Museum Textile Services has received a set of tails bearing the label of Charles P. Pearson, New York. The three-piece wool suit was made for John Brown Lennon in 1899 and now belongs to John's grandson, Matt Lennon. Four generation of men in the Lennon family have worn the tails, and conservation is now in order to preserve and clean this family heirloom.
John Brown Lennon was a second-generation tailor born in Wisconsin. Trained by his father in Hannibal, Missouri, John attended Oberlin College for less than a year and then moved to Denver to try his hand at farming and mining, before returning home to take up the family trade. He married Juna Allen in 1871, and later they had one son. John joined the Journeyman Tailors Union of America (JTU) in 1871 and quickly rose to the union's top post. As General Secretary, he also served as editor of the “The Tailor.” On September 4, 1894 the Great Tailors’ Strike took place in response to pervasive sweatshop conditions. This event reduced the JTU membership by half and forced the JTU headquarters, and the Lennon family, to move to Bloomington, Illinois.
Lennon continued to serve as general secretary of the JTU until 1910. While acting as General Secretary, he held the position of treasurer for the American Federation of Labor from 1890 to 1917. John remained active in his community into his late life, running for the mayor of Bloomington in 1917, likely wearing his New York tails to political events in Illinois. John died in 1923 and left behind a rich history to be unearthed on the occasion of the conservation of his fine suit.
The tails are in fairly good condition, aside from degrading silk in the jacket lining and a large tear in the seat of the pants caused by Matt's son's senior prom antics. MTS will first stabilize the tear and then the suit will be dry cleaned. A new button will be constructed to match a missing silk-covered suit button. The suit will be packed in an archival box and safely stored so that future generations will be able to wear John Brown Lennon's tails.