Those of Us Who Try…. DO: Part II

There was more to R.C. Mudge than just making paper garments.  He enjoyed music, acting, and giving to those less fortunate than himself.  In 1889, he printed a piece of piano sheet music titled “The Paper Vest Gallop” composed by J.E. Fancher from the sulphite paper used to make his paper garments.  He gave out free copies to anyone in the Port Huron community who requested one.  At the time, the cost of a piece of sheet music was 50 cents.  Today, that would equate to $12.50.  The sheet music survives and is part of the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection at the John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries & University Museums archive.  In addition to printing off and giving out free music, Mudge was praised many times by the Port Huron community for donating paper blankets to the Port Huron Hospital and Home Association and paper vests to local mail carriers.

Paper Vest Gallop

Before R.C. Mudge started making paper garments, he performed briefly on the vaudeville stage.  He gave up acting when he and his wife, Delphine, had their daughter, Generva Delphine, who went by the name Eva.  Little Eva Mudge shared her father’s artistic inclination and love of music.

In 1890, R.C. Mudge sold his interest in the paper garment business to Henry McMorran and Wilbur Davidson.  Together, they reorganized the company under the name The Port Huron Paper Clothing Company.  The factory was moved from Butler Street to the Benedict Block on Military Street.   Sometime in 1891, Mudge left Port Huron and moved to Brooklyn, New York.  By 1893, little Eva Mudge was on her way to becoming a child actress dancing and singing her way into the hearts of New York theater goers.

In 1895, Eva Mudge made her debut on the national stage alongside Sadie Hasson, a very well-known theater actress at the time.  Sadie was best known for her theatrical partnership and marriage to actor, Joseph J. Dowling.  By the time Sadie shared the stage with Eva, she was newly divorced from Mr. Dowling and nearing the end of her acting career.  She retired in 1901 and settled in Mount Clemens, Michigan, until her death in 1937.

eva and sally 2

Eva Mudge and Sadie Hasson

hasson playbill

Advertising brochure for Nobody’s Claim, circa 1880

Eva ended up catching the eye of Buffalo Bill Cody and she was asked to play a small role in his Wild West Show.  She made instant friends with Walter E. Scott, aka Death Valley Scotty, who shot an apple off the top of her head in the show.  I estimate she traveled off and on with Buffalo Bill between the years 1894 to 1900.  I managed to find a photograph of this Woodland’s beaded deer skin jacket once owned by R.C. Mudge.  On the inside collar is a handwritten inscription that reads “Presented to R.C. Mudge, W.F. Cody, October 20, 1894.”

jacket and bill

Woodland’s Beaded Deer Skin Jacket, circa 1894 & Buffalo Bill Cody, date unknown

quick change artist photo

Eva Mudge became a popular vaudeville star in the early 1900’s with her quick change act, “The Military Maid“.    During her performance she would change into various costumes to include a nurse, sailor, a confederate solider and Stonewall Jackson.  She mesmerized audiences nationally and internationally in this role and she became known as the fastest quick change artist on vaudeville.  In her later years, when asked about the mechanics of her quick change secret, she disclosed she had two dressers who could pull a string on the back of her costume that would instantaneously make it fall off.



Eva Mudge NYPL Digital Collections

Eva Mudge, date unknown, NYPL

R.C. Mudge acted as Eva’s stage manager during her vaudeville years.  This role led him to form a talent agency in partnership with C.G. Prouty where he managed other vaudeville stars.  Mudge was also active in The White Rats and served as their acting President in 1906.  The White Rats was an actors labor organization, which began in 1900 to combat the Vaudeville Manager’s Association and the United Booking Office dominance over the profession.  At the time, these two organizations held enormous control over the wages of performers.

white rats for blog

1915 White Rats Program Cover and 1914 White Rats Union Card

At the same time that R.C. Mudge was busy managing his daughter’s career, he also held  interest in the automobile industry.  This time his tinkering mind managed to produce a flue construction patent (patent number 658.114) for steam carriages for the Locomotive Company of America.    The Locomotive Company of America started manufacturing steam carriages out of Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1900.

locomobile model circa 1900

Locomobile steam carriage model, circa 1900

locomobile model sectional view circa 1900

Locomobile steam carriage, section view, circa 1900

Mudge also showed an interest in electrical engines traveling overseas to view an electrical engine for himself.   So it is no small wonder Eva Mudge was the first woman to drive a Waverly electric car in New York and the first woman to race cars competitively.


Genevra Delphine Mudge aka Eva Mudge, circa early 1900s

Later in her acting career, Eva would make the transition to film with parts in a Louis Mayer production, The Famous Mrs. Fair (1923) and Night Song (1947).  Eva married Sanford Nelson and her daughter, Ruth Gloria Nelson, was born in 1905.


Group Theatre, c. 1938, Ruth Nelson (back row, third from left)

Ruth Nelson would go on to become an actress and an original member of the Group Theatre in New York alongside Elia Kazan.   She would star in his film The Sea of Grass (1947).  Ruth made many films for various Hollywood studios.  However, she took a long hiatus from acting when her husband director, John Cromwell, was blacklisted in 1951 by the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Ruth stood by her husband during this period turning down the opportunity to star in the stage production of Death of a Salesman.

The Mudge family certainly led a colorful life.  Originating in Detroit, they passed through Port Huron, New York City, and Hollywood each of them molding their lives by use of creative talent.  When I jumped into the world of Henry McMorran, I never imagined I would unlock such rich stories about people like the Mudge family.  Every day, I am learning the life of one touches many and personal history research is full of little twists and turns on an interconnected highway.


Among Agents and Producers (October 31, 1908).  The New York Dramatic Mirror.

Barrett, A. (2017).  11 Legendary Ladies of Motor Sports [photograph: Genevra Delphine Mudge aka Eva Mudge, circa early 1900s], Nitto Driving Lane website, Retrieved from:

Burchard Galleries (2009).  [photographs: Woodland’s Beaded Deer Skin Jacket, circa 1894 & Buffalo Bill Code, date unknown].  Retrieved from:

Eva Mudge (n.d.). [photograph:  NYPL] Billy Rose Theatre Collection, New York Public Library.  Retrieved from: 

Eva Mudge (n.d.) [photograph] IMDb.  Retrieved from:

Eva Mudge, the “Military Maid”.  Performing Arts Archive.  Retrieved from:

Eva Mudge Will Star (January 21, 1895).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Ian Brabner Rare Americana (2018).  [photograph: advertising brochure for Nobody’s Claim, circa 1880].  Retrieved from:

Larsen, D. J. (2012). [photograph:  Sadie Hasson] Legendary Locals of Mount Clemens, Michigan, Legendary Locals, an imprint of Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, South Carolina.

Miss Eva Mudge (January 6, 1903).  [photograph: Clever Change Artist], The Detroit Free Press.

Stanley Motor Carriage Company (2011).  Locomobile Patents:  Flue Construction for Steam Carriages – Richard C. Mudge.  Retrieved from:

Miss Eva Mudge (February 6, 1900) [photograph: newspaper clipping].  The Olsburg Gazette.

Nickel Battery for the Electric Automobile (July 14, 1901).  The St. Louis Republic.

Palazzo, R. (2017).  Scotty’s Castle, Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, South Carolina.

President’s Report.  Port Huron Hospital and Home Association.  (December 19, 1889).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Seagrave, K. (1944).  Actor’s Organize:  A History of Union Formation Efforts in America 1880-1919, McFarland & Co., Inc:  Jefferson, North Carolina.

Social News.  (November 13, 1889).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

The Paper Vest Galop (August 21, 1889).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

The American Vaudeville Museum Archive (n.d.).  Sadie M. Faren and A. Harry Chick Vaudeville Collection, [1914 White Rats Union Card photograph].  Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2018)  Locomobile Company of America.  Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2018).  Locomobile Company of America.  [photographs:  Locomobile steam carriage model, circa 1900 & Locomobile stream carriage, section view, circa 1900].  Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2018).  Ruth Nelson, [photograph, Group Theatre].  Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2018).  White Rats of America, [1915 White Rats Program Cover photograph].  Retrieved from:


Those of Us Who Try……DO. Part I

Sometimes an idea is sparked by a simple thought, a notion, or a gesture that stays with us.  We let it mull around in our minds for a while, keep it close, and when the time is right we put it to use in our physical world.  These kinds of ideas mass produced by all of us contribute to our personal experiences and essentially create and dictate the world we live in.  Other times, it is almost like the form of an idea runs quickly across our consciousness and is filtered out.  Gone.  Was it a missed opportunity for exploitation?  Doubtful.  I like to think that ideas that brushstroke our consciousness are in fact faulty thoughts gone astray that our mind was supposed to weed out and dispose of in the trash receptacle space of our unconscious mind.  But who knows?  All I do know is we are lucky creatures to have the intellect that we do and the physical means to share it.  When I read or hear a personal story that entails an idea that take hold, grows, and shapes our world or someone’s individual life path, I love to share it. So here we go……

I recently came across a fella by the name of R.C. Mudge who lived in Detroit in the late 1880’s.  In his youth, he loved to attend parties in the hopes of meeting a special young lady.  In the winter months, his walks to those parties were cold ones.  On one particularly cold night, he decided to put some newspaper underneath his coat for insulation.  What he found out was that it served as a good insulator.

He used the newspaper all that winter to brave the cold.  One evening it caught the attention of his friend, Edgar Wasson.  The two men got to talking about the matter, the talking sparked some ideas, and their ideas eventually led them to design and make a paper vest out of sulphite fibre.  They were so happy with their design and product they became convinced there was a market for it.

mudge vest patent

They applied to patent their design in July of 1888, and by February of 1889, their patent was approved.  At the time they filed for patent, Mudge and Wasson decided to go forward and began a manufacturing company in Detroit under the name American Co.  They hired a handyman from Canada, John C. McLaughlin, to help them and started manufacturing the garments.  Within a few months, they had produced and sold 20,000 paper vests, and the orders kept coming.  Because their supply of sulphite fibre had to come from Ohio and they lacked the capital to expand, they could not keep up with the supply to meet demand.

Sulphite Paper Works Plant No. 2

The Sulphite Fibre Works Plant No. 2, 1907

At the end of December 1889, it came to Mudge’s attention that a sulphite fibre company had opened up on the Black River in Port Huron.  The company was called The Sulphite Fibre Works.  Lacking the funds to expand and the fear of losing his business caused Mudge to make the journey to Port Huron in early May of 1889 to ask local capitalists to invest their money with him.  With a spring in his step and a dream in his pocket, Mudge met with a group of men and proposed forming a stock company with the capital to manufacture his paper clothing in Port Huron.  Some of the men he met that day included:  Henry Howard, James Goulden, H.G. Barnum, Dr. F. Lohrstorfer, O’Brien J. Atkinson, Philo Truesdeli, E.J. Spaulding, S.L. Ballentine , W.F. Davidson, and Henry McMorran.

howard and atkinson

SL Ballentine

the boys

After hearing Mudge out, the men made an initial investigation.  They decided to give Mudge and his new company a chance.  On May 25, 1889, the stock company was organized under the name R.C. Mudge Paper Clothing Company, and the necessary funds were subscribed in the amount of $75,000.  The Directors took a vote and elected the following officers:

President – W.F. Davidson
Vice-President – Philo Truesdeli
Treasurer – E.J. Spaulding
Secretary – E.M. Wasson
General Manager – R.C. Mudge.

RC Mudge Paper Clothing Company

Mudge and his business moved to Port Huron in July.  He brought John McLaughlin and Edgar Wasson with him, and once again they were in business.  Initially Mudge planned to manufacture 1,000 garments a day, but they soon had to double that figure to meet demand.  In addition to making men’s paper vests, they started producing ladies’ vest, skirts, blankets, and shoe insoles.


Aerial view of the Fair, 1889

In 1889, Mudge and Wasson sponsored a company booth at the Detroit International Exposition and Fair where they displayed their paper clothing. Their booth drew large crowds and was considered one of the popular booths.  A newspaperman summed up the whole experience in a spotlight article on the company in the Detroit Tribute: “The men’s vest cost 50 cents, the ladies’ 75 cents and other goods come at corresponding prices.  These paper garments cannot be compared with inferior woolen garments.  Wind will blow through wool.  It simply can’t get through this paper, which, besides being warm is tough, standing a pull of 98 pounds to the inch without tearing.”

By November of 1889, the company employed 110 people, 97 of them women. When the company started in July, it employed only 3 women.  To have enough space to mass produce their products, the company had expanded their operations on Butler Street into two buildings located next door.  They were looking to occupy two more buildings on the block in the next few months, and there was talk of the need to build a brick factory within the next year.  It was predicted the factory would employ approximately 500 people.


The main building of the company was powered by electric light from the Excelsior Electric Light Works.  Electricity also powered 27 Singer electric sewing machines.  Women working for the company used the machines to sew the garments together and finishing touches, such as color sateens sewn over the paper were hand sewn.  Orders were coming in from New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and all parts of Michigan.  The women were paid wages of between $2.50-$6.50 a week for their work.  The highest paid employee was John McLaughlin, who acted as the head cutter.  He earned a wage of $25.00 per week.

I love the humble origin of the R.C. Mudge Paper Company, and I’m so glad I could share it with you.  But R.C. Mudge was not only an idea man.  He was also kind, handsome, generous, and talented.  My favorite characteristic about him was the generous spirit he showered upon his community.  So, it is no small wonder the Port Huron community opened their arms and embraced him. If only for a little while.

Oh, goodness, there is so much more of this story to tell and I have run out of time to tell it.  One blog on this one is just not enough.  I guess it will have to keep for another day.

Until then……if you can……take a moment…… and THINK ALL OF THE THINKS YOU CAN POSSIBLY THINK and if one good THINK stays with you…. share it, savor it, cultivate it like a garden, and try like a mad hatter to grow it.  And most importantly, remind yourself that sometimes in life all it takes is a good IDEA in your head and a DREAM in your heart to make the impossible POSSIBLE.  I am sure Mudge and McMorran would more than agree with me.

Til’ next time.



Captured image of the Excelsior Electric Light Works, (1887).  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan, Sanborn Map Company, [Image].  Library of Congress.  Retrieved from:

Don, the Up North Memories Guy, (2016).  Sulphite Paper Works, circa, 1907, Plant No. 2, Port Huron, MI [Image], flickr.  Retrieved from:

Google Patents, (n.d.).  Paper Garment No. 397,437, February 5, 1889.  Retrieved from:  

Hug emoticon, (2017).  The Happydemic Blog.  Retrieved from:

Michigan Art Company, (1904).  Men in Michigan: A Collection of the Portraits of Men Prominent in Business and Professional Life in Michigan, Michigan Art Company: Detroit.  Portraits of Wilbur F. Davidson and Henry G. McMorran [Image]

R. C. Mudge Paper Clothing Co.Garments envelope with logo, (1889), [Image], Treasurecoastamp, Ebay.  Retrieved from:

The Alice T. Miner Museum Blog, (2016).  Ariel view of the Fair, circa 1889, Detroit.  Retrieved from:  

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1889, May 25).  A New Enterprise.

The Port Huron Daily Times, 1889, November 2). Paper Clothing.

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1889, June 27).  Paper Clothing Company.

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1901, July 9).  O’Brien J. Atkinson [Image].

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1889, September 28).  The Way it Came About.

The Times Herald, (1949, June 22).  Silas L. Ballentine [Image].

Wikpedia, (2018).  Henry Howard [Image].  Retrieved from:

Wink Wink emoticon, (2015).  Faith, Sigh & DYI Blog [Image].  Retrieved from: