A Brief History of The Stronghold

The Stronghold brand was founded in Los Angeles in 1895, eight years before the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk. The population of Los Angeles was only 65,000 people at the time.

The parent company was called "Brownstein, Newmark and Louis," after the three founders: Daniel Brownstein, P. A. Newmark, and Henry W. Louis. These men were pioneers of the apparel industry in Los Angeles, and went on to found the Los Angeles Merchants and Manufacturers Association. In 1911, after Newmark left the business, the company incorporated under the name "Brownstein-Louis Company."

The Stronghold Brownstein Newmark & Louis Overalls Label 1897
The Stronghold Appeal For Labor 1912
LA Times Article 1938

The Stronghold was the first branded apparel to be manufactured in Los Angeles and was the only maker of denim and canvas work wear in Los Angeles before WWII. By 1912, The Stronghold employed 1,000 workers in downtown Los Angeles, making them the largest manufacturer of clothing in Southern California. They made clothing for men, woman, and children and introduced casual clothing categories including outerwear, dress shirts and trousers along with their well known jeans and overalls.

The Stronghold Calendar 1919

In 1908, the mascot of The Stronghold was first introduced in advertisements. His name was "Stronghold Steve" and he would appear on labels and buttons used on Stronghold workwear in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

Stronghold Steve Button 2
Stronghold Steve Overalls Label

In the early 20th century, there were not yet any national clothing brands. Each region had its major supplier of workwear for local customers. The fact that The Stronghold was the local Los Angeles brand became significant when Los Angeles became home to the burgeoning movie business in the 1920s.


In 1916, the first official endorsement of The Stronghold brand was made by Charlie Chaplin. At that time, he was the most famous film star in the world.

The advertisement shows Chaplin's leading lady, Edna Purviance, wearing The Stronghold bib-overalls. Chaplin is asking her, "Are they?" and she replies "Sure, they're Strongholds."

This is the first time in history that a denim garment was shown on a woman in an advertisement of any kind.

The Stronghold Charlie Chaplin Edna Purviance 1916

The majority of workwear seen in early Hollywood films was manufactured by The Stronghold. For any scene that required any sort of workwear, costume designers would go directly to The Stronghold factory. This meant that most pre-WWII Hollywood films that featured cowboys, railroad workers, construction workers, explorers, farmers, miners, or prison inmates; also featured The Stronghold clothing.

In 1936, Charlie Chaplin wore The Stronghold hickory striped bib-overalls in one of his most memorable movies, Modern Times. These very same bib-alls are now in the permanent collection of LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Stronghold Charlie Chaplin Modern Times 1

In 1940, Henry Fonda wore The Stronghold bib-overalls in his portrayal of Tom Joad in the movie adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath.

The Stronghold Henry Fonda Grapes Of Wrath 1940
The Stronghold Carpenter Magazine 1949

The original Stronghold company closed its doors in the late 1950s. Fifty years later, a vintage clothing collector showed the Stronghold's soon-to-be new owner what remained of a pair of Stronghold jeans that had been found in an abandoned silver mine in California's Mojave desert.

Because of the fascinating circumstances of the garment's recovery and because of the graphic strength of the brand name and logo on the label, the vintage remnant of The Stronghold jeans was purchased from the collector. Thus began extensive research into the history of the brand and the gradual acquisition of a collection of vintage Stronghold garments, advertisements, and other archival materials.

The Stronghold Advertising Stamps

The Stronghold brand was relaunched in 2004. The Stronghold garments are again being manufactured in Los Angeles at The Stronghold factory with the same methods of construction as the original garments. All of the rivets, washers, buttons, labels, and fabrics are authentic reproductions of original items, based on the company's archives.

The tronghold Letter 1904 Postmark

Join The Stronghold Email List

You'll be the first to find out about new heritage brands, special pre-sale offerings, and exclusive & limited edition products.