Encyclopedia Of Detroit

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W.M. Finck & Co.

In the early 1900s, Finck’s "Detroit Special" Overalls were synonymous with quality denim garments for laborers. W.M. Finck & Co. produced overalls in Detroit, along with a “Dust-Proof Coat” and Combination Suit (coveralls). The company’s tagline, “Wear Like a Pigs Nose,” was known throughout the country. The garments’ buttons featured a pig’s head with “FINCK” written above it, and “DETROIT” below. Many overall styles were manufactured by Finck’s, as well as other garments like coats of denim, canvas and corduroy.

William Muir Finck (1854-1936) started in the overalls business in upstate New York, clerking with his uncle, Charles Fitzsimmons, around 1878. Eventually, Finck was put in charge of the overall factory. The company was successful and outgrew its factory and local labor pool, necessitating a move to Detroit in 1885. Fitzsimmons and Finck became partners, but despite investing in a new building, the partnership dissolved within a few years. William Finck found employment with a new overall manufacturer, Hamilton Carhartt, forming Hamilton Carhartt & Company. He joined the company in 1891 and supervised production for 11 years before leaving to start his own firm.

Finck’s was an aggressive advertiser. “The Man Who Thinks, Invests in FINCK’S” the company claimed. A Finck’s “Weekly Time Book” from the 1920s was produced “for wearers and friends of the ‘Detroit-Special’ Garments,” and provided space for a worker to keep track of his hours and money due, first aid directions in case of injury, along with many ads of Finck’s products. The company touted the quality of the garments and highlighted the fact they were union made. Finck’s ads suggested you “Ask the Men Who Wear Them” – and boasted 2,000,000 wearers as testament to their quality. Changes to the factory work force during World War II necessitated marketing to women, and the company introduced the word “modest” in their advertisements – along with an endorsement from an unnamed Miss America. In an undated ad, an illustrated Uncle Sam claims Finck’s overalls are “Good Enough for Me!” noting that the U.S. Government just placed an extensive order with the company.

W.M. Finck & Co. opened on Gratiot Avenue in 1902. He built a successful, union-friendly business with a widespread reputation for quality. Finck built a mansion on Van Dyke at Jefferson Avenue in Detroit’s Indian Village, where it still stands. He was a member of The Sons of the Revolution and the Detroit Board of Commerce. He married Katherine Rheiner in 1897; the couple had no children. Ironically, the Finck’s brand was later purchased by Carhartt, Inc., William’s former employer, in 1960 and discontinued.

 


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