Date of this Version
Published in Silk Roads, Other Roads: Textile Society of America 8th Biennial Symposium, Sept. 26–28, 2002, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.
Hiram Royal Mallinson, an ambitious and talented son of mid-nineteenth-century immigrants from Poland, entered the silk trade in 1893 as a salesman for the company of Pelgram & Meyer in Paterson, New Jersey. Just two years later Mallinson joined a new firm, Newwitter & Migel. headquartered in New York City, as head of sales. In 1900, Migel and Mallinson bought out Newwitter and renamed the firm M.C. Migel & Co.
Migel and Mallinson consciously targeted the novelty market and the high-end or "class" customer generally conceded to European concerns at the time. The company was regarded as progressive, its output of excellent quality and a credit to the American industry. Migel retired from active participation in the firm in 1903, leaving Mallinson in charge—a position he maintained until 1931. His company's long-term success within a turbulent industry was founded on a solid reputation for quality silks and, perhaps more importantly, on marketing practices not yet common in his day: buying or generating the right publicity, cultivating all potential consumers, and anticipating— even creating—consumer demand for novelty.
Until 1913, M.C. Migel & Co. concentrated primarily on woven textures and jacquardwoven designs. In the years between 1900 and 1913, the firm offered many innovative fabrics, such as "Waterette" waterproof taffeta, "Motora" pongee for the emerging motorist market, and '"Madame Butterfly" marquisette. All competed against the luxury imports from Europe and the few other high-end American products. The company's printed silks kept to prevailing Paris fashions, usually in simple color combinations that suited the relative lack of skill within the American silk-printing industry at this time.
In November 1912, Migel sold his interest in the company to Mallinson. In early 1914, Mallinson stepped up his campaign against European competitors, introducing the Mexixe line of printed silks, [fig. 1] This series took advantage of Mexico's prominence in the news due to the American war against Pancho Villa. The designs were based on Aztec, Mexican, and American Indian art, and although they were certainly influenced by European aesthetics, the underlying theme was an American original, not a variation on a French idea. The printing, in multiple colors on saturated grounds, challenged European supremacy in that art. The fabrics were used by several Paris couturiers, endorsing this upstart American attempt at original design. It was a stunning critical and sales success for the company and a notable first for the American industry. In its wake, Mallinson changed the company's name to his own in January 1915.