There was a time when the name Abercrombie & Fitch didn’t call to mind shirtless models (both male and female) and questionable mall clothes. There were few, if any, stores more venerable than New York’s outdoor outfitter Abercrombie & Fitch. Founded in 1892, it was a place where men like Ernest Hemingway would go to be kitted out for an African safari, or Charles Lindbergh for a trans-Atlantic flight. It filled its own twelve storey building on Madison Avenue, with a shooting range and fly casting pool in the middle of Manhattan. Eventually the time of luxury and quality ended, the store declared bankruptcy, and A & F was sold off to become the arbiter of bad taste you know today. One might argue the rise and fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is a metaphor for American civilization itself.
A & F expanded beyond its Madison Street confines during its heyday, opening seasonal resort shops for the A & F set, which leads us to this recent item from eBay. EBay is a treasure trove of oddities, vintage flotsam and jetsam. Much of it flies under the radar, some is simply outright mislisted. Sometimes those items bring to light lost history or a forgotten connection, and that seems to be the case here.
Pictured in this Laurence Fellows illustration is a seat stick, the kind that was (or is, you can still buy them) used out of doors, particularly at race tracks. The seat at the top folds into a handle that makes the stick not only easily portable, but also useful as a walking stick. When you’ve reached your destination, unfold the handle into a seat and relax.
What makes this eBay Abercrombie & Fitch seat stick particularly interesting is its co-branding with Louisville’s Churchill Downs. One would suspect the seat actually was sold at Churchill Downs.
Did the Churchill Downs shop stock A&F items, or did A&F have its own seasonal shop at Churchill Downs? Or perhaps Churchill Downs had made a bulk order from A & F, and used the seat sticks in-house or gave them as gifts. Fascinating possibilities are raised about a forever lost time prodded by a chance encounter on a virtual fleamarket.