a pristine example.

All of which had us thinking (for quite a while) that the American Thread transfers predated the Vogart line. But a number of facts uncovered while researching Vogart's history -- and after taking a closer look at the transfers in our collection -- make that explanation less likely. And then there was an entirely new wrinkle: yet another Vogart clone.

The Diane brand transfer shown at right is one of only three we've ever seen. The blue and white ribbon banner gives it a different look at first glance. But the envelope size, pattern number, the title, the front graphics, the back text, and the transfer ink is identical to the American Thread and Vogart 146 transfers. (This Diane transfer is cut and the original pattern number markings on the tissue sheet -- if any -- are missing.)

So where, when, and by whom were Diane transfers sold? We have absolutely no idea. But it does raise the interesting possibility that at some point Vogart printed its basic line of transfers for different companies under a private label arrangement. Could that be true of the American Thread transfers?

Puzzle solved

Knowing that Vogart brand transfers were on the market by 1943 does not automatically rule out the possibility that American Thread brand transfers were first -- they might have been printed and sold by American Thread anytime between the late 1930s to 1943, and then taken over by Vogart. But a single mistake on a single envelope shows that Vogart did print the American Thread transfers (and certainly the Diane transfers, too).

Misprinted American Thread transfer package

The photo at right shows an American Thread transfer number 147 for three pillow case motifs. It correctly has the American Thread logo on the front and references to Star brand thread on the envelope flaps -- which is usually enough to replace all possible reference to Vogart.

But this particular pattern was issued with companion transfer number 148 (which has the same motifs sized for use on dresser scarfs and vanity sets). As highlighted in yellow on the photo, the Vogart name appears in the text on the back of the envelope, too. Someone overlooked that line, and both company names appear on this transfer pattern.

So the puzzle is solved. If the American Thread transfers were first, the Vogart name would never appear on any American Thread envelope. The only way this mistake could have happened is if Vogart printed the transfers for American Thread.

Vogart trivia to come

While researching Vogart history and looking through our collection, we found a number of curiosities that may be of interest to the die-hard Vogart fan. On the hand, they may not be that interesting. But just in case, we'll plan to add a few of them when time permits. If you can't get enough Vogart, check back again!

ERRATA:
24 Jun 2009 -- Revised "Introducing the hot iron transfers" to reflect new information about the trademark date.
24 Feb 2008 -- Corrected the name of the town in New Jersey where Vogue Needlecraft was once located. (Original page read Wakefield instead of Waldwick.)