It is soft, brown, has big, red lips, has been in the movies and appeared at the Academy Awards. What is it? A sock monkey!
Sock monkeys go back to the Victorian era when the thing to have was a stuffed animal. Steiff was actually the first manufacturer to make stuffed toys and is still a big name today. The stuffed animal trend made its way to America; and during the Great Depression, mothers began making stuffed animals from old socks. This was the beginning of the sock monkey.
A man named John Nelson patented a sock-knitting machine in 1869. He began manufacturing work socks while residing in Rockford, Illinois. These socks were unique because they didn’t have a seam in the heel. As happens, people began making the seamless socks and the generic name “Rockfords” got attached to them all. To fix that problem, Nelson began adding red tips so you knew if you were getting a real Rockford sock. In 1915 they patented their special sock and included the instructions on how to make a sock monkey and then the idea really took off. Later they even added the directions for making a sock elephant.
There was a lull in the sock monkey interest for a while but in the 1990’s, it sparked up again. Fox River Mills bought Nelson Knitting Company in 1992. The red portion of their socks is slightly different, distinguishing Fox River Mills monkeys from the original Nelson Rockford monkeys. The monkey’s mouths are shaped a little differently on the Fox River Mills sock.
The Rockford, Illinois folks saw that the popularity of the sock monkey has continued down through the ages. In 2004 they had their first Sock Monkey Madness Festival which features the history of Rockford’s knitting industry and the sock monkey. March of 2011 will be the 7th Annual Sock Monkey Madness Festival. In 2009, Rockford was awarded a national Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History for excellence in educational programming. If you are in Illinois next March, you may want to look into it. It sounds like fun!
David Letterman once made an Academy Awards appearance and had a sock monkey with him. He was promoting a movie called “Cabin Boy”. In that movie, he played a street vendor who sold sock monkeys. Catwoman throws her sock monkey away when she gives into evil in “Batman Returns”. So, you see, the Sock Monkey has gone far.
Some small child in your life may not have, or know about, sock monkeys. If you want to make a sock monkey, see the article “How to Make a Sock Monkey” at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5771262/how_to_make_a_sock_monkey.html?cat=24 Or, be creative and see what other animal you can come up with beside a monkey or elephant. You don’t really have to have a special sock either. Just have fun with it.
Of course, if you are not inclined to make a sock monkey from scratch, you can buy sock monkey kits on line. You can also purchase finished sock monkeys, sock monkey shirts, sock monkey jack-in-the-box, etc. on line.
www.midwayvillage.com/event_calendar.cfm?id=1003 and http://www.supersockmonkey.com/catalog/history.html and hubpages.com