Keeping Warm

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Automobile and driver's robe

Rural letter carriers were never required to wear uniforms. Carriers whose daily rounds included working in the freezing cold sought many ways to keep warm while riding in their wagons or early automobiles. For some, that meant adding corn-cob-powered heaters for their feet. For others, like Forrest W. Crookham of Roseville, Illinois, it meant purchasing a driver’s lap robe.

Manufactured by Chicago Auto Robe Supply Company, this lap robe is made of rubberized canvas, lined with wool. A steel spring waist band clamps the robe tight in the back. Crookham was still driving his rural route when he donated the robe to the Smithsonian in 1960, noting that before buying the lap robe, he often returned home with frosted or frozen feet during his winter rounds.