The son of Alsatian Jewish immigrants, Henry Kahn (1860-1934) attended Butler University and trained as a tailor with his father. In 1886, he opened a small tailor shop at 14 East Washington Street. The business soon thrived and by 1898 filled a four-story building at the northwest corner of Meridian and Washington streets. By the early 1910s, Kahn Tailoring maintained offices and production rooms at 800 North Capitol and a retail store at 2 West Washington Street, which later moved across Meridian Street to the Kahn Building.

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The Kahn Tailoring Company, 1907 Credit: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

The factory, constructed in 1913 at St. Clair Street and Capitol Avenue, was designed by Indianapolis architects Vonnegut, Bohn, and Mueller. It featured a fireproof, reinforced concrete structure with brick veneer and decorative sculpted details. Workers on the second and third floors cut out cloth and pieced together finished suits using sewing machines.

Henry Kahn brought Sephardic Jewish immigrants to Indianapolis and provided many with jobs. He also provided generous worker benefits, including health care, night school, and a social welfare office. The company also maintained a social center that sponsored evening and weekend activities for employees and an orchestra that played during lunch.

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Kahn Tailoring employees, manufacturing men’s suits and military uniforms, 1907 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

The tailoring firm was a principal manufacturer of uniforms for the United States military during World War I and remained a major supplier through World War II. Following Kahn’s death in 1934, son-in-law Mortimer C. Furscott succeeded as company president and directed a steady expansion. By 1948, the business encompassed its Indianapolis factory and 12 retail stores nationwide, including a Washington, D.C., store near the White House that outfitted Mrs. Harry Truman and daughter Margaret in 1947. Over 2,000 dealers reportedly carried Kahn’s clothing by the late 1940s.

In November 1954, Kahn merged with Globe Tailoring of Cincinnati, which became the new base of production. Kahn maintained a retail tailor shop at 7 North Meridian Street and became Hilton-Kahn Tailors on East Market Street in the late 1960s. By 1970, the Kahn name had vanished from the local tailoring trade.

In 2013-2014, the Kahn plant on North Capitol was rehabilitated as an apartment building by TWG Development and the Ambrose Property Group.

Revised February 2021
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