Samuel Gelber Starts Two New Companies

While Alpha was well-established as a top manufacturer of nylon flight jackets and field coats, the 1970s brought the opportunity for the company to expand into new categories of apparel. The success of this expansion was due primarily to a select number of subcontractors that Alpha relied upon to complete the increasing number of contracts being awarded to Alpha.

In the 1970s, multiple global conflicts caused an increase in the number of armed forces. In addition, the Department of Defense had a new philosophy when it came to the development of clothing for the military. They felt it was no longer appropriate to ask soldiers to use only one garment for various weather conditions. Instead, they wanted to develop different pieces for each weather condition. This change led to a major increase in spending by the Department of Defense and an increase in the quantity and types of contracts Alpha was producing.

Alpha quickly increased its workforce and technical expertise to meet the demand. However, the DOD restricted many contracts to companies of 500 employees or less. To meet this requirement, Alpha’s founder, Samuel Gelber, helped start two new companies – Summit Apparel and Benton Manufacturing – and used them to subcontract out the work. Summit Apparel (originally known as Bertram Apparel) was run by Paul Abbott who helped Alpha in its early days at the request of Herman “Breezy” Wynn, while Benton Manufacturing was led by Lucille Stone, a former Alpha supervisor.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Summit Apparel and Benton Manufacturing completed a wide variety of contracts for Alpha Industries. These included specialized outerwear, like the Air Force raincoat, Shooter’s Coat, and Snow Camouflage parka, three types of cold weather trousers, and over 10 different types of men’s hoods. Specialized clothing for women included field coats and liners, raincoats and liners, and cold weather hoods.

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