Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame

Inductees

Franklin Chatfield - 1979 Inductee

(1875 - 1973) A mechanical genius and long-time vice-president of Munsingwear, Inc., he was considered an inventive genius throughout the circular knit industry. At age 14, his formal education ended. He started working as a laborer carrying huge yarn baskets in one of the 21 knitting mills in the area of Cohoes, New York, then the knitting capital of the United States. His curiosity about machinery, knitting, mechanics, and chemistry promoted much extra study and self instruction and, in time, he became recognized as one of the leading experts in the understanding, maintenance, improvement and repair of the relatively complicated tubular knitting machines of that era. In 1902, he debated whether he should gamble and go to the Yukon in the "new" gold rush to seek his fortune, or gamble and go to Munsingwear in Minneapolis. He felt at that time that they were equal gambles, but he knew he had mastered the care of knitting machines, so off he went to Minneapolis in 1903, with the idea that if it didn’t work out, he’d go on to the Yukon gold rush.

For 40 years he developed and improved knitting and fabric processing machinery, acquiring 34 U.S. patents. His mechanical patents greatly increased the efficiency of the manufacturing process so that the mutual benefit of quality manufacturing and price control is passed on to the apparel industry and the consuming public. He fought for standardization and simplification, both at Munsingwear and in the knitting industry. He devoted many years to research on shrinkage control and on development and improvement of fabrics. His garment patents have directly affected the quality, fit and comfort of today’s underwear. Chatfield’s accomplishments helped Munsingwear grow into a multi-million dollar, international apparel company.

NOTE: These biographies have been compiled from information accompanying the nomination form submitted to the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame, information available on the Internet and from a variety of other sources.