Want to buy or sell something? Check the classifieds

The Penney's Marathon

Tukwila

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,393
Location
SW of Antifa Central (PDX)
Hey Fellas,

For a number of years back in the 1990s, before I became interested in Fedoras, I worked as the Company Historian for JCPenney.

It really warms my heart to read some of the glowing comments y'all have written about Marathon hats.

Mr. Penney (James Cash Penney) was a retail genius and a pioneer in the development of the department store. The company grew from a handful of stores in Wyoming and Colorado just after the turn of the 20th century to over 1,550 by the start of WWII. There was a period in the 1920s and 1930s when Penney's was opening a new store in towns big and small on average of every 10 days for a decade! Penney stores were as much a fixture in small and medium sized downtowns as Woolworths, A&P and Piggly Wiggly grocery stores.

Penney Stores revolutionized the way people shopped. Mr Penney based his business on the tenets of The Golden Rule and strove to employ excellent quality sourcing thereby providing Penney's customers with the biggest bang for the buck possible. While his merchandising needed be attractive, Penney knew his bread and butter customers were average working and middle class folks who valued good solid durability most. He believed he could help impact average people's lives by increasing their purchasing power by selling the high quality items at the lowest possible price points. He applied that philosophy from everything to shoes, coats, socks, underwear, towels and linens and just about everything else you can think of.

Keep that in mind today when you find any vintage Penney's merchandise for sale. While some snobs turn their noses up against Penney's, the company has never sold junk in their stores. And this is even more evident when you see the vintage clothes and items that come up for sale on Ebay and other sites. Penney's was targeting Joe and Jane Everybody and their families. They wanted to sell durable that the average guy or gal could wear every day and get their money's worth for their purchase. At the same time, fashion was of great importance.

This was accomplished by knock offs. The company employed buyers to source their product lines. The buyers were responsible for keeping abreast with the latest fashion trends and translating them into Penney's products. tThey then worked with excellent quality suppliers (Lee Hats in the case of the Marathon Line) to develop the best possible merchandise for the years's offerings. Penney's then used their buying power to drive the lowest possible price that was mutually agreeable to both Penney's and the manufacturer. These price advantages were then turned around to the customers. It was a scheme that proved extremely popular.

Unlike higher end clothing stores that needed higher markups to realize a profit ... Penney's profited from volume sales. The result was usually, as this thread shows, wonderful products at bargain prices.

What I find so gratifying, from the comments I've read in The Fedora Lounge, is how well this group appreciates that philosophy as it applies to Marathon Hats. Looking at some of the beautiful hats you guys have collected and the evident esteem for the brand you express, I think Mr. Penney would have been very pleased (though not at all surprised) that his merchandise is still highly valued after to many decades.

One last thing, while I no longer have access to the Penney Archives, I will do some digging to see if I can find some information to help everyone date their finds. I can remember we had a rough logo file that gave date ranges for different brands. I'll see what I can dig up.

One important change was the Company name. You will notice, some logos have the Company name as "J.C. Penney Company" and others just show "Penney's". This name change came about in the 1950s as the company started opening up stores in suburban shopping centers. I don't know the exact year off hand, but it should come in handy for dating hats.

Now that I am interested, myself, in Marathon Hats, I'm hoping to find one of these beauties for myself. I'm a 7/14. lol :)

Meanwhile, I hope you take a look at this short video about the history of J. C. Penney to even better appreciate some of the wonderful products that came from the company.

I would love to see what you can come up with! I have 2 Marathon hats and I'm guessing one is from the 50s and the other from the 40s. Great hats!
 

Jerry Probst

One of the Regulars
Messages
109
I would love to see what you can come up with! I have 2 Marathon hats and I'm guessing one is from the 50s and the other from the 40s. Great hats!
I'm working on it. We had a list of Company logos with the dates they were used. Had I realized I would want that information years later, I would have made a copy and kept it. I'm checking with a friend to see if she has one. I'll get back to you.
 

Jerry Probst

One of the Regulars
Messages
109
I would love to see what you can come up with! I have 2 Marathon hats and I'm guessing one is from the 50s and the other from the 40s. Great hats!
I found this from a quick web search. These are JCPenney Company Logos from 1902-1971. Unfortunately it's a low quality reproduction and does not give dates. However, that being said, the logos are in chronological order. I will see if I can come up with a better resolution image and try to get some dates to accompany the logos.

If memory serves correctly, the shift from using the name J.C. Penney to just using Penney's happened sometime in the 1950s.

get
jc-penneys-logos-through-1971 (1).jpg
 

Jerry Probst

One of the Regulars
Messages
109
I have a 1963 JCPenney Catalog. This was the first year the company issued a catalog. Men's hat were shown on several pages as accessories to coats and outerwear. There were two pages devoted to Men's hats: one showed fur felt hats the other showed various caps and winter wear.

I snapped a shot of the catalog page as well as close ups of the individual hats and descriptions.

I also have a 1966 Penney's Fall/Winter catalog. By that time, the company had discontinued fur felt hats and sold only caps for rain and winter wear. The vast majority of male models in the catalog were bare headed by 1966.

I seem to remember reading that the Lee Hat Company had a fire sometime in the early 1960s. I wonder of the fire combined with declining hat sales hastened the Company's decision to discontinue the Marathon line of Fur Felt Hats.

JerryIMG_9679.jpg IMG_9683.jpg IMG_9684.jpg IMG_9685.jpg IMG_9682.jpg IMG_9681.jpg IMG_9680.jpg
 
Last edited:
Messages
15,423
Location
Nederland
This one was posted by @M Hatman earlier and I'm very pleased it's now part of my collection. The quality of this one is substantially better than my other Marathon and this one I wouldn't qualify as a workhorse kind of hat.
Bound brim at 6,7cm and crown 10,5cm at the center dent. I'll wear it without the feather (don't know if that was original to the hat). I'm thinking fifties. My thanks again to Mark for trading this with me.
penney_01.jpg
penney_02.jpg
penney_03.jpg
penney_04.jpg
penney_06.jpg
penney_07.jpg
penney_08.jpg
penney_09.jpg
penney_10.jpg
penney_11.jpg
 

Tukwila

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,393
Location
SW of Antifa Central (PDX)
This one was posted by @M Hatman earlier and I'm very pleased it's now part of my collection. The quality of this one is substantially better than my other Marathon and this one I wouldn't qualify as a workhorse kind of hat.
Bound brim at 6,7cm and crown 10,5cm at the center dent. I'll wear it without the feather (don't know if that was original to the hat). I'm thinking fifties. My thanks again to Mark for trading this with me.
View attachment 156687 View attachment 156688 View attachment 156689 View attachment 156690 View attachment 156691 View attachment 156692 View attachment 156693 View attachment 156694 View attachment 156695 View attachment 156696
That's a beaut! Really nice. 50s is my guess, too.
 
Messages
15,423
Location
Nederland
Brown longer haired fedora.

ab817a6e04fd403722828b350da9bf3a.jpg


45f16d9f0a2d3f91d54172dc6e82999c.jpg


2428b49df3b1417a08c2cbab925d39c4.jpg


dd9085379fb1bc86295a17f685adb4ef.jpg


6756f46f83ef09d0f8efeb90c70a6add.jpg


d8ba84209963b0115faaa395e22941e8.jpg


154470d6d3147539bf4d0bcc15d1b128.jpg


3e16a1f08194cd88ad148982bc3e5fda.jpg


2b5409744cea97042f73dbaa43a220d1.jpg


2e68b7bf6949669d1125780e64b95085.jpg

M
c479462fb1768c2f9fb666622381d96e.jpg


44d8edbcbfa63e2f6139e695ba58679e.jpg


It’s in wonderful condition and I really like the longer haired finishes. The felt is easily dry creased and holds its shape well. The sweatband is in good condition too. 5 1/2 inch open crown and 2 1/4 inch brim.
Very nice, Brent. On a shorter brim that cord would make it look like a Trachten hat, but the wider brim and full crown can handle it. Lovely.
 
Messages
17,435
Location
Funkytown, USA
Picked up off the Bay. J. C. Penney Marathon. 5 3/4" OC, 2 5/8" brim, 1 1/2" ribbon. Very nice felt. The photos from the auction looked worse than what showed up at the door. I cleaned up a vedigris stain on the underside, which turned out fairly successful. I have steamed this one out, but haven't finished shaping it yet.

Tan Marathon 6.jpg
Tan Marathon 5.jpg
Tan Marathon 4.jpg
Tan Marathon 3.jpg
Tan Marathon 2.jpg
Tan Marathon 1.jpg
 
Messages
15,423
Location
Nederland
Picked up off the Bay. J. C. Penney Marathon. 5 3/4" OC, 2 5/8" brim, 1 1/2" ribbon. Very nice felt. The photos from the auction looked worse than what showed up at the door. I cleaned up a vedigris stain on the underside, which turned out fairly successful. I have steamed this one out, but haven't finished shaping it yet.

View attachment 184738 View attachment 184737 View attachment 184736 View attachment 184735 View attachment 184734 View attachment 184733
Very nice, Jim. There can be quite a bit of difference between these marathons in my (limited) experience.
 
Not much to look at ... but it's the only one I have. This came along in an auction lot. I was after the other hat, but am happy to have this one as well!

As received. Pretty dirty, stained (including the ribbon) and a few moth nips.

img_9585-jpg.287628


img_9586-jpg.287629


img_9587-jpg.287630


img_9588-jpg.287631


Gave it a bath and a dip in some naphtha. Left it out to dry, but it froze instead.

d30cbd66-25d4-49f5-9948-856e8ecb9d7e-jpeg.297647


8b4eb0e3-bf2f-4e68-af91-d9f7ac723dd0-jpeg.297651


Took this new “farm hat” out for a long walk this afternoon in order to put my own sweat stains on it.

c0ccc763-b6d7-47bf-9418-88db70176e1b-jpeg.297649


c209f99a-d63c-4009-83a0-8fb0cb46fc3d-jpeg.297648
 

Forum statistics

Threads
101,233
Messages
2,873,005
Members
48,786
Latest member
kea2364b
Top