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Tailoring was a proud craft In Hannibal during 19th Century

Olof P. Palmer. Photo posted on by tcarls51 who originally shared this on 21 Dec 2017


The 19th Century was an era recognized for the evolution of the garment industry.

During the last half of the century, clothing production slowly evolved from custom made to mass production.

The once proud craft of tailoring evolved as well, as cheap labor became favored over quality craftsmanship.

In 1875, Hannibal’s population consisted of an estimated 25 tailors, or craftsmen who made men’s clothing. A number were first-generation immigrants to American, bringing with them their craft in the pursuit of economic independence.

Olof Pehrsson Palmer was among those young and industrious men, emigrating from Sweden in 1872, and first settling in New York City. By the fall of 1875 he was living in Hannibal and working for John A. Johnson, merchant tailor, who was conducting business at 205 Center Street (later 209 Center.)

The role of a merchant tailor, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a custom tailor who owns his business and supplies the fabric he uses.

Olof Palmer was considered to be a “cutter,” or a craftsman who pins a pattern to fabric and cuts the pieces of the fabric, which then are sewn into clothing. He was 19-years-old when he came to America from Sweden, and first worked in New York City’s garment industry before moving west to Hannibal.

Olof Palmer married Julia Augusta First River in Hannibal on Jan. 27, 1875. The ceremony was conducted by C.E. Bode, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church. While living in Hannibal, the Palmers had three children: Ernest O. Palmer, born in November 1876; Gustaf R. Palmer, born in June 1880; and Ruby C. Palmer, born in April 1883.

Olof Palmer continued to work for J.A. Johnson through the 1880s, before relocating his family to Denver, Colo., during the 1890s.

Palmer in Denver

Upon arriving in Denver in 1890, Olof Palmer went to work for John A. Lennon and Co., Merchant Tailors. Olof was featured in an advertisement for the Lennon company in the Nov. 10, 1890 edition of the Denver Rocky Mountain News: “Merchant Tailors, 420 Sixteenth St. Carry one of the largest and finest stocks of Woolens and Tailors’ Trimming in the west. They respectfully request your inspection. The cutting department is in the charge of Olof P. Palmer, from New York City.”

Ultimately Olof opened his own business in Denver, the Palmer Tailoring Co., located at 438 16th St., Denver.

Family loss

By 1907, Olof Palmer had relocated to San Francisco.

Julia Palmer – wife of Olof – died circa 1898, and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, as is their daughter, Ruby Palmer Craig, who died April 6, 1915.

In California, the Swedish-born Palmer experienced a financial reversal in 1908, resulting in a bankruptcy claim.

Having been naturalized as a citizen of the United States in 1882 while living in Hannibal, Olof Palmer registered as a voter in California in 1913. He was living at 1024 Gough St., San Francisco, and registered as a Socialist. He was working for F.C. Thiele, a tailor, at the time.

He died Dec. 4, 1917, at Alameda, Calif., at the age of 61. He was buried at the Chapel of the Chimes Columbarium and Mausoleum Oakland, Alameda County, California.

Other Hannibal tailors

Here is a partial listing of Hannibal tailors, circa 1875, as including in the Hannibal City Directory.

Thomas D. Wilson, tailor, bds SE corner Godfrey and Center

Lindsey C. Voiers, tailor for P. Tucker, res ss Summit N. Sixth

Edwin R. Turner, tailor, W.L. Rand, bds 120 Main

John D. Valbracht, tailor, J. Feeny, bds 302 Third

Edwin R. Turner, tailor, W.L. Rand, bds 120 Main

Philip Tucker, merchant tailor, 222 North Main, res ES Fifth n Center

Samuel Swanson, tailor, res NS Bird W Seventh

Smithers, tailor bds Beckwith House SH

Christopher Rivers, tailor, J.A. Johnson, resides 312 Main

A.W. Ferdinand Rehlaender, tailor J.A. Johnson, res WS 8th S Church

William L. Rand, merchant tailor and gents’ furnishing goods; sw corner Broadway and Main, res NS Hill west of Fifth

Olof Palmer, tailor for J.A. Johnson

John E. Morgan, tailor, 415 Broadway, res same

Wenzel Martinowsky, tailor, 108 Bird, res same

William T. Massie, tailor for P. Tucker, res NW corner 7th and Summit Ave

John A. Johnson, merchant tailor, 205 Centre, res 102 Seventh

John Feeny, merchant tailor 204 Broadway, Res 302 N. Third

John Fenton, tailor, bds Mississippi House

John Finton, tailor, bds NE corner Third and North

Charles Essenbach, tailor, bds Grove House

William Corcoran, tailor, res ws Gooche’s alley, near Palmyra Ave.

William Corcoran, tailor, res ES Pleasant

Henry Boecher, tailor, Arthur and Powell

Arthur and Powell (Eugene Arthur, Hugo Powell) merchant tailors and clothiers, se corner Main and Centre

Merchant tailors

John A. Johnson, previously mentioned, was at 24-year-old Kentucky native in Hannibal during 1850, living with and most likely working for Richard B. Thompson, another Hannibal tailor. (Richard B. Thompson, born in 1816, came to Hannibal from Maryland, and was – in 1860 – working as a merchant tailor.)

John A. Johnson’s family included son A. Sidney Johnson, a long-time Hannibal jeweler and pharmacist. In 1940, A. Sidney Johnson was working as a pharmacist for Fred Bryan’s drug store located at 509 Union.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014. In retirement, she researches and writes narratives regarding the people who contributed to this region’s development. Her collective work can be found on her website,

This 1885 Sanborn map shows the location of the J.A. Johnson Merchant Tailoring shop where Olof Palmer worked during the 1880s. ILLUSTRATION MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

Julia Palmer. Photo posted on by tcarls51 who originally shared this on 21 Dec 2017

It is believed that this is the building that housed the J.A. Johnson Merchant Tailoring shop where Olof Palmer worked during the 1880s. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

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