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Can anyone help identify this sample book (Laidlaw Burbank)

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I have this little sample book that appears to be from the 1910's-1930's. I've heard the "Laidlaw" name in association with upholstery but don't really know anything about the company. An internet search hasn't provided much info.

I was hoping someone knowledgeable about upholstery could help identify what car manufacturers would have used it, and the years it was used.

Much thanks!









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In his memoirs Ned Jordan of Jordan car fame said one of the reasons for his success was that his cars had top quality where the customer could see it, and specifically mentions Laidlaw upholstery fabrics (at $8 a yard) and Waltham clocks.

I take from that, that Laidlaw made expensive materials used in high grade cars.

It appears you have a sample book that would have been used by a custom body manufacturer or an auto upholstery shop.

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  • 1 year later...

Hello, I have a 1939 Chrysler Imperial and there is a small (1 x 1.5 inch) label that is attached to the drivers side sun visor. It reads "UPHOLSTERY BY LAIDLAW ALL WOOL". It is similar to what you would see on a garment or suit.

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  • 3 months later...



The sample book dates from about 1930, perhaps a year or two earlier.  The Laidlaw Company in NYC, run by William R. Laidlaw (great uncle to restorer Stu Laidlaw, if you know him) had been in the business of selling automotive soft-trim materials (top & upholstery fabrics) since about the 1910 – 1915 time period.  Most of his business was built on being the exclusive US/North American seller for Burbank in the U.K.  As such, he was a selling agent and provided warehousing service, but no manufacturing of textiles.  Of the Burbank firm, I know very little.  On the cover of the sample book is the expression “Sport Topping”.  This came into the jargon in the mid 1920s, when convertible and open body styles became fashionable for the country club set.  It basically connoted stylish kinds of cloth top material.  My granddad claimed to have originated the term, so it was part of a lively rivalry that Laidlaw borrowed the expression in the course of marketing his products!


Burbank top material was a heavy, tightly woven cotton canvas which was pretty waterproof, but not completely so.  In prolonged, heavy rain, moisture could get through, just as it does with a textile umbrella cloth.  Burbank was pricey, at least here in the USA.  W.R. Laidlaw and my granddad both competed in the high quality, high price end of the market.  Burbank was considered the best material on the market during the 1920s.  The three-ply kind of cloth top material produced by our family, and others, proved better in price and quality from about 1930 onward, so the market demand for Burbank diminished a lot in the early to mid 1930s.  You and I saw that in Packard’s shift from Burbank to Haartz cloth top material in the early 1930s.  The label on one of the samples from the Laidlaw sample book bears a “Durban” trade name.  W.R. Laidlaw, seeing the market preference for the three-ply, cloth/rubber/cloth materials, hedged his bets and got a supply of that kind of material into his repertoire.  From whom he got it, I don’t know, although it was not likely a Burbank product from the U.K.


I’m not registered on that AACA chat room site, but if you are, and you want to pass this along on my behalf, feel welcome to do so.  Although this would be a late reply to Anderson Pearson’s inquiry, it might prove interesting to him and others.


With best regards,


Eric Harrtz

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  • 2 years later...

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