Ebenezer Butterick – A Sewer’s Savior

A while ago I was playing my vintage 1980 edition of Trivial Pursuit with some friends, facing down typically challenging questions about obscure names of pigeon friends in 1960s television shows. On one of these question cards came one of those names you always hope to find in your daily life. Ebenezer Butterick.

Mr. Butterick was one of the biggest names in fashion in the late 1880s, in many senses of the word. Frustrated with the difficulty of measuring and scaling home made clothing, Ebenezer and his wife Ellen Augusta Pollard Butterick came up with tissue paper dress patterns to make the job easier. This revolutionized home sewing and quickly made the couple very wealthy.

The very fashionable Mr. Ebenezer Butterick.

The very fashionable Mr. Ebenezer Butterick.

Ebenezer was a tailor by trade and therefore fully familiar with sizing up custom patterns to fit any individual, and set about creating a sewing empire with his simple, yet revolutionary invention.

The Buttericks eventually formed the Butterick Company, which among its many achievements once held the record for the world’s largest electric sign that hung off the side of their custom build Butterick Building in New York City. The sign had more than 1400 electric lights, and required a full time staff member of the company to constantly monitor it and replace burned out lights.

As you probably figured out by now, the author of this piece really knows nothing at all about sewing and the power and beauty of the Buttericks’ invention is a bit lost on me. However, I wouldn’t pass up any chance to salute their fine achievement of building a good idea into a giant funnily named company.

I'm not an expert, but I think this is a different type of sewer.

I’m not an expert, but I think this is a different type of sewer.

Butterick, as fitting a fashion icon, wore an impressive huge beard and also founded the Metropolitan fashion magazine, mostly to promote his own patterns. He died in 1903, the same year the company’s Manhattan headquarters was finished. The Butterick-McCall company is still a major player in fabrics, proudly carrying its founders’ name now in its third century. And that’s the power of a great name.

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About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names. www.funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
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19 Responses to Ebenezer Butterick – A Sewer’s Savior

  1. Well done Arto! I used to use Butterick patterns back in the day when it was cheaper to sew than purchase clothing.

    What a splendid beard he sports. 🙂

  2. ksbeth says:

    nice one, arto. too bad e.b.(b) didn’t marry someone named f.l.o. – imagine the possibilities )

  3. markbialczak says:

    Makes me wonder if Eleanor got the ultimate position by Butterick up Ebenezer, Arto.

    Nicely done. Now you’ve got to tailor your entries to include haberdashery, establish a pattern, if you will.

  4. Dave says:

    Wow, I never made the sewer (one who sews) vs. sewer (underground liquid waste transportation system) connection before! You’re a smart guy, Mr. Arto!

  5. kerbey says:

    From a Chuckerbutty to a Butterick, I can never get enough buttter. Oh, did you see Letterman (was it last night?) just chomping away at sticks of butter? God bless him. Am I the only one who hears Ebenezer and thinks of Scrooge or am I in the 100% majority that maybe thinks that is a bad first name for your bundle of joy? I would steer clear of that and Job. All I know is if I ever get famous and land on the red carpet and stick-thin E! News correspondents ask me who I’m wearing, I’ll say, “Ebenezer Butterick. Duh.”

    • Arto says:

      That is a good response for the red carpet. I might actually just respond with a different funny name to each red carpet inquirer, just to keep ’em on their toes.

      Seconded with perhaps sending an awkward message with the Ebenezer name. Not many of them around these days, I suspect. I’m told there’s a Nigerian pop musician named Ebenezer Obey, which is quite good.

  6. Anne Bonney says:

    Who knew?! Interesting post.

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