My friend Al Hoff in Pittsburgh shared this with me today, and I thought that I’d pay it forward by sharing it with you. According to Al, who you might know better as the woman behind the zine empire once known as Thrift Score, the photo was snapped in a Reading, PA art space called GoggleWorks. Years ago, it would seem, the building housing the gallery used to be home to the Willson Safety factory, which produced helmets, goggles, and other forms of safety gear, like the heavy-duty plastic boob shield you see above.
I’ve been spending the last hour, looking for information on the Saf-t-Bra… hopeful of finding at least one article about a nipple that was saved in a bottling line mishap… but, so far, I’ve been unsuccessful. I can’t even determine what became of the company. I’ve found one relatively recent reference to a Wilson Safety Products in Reading, but I haven’t been able to substantiate it. I’m thinking about sending a letter to the address tomorrow on official MarkMaynard.com letterhead, asking form more information on the Saf-t-Bra. If I get a response, I’ll print it here. (I know it’s likely that none of you care, but the international oil services corporation Schlumberger also seems to have a Wilson Safety subsidy, so I suppose that the company could have been acquired at some point. Or, it could be a different company altogether. Regardless, my guess is that all of their products are now made in China… I’d like to stop looking for clues as to what happened to the Reading company, but my OCD won’t let me.)
It’s times like these, I regret not getting my PhD, and becoming a professor of American Studies somewhere. I’m confident that there’s a book in the history of the Saf-t-Bra.
Oh, and I’d appreciate it if, one of these days, someone would remind me to interview Al about her ongoing quest to participate in each Project Runway challenge at home, constructing outfits for her Barbie doll.
update: OK, I found an image of a breast protection device in use. This version, though, which has a clearly different design, may not have been produced by Wilson. [This photo, which comes courtesy of the National Archives, is from what, during the second World War, was called the Women's Bureau.]
update: Fortunately, research in the area of safety bras did not end with the World War II. Here’s video evidence.