• Identification00064644
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Bes-Ben, Inc., records, 1920-1988, bulk 1925-1978
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • Language
    • English.
    • English
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationBes-Ben (Firm) Benjamin B. Green-Field Bessie Green-Field Warshawsky
  • Date
    • 1920-1988
    • 1925-1978
  • Physical Description13 linear feet (18 boxes and 14 card file boxes)
  • LocationMSS Lot G

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Gift of the Benjamin Benedict Green-Field Foundation (accession #: 1989.0562).

Bes-Ben, Inc., records (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Ledgers, customer card index files, state time inspection records; plus sundry correspondence, sales slips, passports, personal account books, and other materials relating to the Bes-Ben millinery shop in Chicago operated by Benjamin Green-Field and his sister Bessie Green-Field Warshawsky, and to his world travels. Bes-Ben was known for its flamboyant hats designed for a clientele of prominent women. Mr. Green-Field was known for his personal style as well as the hats and pillows he designed.

Benjamin Green-Field and his sister Bessie Green-Field Warshawsky operated Bes-Ben, a Chicago millinery shop for many decades. Green-Field became widely known for his unusual and imaginative hat designs. The shop, at 938 North Michigan Avenue, catered to international celebrities as well as women from Chicago's elite society. Some of his fanciful hats were decorated with miniature animal replicas--farm animals, stuffed zebras, plastic mice; other hats had fake fruits and vegetables; or modern products such as cigarette packages, matches, razor blades, and kitchen utensils.

Benjamin Green-Field also was known for his flamboyant life style. He was an inveterate traveler and is credited with almost annual trips around the globe since the 1930s. He designed much of his own apparel and is remembered for his brilliant brocade formalwear. His home was a showcase for the artistic and decorative items he purchased while travelling.

The Chicago Historical Society honored Green-Field with two exhibitions of his hat and clothing designs in 1976 and 1984. The society holds many Green-Field hats in the Costume Collection and parts of his workshop in Decorative and Industrial Arts. In addition, Green-Field endowed gallery space for the society.

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the Jeanette Gaffin Original Millinery Shop records.

  • Names
    • Green-Field, Benjamin B. (Benjamin Benedict), 1898-1988--Archives
    • Warshawsky, Bessie Green-Field, -1987--Archives
    • Bes-Ben (Firm)--Archives
  • Subject
    • Family owned business enterprises--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Costume--United States--20th century
    • Clothing and dress--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Clothing trade--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Millinery--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Voyages and travels--20th century
    • Women consumers--United States--20th century
  • Geographic Coverage
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Commerce--20th century
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Social life and customs--20th century

The collection is arranged into six series.

Series 1. Clippings, financial and legal documents, correspondence, and miscellaneous documents, 1920-1984 and undated (box 1-2)

This series contains biographical and newspaper clippings, correspondence, tax and legal documents, bank books, miscellaneous invitations, scrapbooks, entertainment programs, and other materials.

Series 2. Employee and vendor records, 1931-1978 (box 3-4)

This series contains ledgers of employee time records and of vendors, vendors' invoices, and ephemera related to the store's business.

Series 3. Travel records and correspondence, 1923-1988 (box 5-8)

This series contains correspondence and material related to Benjamin Green-Field's world travels, as well as miscellaneous sales ledgers.

Series 4. Sales ledgers and sales receipts, 1931-1994 (box 9-17)

This series contains customer sales ledgers arranged chronologically and alphabetically and sales receipts arranged chronologically.

Series 5. Miscellaneous items, 1936-1957 and undated (box 18)

This series contains award certificates, photos, miscellaneous cards, and a poem.

Series 6. Customer index cards, 1923-1978 (box 19-32)

This series contains index cards of customers. Cards include description, date, and price of item(s) purchased. Note that the cards marked in red signify that those customers have charge accounts.