Watson Gloves turns 100
In April, 1918, John Watson and Wayne Stanley started Watson Gloves, a business selling handsewn gloves to Vancouver’s dock workers. The company grew quickly as the logging and sawmill industries boomed. In 1922, Dinty Moore joined the company starting as a messenger/stock boy, and after 25 years working his way up he became president. Three generations of Moore family and 100 years later, Watson Gloves has grown from a two-person storefront in Vancouver to become one of Canada’s largest distributors of quality gloves. Now selling products internationally with over 2,000 styles to choose from, the iconic Watson Gloves tag is recognizable on gloves used for dozens of applications, including, of course, gardening.
Gardening gloves became a distinct category of its own after Watson Gloves started distributing Ansell’s Green Thumb in 1968. Recognizing that they were onto something good, Barrie Moore, Dinty’s son, decided to import vinyl coated cotton gardening gloves from China. The mission then became: find a great name for them. Mildred Moore, Dinty Moore’s wife, came up with the name Rosey Posey for their first Watson gardening-style glove and the company never looked back.
From leather, 100-per-cent cotton gloves, or vinyl-coated gloves, the design and materials that gardening gloves were constructed from remained mostly the same until the late 1990s. At that time a Watson employee became alerted to the fact that an Atlas seamless-knit glove, originally used in the fishing industry, was being sold over the border in Richmond, B.C. and some gardeners were raving about how great it was. The Watson purchaser sourced it and the marketing team took over. With the name Botanically Correct, and a good tag, the sales team soon introduced it to the gardening shops and a star was born.
The semi-coated, seamless, knit glove continues to be a best seller to this day. These gloves form to a user’s hands, offer protection from wet soil, are washable, come in a range of sizes, and are tough and long lasting. Mira- cle Workers, Garden Gems and Dirty Deeds, are just some of the styles of seamless knit gloves that Watson Gloves carries. They all have their own name that can help customers identify them and what specific task they will be good for. Do you have a dirty job? Down and Dirty would be an excellent choice. Or, Got Dirt? Do you need to prune your roses or yank out blackberry bushes? Game of Thorns was designed with these types of jobs in mind.
With a full range of gardening gloves, all with their own witty names, with different features, Watson Gloves makes it easy to choose a glove for your specific task. They know that one glove does not fit all, either for purpose or sizing. Besides gloves for different tasks, there must also be a whole range of sizes for whoever is going to be working in the garden. Whether you are age 3 or 83 there is sure to be a glove for you. They even have gloves for princesses.
The lawn and gardening market continues to boom and most certainly Watson Gloves doesn’t see that declining any time soon. A big change in the market has been the increase of people wanting to grow their own fruit and/or vegetables. Not only are increasing prices a good reason to grow your own, concerns about harmful chemicals used in farming are making millennials take up gardening with a whole new
enthusiasm. Consumers want to buy local and they want organic. What better control could you possibly have over the veggies you eat than if you grow them yourself?
Watson Gloves will continue to source new materials and design for changing trends. What’s next? “We want to be kinder to the earth”, says Michele Moore, Dinty’s granddaughter who is the company’s number one garden glove fan. “I think it’s important we source gloves that will biodegrade in landfills a whole lot faster than they currently do. Celebrating our 100th anniversary this year has made us pause, and think about where we want to go, and what we want to be known for. It’s up to us to make the change, to lead the industry, to find solutions for the waste and harmful materials currently being used. We need to be the solution.”
An old Watson staff photo from the 1936 catalogue.
Watson's old building at East 2nd and Main in Vancouver, where they were located for 89 years.
An old label for Rosey Posey, Watson's first gardening style gloves.
Their gloves are made for heavy duty gardening.
The Game of Thorns gloves were made to deal with prickly friends like roses or blackberries without incident.
In the late 1990s, Watson came out with Botanically Correct, a seamless knit glove that caught on with gardeners. Above centre is a Vancouver Sun article from 2001 about the gloves.
One glove does not fit all. With a wide range of styles, there are plenty of choices - from Garden Gems (left) to Garden Princess (right), and beyond.