Duxbak of Utica, New York was at one time recognized as the biggest and most high-quality producers of hunting garments in the United States.
The story begins in 1867 with Quentin McAdam, a businessman, who joined his uncle’s company, Buckingham & Mitchell. By 1879, he had acquired the company and renamed it, Quentin McAdam. The organization experienced a progression of partnerships, associations and buyouts, becoming McAdam & Hart, then McAdam & Rathbun, then Rathbun & Company after McAdams left to establish the Riverside Manufacturing Company of 3-5 Meadow Street, Utica, a maker of ‘Workingman’s Clothes’, mostly overalls. McAdam sold Riverside to his business accomplices in 1899 and founded the Utica Knitting Company, which wound up to be one of the biggest knitting mills in the nation. At the same time, he was also the president of Duxbak.
In 1872, Albert G. Jones began working at Buckingham & Mitchell as a travelling salesperson, where he successfully navigated through the various ownership changes until 1904. McAdam and Jones were among the coordinators of the Commercial Travelers’ Accident Association in 1883, where McAdam held the number 68 and Jones held number 70. Within two years, 100,000 more employees had joined their organization.
Jesse S. Bird, with years of experience and involvement in the manufacturing industry, was appointed to be the superintendent at McAdam’s Riverside Manufacturing Company, a workwear processing plant, where he created the name Duxbak. While newspapers carry different stories of where he derived his inspiration from, all of them seem to point to their canvas garment being impervious to external elements like water off a duck’s back.
In 1885, Harry B. Kenyon became a partner at McAdam and Rathbun, working closely with Jones and McAdam.
In 1903, Harry Kenyon, Albert Jones and Jesse Bird produced their first canvas chasing garments. In 1904, the company formally came to be known as Bird, Kenyon and Jones. Their first processing plant was located at 4 Blandina Street, Utica, New York in a former J.A. Williams building. In their early years, Bird, Kenyon and Jones also produced overalls under a separate label called Padlock, in addition to outing and hunting clothes that were manufactured under the Duxbak and Kamp-It labels.
Some sources claim that it was, in fact, Duxbak who invented the wildly popular ‘hunting jacket’. While this theory has been debunked several times, it is important to note that they were undoubtedly among the first commercial clothing brand to create a high-quality version of the ‘hunting jacket’ with added innovative features that characterize the style you see today. They utilized a fine grade of canvas that was Cravenette processed to handle water repellency. Additionally, they were also early producers of the “outing apparel”, which would later bring forth a whole industry of purpose-built camping, bow hunting and hiking attires. Early hikers and campers in the Adirondack locale would basically wear an old set of garments or suits for their outdoor pursuits. Duxbak saw the requirement for speciality outdoor wear and introduced Kamp-It label, including a broad lineup for ladies.
By 1908, Bird, Kenyon & Jones had outgrown their manufacturing plant and expanded to the old Utica Casket Company warehouse, located at the Noyes Street (formerly known as 5 Hickory Street ). The 3-story building was moved to that site years ago in three segments from an out-of-the-town location to the canal.
In 1916, Jones bought out his business partners, revamping the brand to Utica Duxbak Corp. Going forward, Duxbak became a genuine, privately-owned, family business, which was reorganized to include Ralph McAdam Jones as the President, Wardwell Willoughby Jones as the VP, Albert Grosh Jones as the General Administrator and Treasurer, and Carlton Bucher Jones as the Partner Treasurer and Secretary and Partner Treasurer.
In the next few decades, Duxbak expanded their line to incorporate fleece hunting gear, created under the Utica label, with the fabric sourced from the Newton Woolen Mills of Homer, New York. Organization literature claims they were the first to add cowhide fortification (or leather reinforcement) to hunting pants to offer protection against brush and briers. They were also evidently the first to present camouflage hunting gear.
Duxbak launched a variety of fabric options for the sub-lines of their jackets through the years, including, Mohawk, Montana Cloth, Sahib Poplin, Caprolan Nylon, Mains’le Cloth and Wildcat.
During the WWII, Duxbak contracted to the Army, while strongly promoting their hunting coats as workwear for labourers in airplane plants and shipbuilders. Their hat and hunting coat wearing duck mascot presented in 1954 became their official logo in 1969 and was used right until their closure.
The heavy canvas and overengineered workmanship of Duxbak coats survived many years of substantial use, which led to their eventual downfall. In the 1930s, Duxbak promoted their clothes by hanging heavily worn examples in the display window, including coats and vests that had outlived their original proprietors and were still in usable condition. With no significant fashion trend to contend with, Duxbak coats were often passed down from generation to generation.
Duxbak remained a family owned business for over 80 years, with 3rd generation Gilbert Jones at the helm beginning in 1958. In 1986, facing serious financial problems, Duxbak sold to Holland Apparel of Fitzgerald, Georgia. The company had shrunk to 60 employees by the time the Utica concern was closed, with 35 in manufacturing and 25 in the offices and warehouse. Walls Industries of Texas bought the Duxbak brand name somewhere between 1990 and 1993 and continued production, with Cabelas as a major distributor. Walls was purchased by Williamson Dickie Holding, owners of Dickies workwear, in 2013. In time for the 100th anniversary of the company, Williamson Dickie quietly discontinued the brand without public announcement.
For more than 80 years, Duxbak remained a family owned business with third generation Gilbert Jones taking charge in 1958. In 1986, confronted with serious financial issues, Duxbak sold to Holland Apparel of Fitzgerald, Georgia. The organization had shrunk to only 60 workers when the Utica warehouse was shut, with 25 in the offices, and 35 in manufacturing and distribution. Walls Industries of Texas purchased the Duxbak brand name between 1990 and 1993, continuing production, with Cabelas as the major distributor. In 2013, Walls was bought out by Williamson Dickie Holding, proprietors of Dickies workwear. In time for the 100th commemoration of the Duxbak, Williamson Dickie unobtrusively ended the brand without an open declaration.
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