By Adrienne Perron
From our January 2023 issue
Fifteen-year-old Chester Greenwood comes in from ice skating, ears freezing, looking for a better solution than a scarf around his head. He asks his grandma to sew beaver fur onto some looped bits of wire. Four years later, he gets a patent, and by 1883, Greenwood’s Ear Protector Factory produces 30,000 earmuffs per year.
Using lightweight, water-resistant material, York native Margaret Knight — the “Lady Edison” who also developed the modern, flat-bottomed paper bag — invents a wearable shield for skirts and dresses, to “afford perfect protection . . . against rain, snow, and dirt.”
Mainer explorers Robert and Josephine Peary help introduce parkas, or anoraks, to the non-Inuit world, often photographed in the coats, pants, mittens, and boots made for them by Inuit women from the fur of Arctic animals — particularly after Robert Peary and Matthew Henson purportedly become the first to reach the North Pole, in ’09.
G.H.Bass, in Wilton, develops a special cold-weather boot for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, which fought in the Alps in World War II. Variations on the footwear would later outfit Olympic ski teams.
Massachusetts textile company Malden Mills opens a knitting mill in Bridgton to make fabric from new synthetic yarns. The Bridgton mill will become crucial in feeding the market for polar fleece when Malden debuts the game-changing synthetic fiber at the turn of the ’80s.
L.L.Bean releases its first insulated boot, lined with shearling. Today, classic Bean Boots lined with shearling, Gore-Tex, flannel, and more are hugely popular.
Bethel residents knit a 120-foot scarf for the town’s world-record-setting 113-foot snowman “Angus, King of the Mountain.” (In 2008, when Bethelites break the record again, with 122-foot “Olympia Snowwoman,” they affix to her a heart-shaped piece of Angus’s scarf.)
The Maine State Museum displays one of only two known surviving capotes, men’s hooded blanket-coats worn in winter among Native peoples in what are now Maine and the Maritimes. The coat was made around 1842, likely by a Maliseet woman.
Eleven-year-old Olivia Marion, of Hiram, uses carbon-fiber heat tape developed by NASA to make a prototype of a solar-heated hat. She’s chosen as a finalist in a NASA competition for students finding new applications for space tech.
After too many cold ski-lift rides, Windham’s Cathy Streifel creates “snowskants,” fleece-lined pants with an attached soft-shell skirt for extra warmth and fashionable flair.
Tempshield, maker of high-tech protective gear for handling extremely cold materials in labs and industrial settings, expands its Trenton operation by 10,000 square feet, in part to meet demand for its new water-resistant, fleece-lined consumer mitts, called Mainers.