Ferro Glove Company
Virginia and Giani Baptiste's son Louis Ferrogiaro founded the Ferro Glove Co in 1926. He and his son John Ferrogiaro operated the glove factory on B Street until John's death in 2004. Ferro Glove Co manufactured primarily high-end western working gloves.
Sale offers soft, stylish reminders of city's past
December 02, 2009 12:00 am • By KEVIN COURTNEYRegister Staff Writer
Tools from Napa’s century of glove making — an industry that is no more — will be sold off Saturday morning to history buffs, antique collectors and maybe a few gardeners.
The artifacts, including ancient Singer sewing machines, steel mauls , metal dies and assorted gloves, plain and fancy, are being sold from the home of the late John Ferrogiaro, Napa’s last old-time glove maker.
When Ferrogiaro died in 2004 at age 88, he left behind a ramshackle B Street glove factory started by his father in 1926.
His nephew, John Callan, tore down the factory a few years later after rescuing the tools of the trade and boxes of leather gloves — some with mates, some without. Everything goes on sale at bargain prices from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Ferrogiaro home, 1331 B St. The proceeds will be shared by two history-minded organizations: the Napa County Historical Society and Napa County Landmarks. A few glove-making tools will be culled by the historical society for preservation and public displays.
The Ferrogiaro glove factory was an industrial time capsule that never fully automated, Callan said. Until the end, workers using heavy mauls pounded dies resembling industrial cookie cutters. With a single swing of a maul, the makings of a glove was cut from sheets of deer, goat and cow leather.
What’s a die worth? What would someone pay for a battered maul with a handle wrapped in leather?
During a pre-sale inspection, Marie Dolcini, landmarks’ executive director, suggested $2 to $5.
A dozen ancient sewing machines, grime-covered and not all working, may go for $10 to $20. “They would make a nice display piece,” Dolcini said.
Pairs of gloves, some carrying the stamp “Genuine Napa tanned buckskin moccasin,” will carry similar prices. Hand-crafted singletons in need of a mate go for less.
“I know what my father is getting for Christmas,” said Jules Evans-White, landmarks’ research coordinator, eyeing the mauls and dies. “My dad just loves antiques. He likes the idea of other occupations that people don’t do anymore.”
Napa once had a cluster of industries devoted to the leather trades. Tanneries on the river produced leather for Conklin Glove, California Glove, Napa Glove and Ferro Glove.
Napa Glove remains as an importer of gloves. Ferro Glove, which once made 60,000 gloves a year, continued into the early 1990s with John Ferrogiaro working alone to fill custom orders.
“They were roaring through the Depression,” said Jean Smrekar, Ferrogiaro’s youngest sister. “They had a nice deerskin glove called The Rider,” she said. “They sold a lot of them in Texas.”
Ferro Glove made work gloves, children’s gloves, silk-lined ladies gloves, gloves for horse riding and gloves for driving.
An early brochure has an image of Ferro’s “moccasin-tipped gloves” on the cover, with the promise of “up-to-date styling, top quality, comfortable fingers.” Other gloves were made of “pearl horsehide” and “Napa Tan Kangaroo,” although no kangaroos died to make those gloves. “That was just a name,” Smrekar said.
Ferro Glove once employed several dozen workers. “It was hard to find good glove makers,” Smrekar said. “He’d train them and then they’d leave and go to Napa Glove for more money,” she said. Many former Ferro Glove employees or their descendants must still live in Napa, Callan said. Perhaps they would like to buy a memento from glove-making days on B Street, he said.
Before offering his uncle’s tools to Napa County Landmarks and the Napa County Historical Society, Callan said he went online to see if there was a national market for such artifacts. He didn’t find much interest in early-day glove making. “Most people don’t even know it exists,” he said.
Samples of some of the items that will be sold Saturday can be previewed at the Goodman Library, 1219 First St., afternoons from noon to 4 p.m.
By Times-Herald staff report
Posted: 11/28/09, 12:01 AM PST | Updated: on 11/28/2009
NAPA -- Some of this city's history goes on sale next month to benefit the Napa County Historical Society and Napa County Landmarks.
Equipment, tools and materials from the former Ferro Glove Factory will be sold from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 5 at 1331 B St., the historic home of Ferro Glove's founders and owners.
Glove making is among Napa's pioneer industries, thriving here in the late 19th and early
20th centuries when Napa tanneries produced the essential raw materials, event organizers said.
At its peak, the local industry sustained hundreds of workers and competing factories -- Conklin Glove, California Glove, Napa Glove and Ferro Glove, they said.
Louie Ferrogiaro founded Ferro Glove at
1630 B St. in 1926.
After 73 years, Louie's son John Ferrogiaro took over the business, which, in its heyday, produced men's work gloves, driving gloves and roping gloves.
After the factory closed, Ferrogiaro kept the business going as a one-man shop in his B Street home's basement, which is filled with hundreds of leather-cutting dies, die-striking mauls, high-quality leather and suede remnants, according to the announcement. Also, dozens of antique Singer sewing machines, boxes of unsold or returned gloves and other equipment and supplies used over the past 80 years, remain and all of it will be for sale at the one-time event, according to the announcement.
Only cash or checks will be accepted and all proceeds benefit the Napa County Historical Society and Napa County Landmarks.
Some samples can be viewed in advance at the Goodman Library, 1219 First Street, in the Society's new Portals to the Past: Work & Play in Napa County exhibition (open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday)
For more information call, 224-1739 or 255-1836.
The Napa County Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, preservation and presentation of the people and history of Napa County and its place in California history. The Goodman Library is the oldest continuously operating library facility in California, according to the announcement.
For more information visit www.napahistory.org.