The name "Spirella" refers to the Spirella Stay which was invented by Marcus Merritt Beeman in 1904 and made from tightly twisted and flattened coils of wire. The founders were Beeman, William Wallace Kincaid and Jesse Homan Pardee. The Spirella name was used by the Spirella Corset Company Inc that was founded in 1904 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA. It was founded on a patent of dressbone, for bustles, but started corset manufacture in 1904. The company manufactured made-to-measure corsets. Benefits for the company's employees included travel, education and health care.
At its height the company had factories in the USA (Meadville, Pennsylvania, New Haven, Connecticut, and Lincoln Nebraska ), in Canada (in 1910), in the UK (in 1910; from 1912 in the Spirella Building in Letchworth) and in Sweden (Malmö) in 1920. Their flagship location was Spirella House on Oxford Circus, London. A factory built in 1910 in Niagara falls, Ontario, eventually became the premises of the Bird Kingdom Tropical Adventure.
The UK subsidiary was The Spirella Company of Great Britain. Spirella co-founder and entrepreneur William Wallace Kincaid commissioned the architect Cecil Hignett to design a state-of-the art factory of architectural beauty. The design included embellishments in Arts & Crafts styling. This factory, the Spirella Building, was built and expanded in stages between 1912 and 1920.
During World War II, the Irvin Airchute Company expanded its production of parachutes into the Spirella Building and women working for the British Tabulating Machine Company secretly produced components for the decoding machines called Bombes.
After an ill-fated attempt to market garments of "Stub-tex", a form of Gore-Tex being used under licence from W. L. Gore & Associates, the company was sold in 1985 to the rival Spencers of Banbury and finally closed in July 1989.
The Spirella Building provided the perfect environment for his workers to be happy, contented and highly productive, and was worthy of being called "The Factory of Beauty". In 1979 it was Grade ll* listed. The Letchworth Garden City Foundation bought the neglected building in 1995, restored the interior and re-opened it for leased office accommodation.
Humorous and critical views
From its outset, the Spirella companies, activities and garments have attracted humorous and/or critical attention, for instance: · Castle Corset cartoon · Advertisement for the Spirella War Savings Association · An award winning critique of Women's Corsetry 1850-1989 by Rachael Head
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- "Exhibitions". Garden City Collection. Letchworth Garden City heritage Foundation. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- "Notes on the European Offices". History of Spirella. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- Julie A. Lauffenberger, "Baleen in Museum Collections", Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (1993), Volume 32, Number 3 (pp. 213 to 230)
- "HM1194". Historical marker Project. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- The Ladies' Home Journal. Curtis Publishing Company. 1917-03-01. p. 65.
- "A Potted History of Spirella House". NJC (The National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry). 5th Floor, Spirella House, 266-270 Regent Street, London, W1B 3AH: National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
In 1959 a Spirella shop assistant is reported to have described three brassiere sizes “The Totalitarian – designed for suppression of the masses; the Salvation Army – to uplift the fallen; and the Political Agitator – to make mountains out of molehills”.
- "Bird Kingdom A Tropical Adventure". Bird Kingdom. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- McEvoy, Louise. "Corsets and Codes at Spirella in Letchworth". Hertfordshire Life. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- "The Spirella Corsetière". Ivy Leaf's ~Archives. Ivy Leaf. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- Historic England. "Details from image database (161840)". Images of England.
- "History of the Spirella Building". Building Futures Blog. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- "Castle Corset cartoon". Corsetiers.net. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
- "Spirella-ites!: an advertisement for the Spirella War Savings Association". Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation. Garden City Collection. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
- Head, Rachael. Women’s Corsetry 1850-1989: A Case Study into the Spirella Corset Company of Great Britain' in 2006/7. Leeds University.
- Photograph of Spirella workers in Meadville, Pennsylvania
- The Ballroom of Spirella's factory in Letchworth, England
- Corsetiere.net's History of Spirella
- The Textile Society's Report of an exhibition in 2013 on 'Spirella Company - Corset Makers & Corsetieres'
- The Spirella_Manual (1913)]
- The Garden City Collection, Spirella theme of images
- Historical photos of the Lincoln Nebraska location Nebraska Memories