Part IV: Ruth Porter’s Goldmine, The Jackets

Foster and I, buzzed from a combination of excitement and old boot smell, started in on some of the jackets. Mrs. Porter and her colleagues have collected and hung them by decade. As we trudged deeper into the closet, the fabrication grew tougher, heavier. I imagined gearing up for a big hunt, lacing 12″ high Maine Hunting Shoes over heavy rag wool socks;  layering moleskin trousers over my dark red long johns; sporting chambray and wool over a red River Driver shirt and finally a coat fashioned of shearling, leather, and heavy duck canvas – topped off with a fur collar. The thought alone was exhausting.

And then Foster spotted a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.rainbow




This “nugget” as Foster was quick to call it, a women’s jacket from the early seventies, immediately reminded me of a jacket that appeared last year in Japanese publication Free & Easy.


I know Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments and Woolrich Woolen Mills has done something similar in recent years as well. The Rainbow Lake jacket was in pristine condition. It hadn’t been worn. The color, in particular the red and the blue were so lush, technicolor, they popped. As Foster and I stood there, gushing, he whispered, “Try it on.”

“No way!” I hushed back.

“You wanna try it on?” Mrs. Porter, rolling Maine accent, asked from across the room. “G’head.”

Go ahead I did.


I’m not quite a women’s 10, but the jacket was so cool. I would love to see a designer pick this up and run with it.


I couldn’t believe my eyes. One of the most handsome plaids I’ve ever seen, this Maine Hunting Coat from 1917 was a real find. The documentation that accompanied it included a photograph of the owner along with an inscription. Mrs. Porter mentioned that there are photos of L.L. Bean wearing the same coat. Mr. Bean’s personal endorsement was a selling point in their catalogues, and I imagine pictures of him using the products hammered the point home.





Leaving the archives, Foster and I were thoroughly exhausted. He’d taken over 800 photographs, filling his memory cards to capacity. I couldn’t and I still can’t believe our good fortune. The time we were given there was plenty to get a feel for the archive. I would love to go back with a game plan. The folks who organized the visit could not have been more helpful, and Mrs. Ruth Porter in particular could not have been more warm or welcoming. I’ve said to friends it may have been one the best days of my life, and I laugh as I write it down here, not because it isn’t true, but because it’s most likely an understatement.

I look forward to posting more of these “field trips” in the weeks and months to come. If you have suggestions or comments for future excursions, please be in touch. I would love to know your thoughts.

Look this weekend for a round-up of stories and images that did not make it into our posts here at all plaidout and A Restless Transplant.

Be sure to check out Foster’s post from today as I’m sure you WWII buffs will love one of the coats he’s featuring.


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21 responses to “Part IV: Ruth Porter’s Goldmine, The Jackets

  1. JP

    How fun. Great finds, guys. That plaid is amazing- muted and masculine.


  2. Junya Watanabe’s Fall 09 collection is in many ways inspired by such a coat.

  3. sam

    the hunter s. thompson coat

  4. You look slammin in that jacket.

  5. What I like most about these posts are the white gloves everyone has to wear.

  6. In light of your trip, I would interested to see what your top picks would be from Bean’s current offerings.

  7. chopsnyc

    These LL Bean posts have been an absolute pleasure to follow — some of my favorites of the year, by far. Can’t wait for more!

    I was once told that a lot of patchwork garments, especially in the 40’s, were manufactured to be used as salesman samples, using the different colors or fabrics the item was available in for each panel. I’ve seen quite a few old gab flap pocket sportshirts like this over the years, but I bet samples like these from the 70’s were made with a little more “daily wear” use in mind…

  8. I feel like those archives are a magical place full of endless inspiration. Makes me want to move into an arts&crafts style home and go fishing everyday…

  9. What an unequivocally wondrous hunting coat. They are mad not to reproduce it.

  10. not gonna lie… that jacket, white gloves and sinister smile…nightmares tonight.

  11. too lucky you are. too lucky!
    thank you

  12. Yet, another fantastic find! Please tell me you purchased that gem, fit or no fit… I must admit, if I see you wandering about rocking that fine piece of awesomeness, I may have to snuff you and take it!

    Good find, my friend.

  13. drinkinanddronin

    I think you look great in the patch work coat personally..they couldn’t let you take it out on loan?

    The Maine Hunting Coat was right up there too. Incredible as usual.

  14. amazing coat. and of course, free & easy…good enough reason to learn japanese.

  15. Jesse, wow indeed. Thanks for checking in!

    JP, muted, masculine. Good balance. The green was a bit brighter in person than in the photos. Popped.

    Crooked, hook us up with a link to Junya’s jackets.

    Sam, right you are. Breakfast with Hunter!

    ESB, you are too kind. Slammin? That’s awesome!

    Matt, the white gloves made me feel less CSI more Krusty the Klown.

    trip, great idea for a wrap-up post. Be looking for it.

    Chops, that’s right. It was easier to travel with a patchwork jacket and a few samples of the more popular colors available. I would love it if someone could dig up some more history on the old merchants. JP? Anyone?

    Greenjeans, I want to do the exactly same thing. I could see myself really enjoying an archivist position as I neared retirment. I’m prone to reminiscing as is.

    cbarnevald, you should write them. Petition for it. I don’t think the folks at Bean know just what they’re sitting on. Why, if they went through and reproduced the greatest hits of their archive, they could drive the jalopy to Beverly Hills. Move in next door to the Clampetts.

    Speedmaster, why yikes?

    Nick, apologies. Profound ones.

    Mordechai, thank you for checking out the blog!

    TSE, if I could’ve purchased anything from the archive, trust me, that would have been up there. I also loved the old rubber mocs.

    D&D, I didn’t rent it shoes… you can’t board it. It gets upset. It’s hair falls out.

    Enrique, Japanese class starts Monday.

  16. in awe. livin’ the dream…

  17. tex

    wow, now we both want to sleep with max
    keep up the hard ball investigative under cover work

  18. Mr. Fox, indefinitely.

    tex, will do! You too.

  19. Hahaha I love that pic of you in the jacket. Despite the size differential, I think it looks great.

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