Edward Ely, Tailor
History of Chicago; Its Commercial and Manufacturing Interests and Industry, By I.D. Guyer, 1862
Before the Atlantic was bridged by steam, and the telegraphs had annihilated distance, the devotees of fashion on this continent were obliged to wait with patience for the fickle winds to waft the old packets to our shores. From the time of Louis XIV., nobody had the audacity to question the right of Frenchmen to rule the fashions of the earth, until within the last few years. Formerly, American gentlemen who were particular in their dress, sent to Paris for coats, vests, pantaloons and cloaks; but we have now the best tailors in the world ; and in Chicago, one of the best on this continent. Mr. Edward Ely, No. 9 Tremont Block, has been artistically educated in the school of fashion for gentlemen’s wear, and has not only made it a business of life, but has been a student of art, in which he has cultivated the most refined taste for clothing “the human form divine.” To him is accredited the “Leader of Fashion,” in that department of trade for Chicago. Having always on hand the best selected and most fashionable stock of English and French goods employing none but French or French-educated workmen devoting his whole time and best energies for the highest development of the art, and benefit of his patrons; it is not a matter of surprise that he should control nearly all the best trade in this branch of industry in Chicago. Nearly all his work is made for regular customers, who are so well suited that they never go anywhere else. One unvarying price, the latest style, the best material, absolute precision, promptness and accuracy, have given to Mr. Ely a rank in his business which has been attained by few.
Beyond question, one of the most satisfactory things to a man of taste and refinement, is a garment that fits the person. The fabric may be coarse, or even thread-bare, yet if fashionably made, and well-fitted, it covers up a multitude of deformities.
Mr. Ely’s stock of Cloths, Cassimeres and Vestings, is selected with great care from importers of French and English goods. He also has one of the most complete assortments of choice Furnishing Goods, where a gentleman may obtain any article required to supply his wardrobe in the most luxurious manner.
The manufacture of Shirts and Shirt Collars, although a distinct, organized and extensive branch of industry, yet Mr. Ely’s arrangements are such that he stands among the best in this department of manufacture, giving constant employment to a large number of persons. These Shirts are well made, and range in price from $24 to $60 per dozen. The manufacture of Shirt Collars and Bosoms, is often a business disconnected from that of Shirts, and has attained a rapid development since the introduction of sewing and stitching machines. Hand-needle work would be totally incapable of meeting the demand. Besides, the machines perform with more uniformity and durability than is possible by hand, and relieves females of the most laborious, unhealthy, and least lucrative^portion of the work.
About ten years ago, Mr. Ely came to this city with a small stock of goods, employing two persons, and occupied a store in the block of low wooden buildings which formerly stood on Dearborn street, opposite the Tremont House, where now rises in architectural beauty, the substantial block known as “Dickey’s Building,” from which place he removed to his present location, No. 9 Tremont Block, where for the last six years he has been making patrons, who rely upon his judgment, and are governed by his suggestions in the style of their dress. Steadily has he pursued his onward course, gathering strength, reputation, friends and fortune, until now he stands at the head of his profession, dictating the fashions of the North-West. His entire stock of rich and fashionable goods are selected with great care, from the best importations, and purchased entirely for cash, which enables him to sell cheap, and for cash only.
Ely Clothing Store
No. 9 Tremont House
Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1864
A very pleasant affair took place on Saturday afternoon and evening, memorable after it class in business circles, the opening of Edward Ely’s new and elegant clothing establishment in King’s new block, on the corner of Washington and Dearborn streets. It was memorable for the number present. Over fifteen hundred visitors were present at various times during the afternoon and evening, all of them delighted and profuse inn their expressions of admiration. These were not only from among the large number of patrons Mr. Ely has secured to himself in his twelve years of successful business but also of others drawn thither on this occasion by the growing impression for some time past that the establishment was to bear features new in Chicago. Nor was the impression an incorrect one, as shown when the labors of the workmen having ended with the finished interior, and the removal having been effected, Mr. Ely then opened the doors and was again “at home” to customers and the trade. His present stand is by far the most elegantly appointed, as it is the most spacious in Chicago, and probably the United States. It is rare that we can indulge in such superlatives, without invidiousness; but Mr. Ely has wrought for this express pupose with such liberality and taste, that we only accord him what his rivals in trade must do—the very first place in respect to appointments and adornment. The store is eighty feet on Washington by fifty on Dearborn. This spacious area is divided up and apportioned under Mr. Ely’s supervision, and bears in every detail the marks of skilled taste. The general wood-work of the interior is solid black walnut, with imitation ebony beadings and carved work, making a pleasing contrast and charming in general effect. The doors, sashes, tables, counters, cabinets, cases, mirror and picture frames, are all in the same style. The space is divided into the General Salesroom, occupying the whole of the Washington street front, with entrances on both streets, and lighted by a costly plate glass front. The several compartments are divided from each other by highly ornamented black walnut partitions, reaching only midway to the lofty ceiling, giving to the eye at once the whole the whole general effect of the superb fresco work of the latter. A very chef d’oeuvre of art, it is the most exquisite in design, coloring and details, we remember to have seen. The large sales room has a full range of plate glass cases along one side, for the exhibition of finished custom work. Directly in the rear, and filling the rear of the beautiful little adjunct Furnishing Department on the Washington street front, is the Counting Room and Cutting Department, with ample tables and appliances for those operations of the tape measure and shears, out of which spring graceful garments. Here Mr. Ely has his own desk so placed as to command, through the entrances, the full sweep of both rooms. Here the four cutters are busy, those first having to do with your measure never cutting cloth, but getting cut the pattern in paper to be duplicated by another workman in the desired fabric. Just adjacent and opening on the three rooms is a beautiful little Dressing Room with mirror and toilet apparatus for the convenience of customers, and adjunct sure to be appreciated by Mr. Ely’s patrons.
In these superb premises, the arrangements and details of which do infinite credit to his taste and judgement, Mr. Ely may well review with honest pride a business career which twelve years ago he began in the little wooden building opposite the Tremont House on Dearborn street, nearly opposite the more noted place of business Mr. Ely occupied for ten years past. Some of the figures of comparison of then and now are instructive. Then Mr. Ely paid about $250 rent. He was his own cutter, salesman and accountant. His growth has been sped by the fact that he did all these things well. Now in his triple store, at a rental of $6,000, he gives employment to four cutters, four clerks, one accountant, two messengers and one porter, with an arm of work people, which, were they all to visit him at once, of any given day, it would look like a run on the adjoining Saving’s Bank.
The new store suggests still other names than his own. The combination of skill he has brought together are his sole credit, though the details belong to others of our Chicago citizens. We have never seen a nearer approach to high art in joiner work, tha the exquisite workmanship in solid black walnut by Messrs. Healy & Aiken. The beautiful show cases, graceful in design and perfect in finish are Daniel Barclay’s.
Murray & Gold have placed their ne plus ultra of Steam Heating apparatus in the very choicest of all locations in Chicago, when, together with Mr. Ely’s store, they complete their work in the new Opera House and the Chamber of Commerce. Jevne & Almini’s deft artists have hung beauty above the whole in frescoed ceiling. H.M. Wilmarth, of 189 Lake street, from his extensive lines of gas fixtures of all designs and rival forms of beauty, has secured just the pattern to Mr. Ely’s express order, to harmonize with the whole of the decorative features and through all the work of planning and arrangement the excellent skill of W.W. Boyington, the architect of the building, has made its influence felt.
It remains only to speak of Mr. Ely’s relations to our city trade. In his former smaller store his attention has been more exclusively given to goods of the very finest class, the secret of his success and wide reputation as a clothier. The prices his goods have borne have been a guaranty of the very highest excellence in grade. He proposes now to extend his lines and meet the wants of all classes of customers. He takes the ground, that he intends to maintain, that he will not be undersold by any house west of New York in goods of similar grade, and the salaried man and the millionaire may each consult their taste and purses from his high piled and extensive stock, sure that what they buy will be the best of class. Mr. Ely has been successful, and he has deserved success, and the extended limits of this reference to his new establishment, are not illy bestowed in the credit due to his instance of the new business era in our city, the expansion of our tradesmen into palatial establishments, at once indicative of individual success, andthe general prosperity of Chicago.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
Chicago Evening Post, December 20, 1867
At short intervals during thye past few years some prominent Chicago house made a change of base to some entirely new and often unsuspected quarter. They have been warned by would-by wiseacres, but the universal verdict is success. The aristocratic quarter of Wabash avenue has at length been reached, and we tale great pleasure in noticing probably the only one whose presence is agreeable to the denizens of that select locality. Mr. Edward Ely, for years past the acknowledged leader of Chicago fashion, has opened an elegant set of clothing parlors at Nos. 3 and 4 Washington street. There are two very strong reasons to account for the wonderful patronage that has been accorded him since his removal. One is that Chicago cannot be well overrated, and the other is that Mr. Ely has always aimed at being the head. He has never put forth the delusive cry of cheapness, but he keeps nothing save the best quality of goods, the most experienced workmen, and as a consequence he always has the best class of customers. A walk through his elegant suit of rooms shows how accurately Mr. Ely has estimated the first class trade of Chicago. Removed from the supposed business centre, he can preserve the elegance that cannot be attained in more frequent frequented parts. Every possible effort, however, has to be made and then it is almost impossible to keep peace with the business. To everyone who wants the best we commend a visit to Ely’s Parlors. Clothing purchased there may depend on, and will always be a satisfaction to the buyer.
Ely’s Clothing Parlors
3-4 Washington Street
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
LEFT:Edward Ely & Company Advertisement, Stranger’s Guide to Chicago, 1873
RIGHT: Chicago Blue Book, 1895
Edward Ely Company Tailoring Establishment Interior
SW corner Wabash and Monroe Streets
NW corner of Wabash & Monroe
Robinson Fire Map
Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1891
EDWARD ELY A GRIP VICTIM.
Death of One of Chicago’s Most Prominent Tailors—A Biographical Sketch.
Edward Ely, for forty years one of Chicago’s most prominent tailors, died yesterday morning at 7:30 at his residence, No. 1921 Indiana avenue.
Mr. Ely’s death was caused by paralysis of the brain, which resulted from an attack of the grip. It was extremely sudden, as three days before he was at his place of business, No. 165 Wabash avenue. Thursday evening he went home complaining of a severe cold and neuralgic pains in the side. Friday and Saturday he was prostrated by a severe attack of the grip, but his condition did not appear at all serious until Sunday night, when the disease attacked his brain. From that time he sank rapidly until his death the next morning.
He was a conspicuous figure among Western tailors. So great was his reputation for skill and taste on his calling that the name “Ely” on a garment was considered the best possible guaranty of its excellence. Though preeminently a home man who shunned clubs and lodges Mr. Ely retained as active interest in the Chicao Merchant Tailors’ Association. Only a week ago he was tendered the Presidency of this association, which he declined. He had consented, however, to read a paper before the association at its next meeting. Years ago he was a member of the Union League club, but he resigned a long time ago.
Mr. Ely was born in 1830 at Huntington, Conn. He early learned the tailor’s trade, and when 23 came to Chicago. This was in the early days of the city when stores and residences jostled each other where the fifteen-story office buildings now stand. He opened a tailoring establishment on Dearborn street, opposite the old Tremont House, in 1853. Later he removed to a store which was then considered palatial under the Tremont House. After remaining here for several years he removed to Washington and Dearborn streets. His next move was to Nos. 2 and 4 Washington street, corner of Michigan avenue. Here the big fire found his business in 1871 and after a few hours’ work left it a heap of smoking ruins. Nothing daunted by the catastrophe, Mr. Ely stocked up a new shop at Wabash avenue and Fourteenth street. Here he remained until the building on the southwest corner of Monroe street and and Wabash avenue was completed. There he established the store in which he labored untiringly until almost the day of his death.
Chicago Chronicle, December 29, 1895
ELY THE TAILOR RESIGNS.
The Edward Ely Company, merchant tailor at 163-165 Wabash avenue, made an assignment yesterday to J. F. Fell. The company conducted one of the largest tailoring establishments in the city. A statement was filed showing that the assets of the company are about $15,000, and the liabilities $25,000. The only cause assigned for the failure is the hard times of the last two years. One of the officers of the company said the business began to suffer more than two years ago on the account of the panic and since then the amount of work decreased, while it has been almost impossible to collect money. The company was all the time under heavy expense for rent and from that and other causes the liabilities increased.