Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Finck's Overalls

In the early decades of the 1900s, Finck’s "Detroit Special" Overalls was 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 was infamous: “Wear Like a Pigs Nose” was a phrase known throughout the country.  The garments’ buttons featured a pig’s head with “FINCK” written above it, and “DETROIT” below. 

Finck’s was an aggressive advertiser. “The Man Who Thinks, Invests in FINCK’S” the company claimed.  An early 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, alongside many ads of Finck’s products and rationale for buying them.  The company touted the quality of the garments and highlighted the fact they were union made.  The book also provides handy first aid directions in case of broken bones, electrical accidents, bleeding, and other ailments. 

Have questions about quality? Finck’s Overalls ads suggested you “Ask the Men Who Wear Them” – and boasted 2,000,000 wearers.  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 US Government just placed an extensive order with the company.

William Muir Finck (1854-1936) started in the overalls business in upstate New York, clerking with his uncle, Charles Fitzsimmons, in the late 1870s. The company was successful and outgrew its factory and the 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. He joined the company in 1891 and supervised production for eleven years before leaving to start his own firm.

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 in Detroit’s Indian Village, where it still stands, and he was a member of The Sons of the Revolution and the Detroit Board of Commerce. He married Miss Katherine Rheiner in 1887; the couple had no children. Ironically, the Finck’s brand was purchased by Carhartt, Inc., William’s former employer, in 1960 and discontinued.

Traci Cothran and Joel Stone