Sock Monkey History
Here are some interesting facts about Sock Monkeys, from the fine folks at Wikipedia!
The genesis of the sock monkey came about when the craze of stuffed animals swept across Europe and into America, where it met the burgeoning arts and crafts movement in the United States. Mothers there took to sewing sock monkeys as toys for their children, and sock monkeys soon became a fixture of American nurseries.
The iconic sock monkeys made from Red-Heel socks emerged at the earliest in 1932, the year the Nelson Knitting Company of Rockford, Illinois added the trademarked red heel to its product. In the early years, the red heeled sock was marketed as "De-Tec-Tip". Nelson Knitting was an innovator in the mass market work sock field, creating a loom that enabled socks to be manufactured without seams in the heel. These seamless work socks were so popular that the field was soon flooded with imitators, and socks of this type were known under the generic slang term "Rockfords". Nelson Knitting added the red heel "de-tec-tip" to assure its customers they were buying "original Rockfords". This red heel gave the monkeys their distinctive mouth.
Around 1951 the knitting company discovered their socks were being used to make monkey dolls. In 1953, Nelson Knitting became involved in a dispute over the design patent on the sock monkey pattern. They were awarded the patent in 1955, and began including the pattern with every pair of socks. The sock monkey doll was then used in promotional campaigns celebrating the widespread application of their product by inventive homemakers in the field of monkey manufacturing.
In 1958, the "scrap-craft" magazine Pack-O-Fun published "How to Make Sock Toys", a guide to making different sock animals and dolls with red heeled socks. Frequently cited as being their most popular book ever, this pamphlet went through multiple printings and was being produced in new editions up until the mid-1980s.
The Nelson Knitting Company was acquired in 1992 by Fox River Mills, and the original brown heather, Red Heel monkey sock is still in production by Fox River Mills. A distinctive change in the red heeled sock design distinguishes monkeys made with Fox River Mills socks from Nelson Knitting Company socks. Fox River heels are more uniformly ovular, without the end points that gave Nelson Knitting-made sock monkeys their smiles or frowns.
Sock monkeys remain a popular toy to this day, though not as prevalent as teddy bears. Most vintage sock monkeys found today are no older than the late 1950s, and many date from the 1970s. A number of methods for dating sock monkeys have been debated by collectors, including the shape of the red heel, the tightness of the weave, the style of clothing worn, and other features. However, since sock monkeys are home-made rather than mass-manufactured, it is extremely difficult to accurately date any particular monkey.
Sock monkeys have seen a new growth in popularity in the 21st Century, largely due to efforts by Dee Lindner, the Sock Monkey Lady, who began to spread sock monkey cheer in 2001 in new ways with her sock monkey doll themed creations and photography work, and craft sites like craftster, who held a "Sock Monkey Challenge" in 2006. The methods and materials of sock monkey production remain for the most part unchanged from those of the initial toys, though sock monkeys now come in a greater variety of designs, with socks other than red heels. One change is that polyfill and other synthetic fibers have replaced the old rags, pantyhose, kapok, cotton batting and even dried grain once used for stuffing. Indeed, some modern sock monkeys are not even made from socks at all, but most people have made them from socks.
The continued popularity of the sock monkey encouraged the city of Rockford, Illinois to embrace the doll as a part of its history. In 2005, Midway Village Center in Rockford held its first "Sock Monkey Madness Festival", while simultaneously opening an exhibit highlighting the industrial, legal, and creative history of the Nelson red heel sock and the sock monkey. The festival has since become an annual event and will take place on Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8, in 2009. The event draws nearly 1,500 individuals and continues to grow in attendance each year. An original one-of-a-kind event, Sock Monkey Madness Festival, will return as a unique celebration of Rockford’s past by highlighting its knitting industry and boom of the stuffed sock toy which continues as a large part of America’s pop culture from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and March 8, at Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford.
At the family festival, visitors to Midway Village Museum have the opportunity to use their own talents and imagination to create a Sock Monkey. Attractions at the event also include: an exhibit featuring the local history of the knitting industry, the creation of the sock monkey, sock monkey workshops, book signings, a Miss Sockford talent contest, medical check-ups for sock monkeys and a film festival. The museum store will also sell locally crafted sock monkeys and accessories, and themed out-of-the ordinary merchandise.