Interior of the Watch the Wear Overall Co.

Courtesy of the Historical Society of Cheshire County

The interior of the Watch the Wear Overall Co. in Keene, circa 1928.

Did you know that in the mid-1920s the largest plant in New England for the manufacture of overalls and work pants was located in Keene?

The Watch the Wear Overall Co. was established in Brattleboro as the Brattleboro Overall Co. in 1900. In 1905, the company moved to Norway Avenue in Keene. The name was changed to Watch the Wear in 1925, by which time it had become the largest firm of its type in New England.

In 1928, the company proudly announced that the firm employed 100 people, and that most of them were women who worked “44 hours a week and received a substantial wage.”

The materials used in the company’s line of pants and overalls included denims, ducks, twills, drills, moleskins, cottonades, khakis and corduroys. The pants were made in white, blue, black, gray, brown, khaki and stripes, and in all weights to accommodate nearly every trade and occupation.

From its two Boston warehouses, the Watch the Wear Co. supplied the largest dealer in work clothes and the second largest chain of men’s clothing stores in the country.

Shortly after this peak of activities in the 1920s, the company was sold to Keene businessman and clothing store owner Henry Swan in 1933. Swan retired within a year or two, and the Watch the Wear Overall Co. closed its doors permanently.

Alan F. Rumrill is executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, which has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the region since 1927. It’s on Main Street. To learn more about its public programs and collections, visit