Sandburg's Hometown

April 20, 2015

By Wilbur's Shirt & Collar Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Celluloid Collars

by Barbara Schock

The detachable shirt collar was invented in 1827 by a housewife in Troy, New York. Her name was Hannah Lord Montague. Her idea caught on and became a commonplace during the rest of the nineteenth century. Shirts were expensive and time-consuming to sew. The collar was the most likely part of the garment to wear and become soiled. Having a changeable collar solved a problem for many young men and their wives or mothers.

Detachable collars could be made of linen, cotton, paper or fabric laminated to paper. Linen and cotton collars were heavily starched to make them stiff. They were held in place by studs or buttons. Styles came in stand up, lay down or wing tip. Detachable cuffs were also available.

After 1870, collars were made of celluloid. During the 1890s and into the twentieth century more and more young men and women began to work as clerks, sales people and bookkeepers. They were expected to present a neat appearance while on the job. Wearing celluloid collars helped them achieve it.

Celluloid was invented in 1870. It is naturally transparent and flexible. The basic ingredients for making celluloid are nitrocellulose and camphor. Celluloid is considered the first thermoplastic as it could be molded and shaped into a variety of products. The disadvantage of the product was that it burns at 150 degrees F. In other words, it is very flammable.

Celluloid was first used as an ivory replacement. It could be made to look like natural materials. Jewelry, hair accessories, picture frames, buttons, buckles, fountain pens and dolls were some of the many items manufactured from it. The Seth Thomas mantel clocks even had “marble” columns made of celluloid as part of the decoration.

In the 1880s, ping pong, a parlor game from England, used celluloid for the “bouncy” little balls. They are still made of the same material today. Guitar picks and some musical instruments are made from celluloid.

The invention of moving picture film was made possible through the use of celluloid. There were two disadvantages: the film could burn because of the intense heat of the projector bulb and the chemicals in the film disintegrated over time. That is why so many early movies no longer exist. In 1888 George Eastman was able to use celluloid film in his first camera. It led to the use of cameras by ordinary people and the collecting of snapshots by the millions in photograph albums.

While attending Lombard College Carl Sandburg and his friend, Fred Dickinson, sold celluloid collars to the other male students. They even wore the collars themselves, partly as a convenience and partly as a sales device. They had the agency for only a short time. They didn't sell many of the collars, probably because they were uncomfortable to wear.

Interestingly, it could be claimed that wearing a celluloid collar, in addition to being uncomfortable, was hazardous to the health. A Boston streetcar motorman was subjected to attacks of dizziness and fainting. After being examined at Massachusetts General Hospital, it was determined that when he turned his head, his celluloid collar pressed against his carotid sinus and caused the attacks.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 20, 2015 Celluloid Collars
April 13, 2015 Asparagus
April 6, 2015  Mayor John C. Stewart 
March 30, 2015 Basket Ball
March 23, 2015 The Courthouse of Knox County, IL
March 16, 2015

“Trifles make perfection...”

March 9, 2015 Uncle Tom's Cabin
March 2, 2015 Martha Sandburg Goldstone
February 23, 2015 Devotion
February 16, 2015  Gumbiner's Pawn Shop 
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013 Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013 Lace Curtains
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity