In the Field: Made-in-the-U.S. Steele Canvas Basket Co.™

we’ve teamed up with Massachusetts-based Steele Canvas Basket Co., the latest
addition to our growing roster of In Good Company partners. brothers Paul and
John Lordan gave us a tour of their Chelsea factory and explained a bit more
about how they’ve produced some of the sturdiest canvas products
around since 1921.
The family-run Steele Canvas Basket Corporation was founded in the Cambridge
neighborhood of Boston. In 1960, Jack Lordan took over, and his family has been
running it ever since (with the help of Kitty, the dog). Today, tag team Paul and
John Lordan, with the help of a dedicated staff of craftsmen (including parents
Jack and Sib), make products such as canvas totes, hampers and bins known for
their durability.
Having been around canvas all their lives, the brothers are quick to share stories
about their family’s personal connection with the bags. “People will stop us at the
beach to ask where we got our mountains of canvas bags. We tell them we made
them,” says Paul. He recalls watching movies as a child with laundry room jail-
breaks in which they could all identify their own family’s stamp on the bags.
“That was pretty fun.”
Some of the oldest Steele Canvas catalogs date back to 1937, and older styles,
like the sling chairs above, have been reproduced in recent years. When it comes
to their bags, what makes them so durable is their signature thick duck canvas
and double-needle stitching. They’re also all handmade on the premises. “You
can probably find cheaper bags elsewhere, but they won’t be as well made, and
the money spent goes toward American labor,” says Paul.
“We are used to handling industrial orders,” says Paul. “We don’t do any
advertising—all we do is make things and hope people will find us.” For the
partnership with J.Crew, they worked with the men’s design team to develop two
coal bag styles based on a classic model from their line. The results, as they put it,
maintain the Steele history and quality but incorporate the J.Crew eye for style
and an emphasis on everyday use.
“The strongest canvas you can get is natural, but when we use colored
dyes we also also incorporate a vinyl-coated nylon material called Steeletex, which
makes the bags water- and tear-resistant,” explains
Paul. For the J.Crew collaboration, Paul and John (pictured above with their
foreman, Raul) discovered an ancient snap machine and worked with a local tannery
for the leather bindings and bottoms. “The bags are still pretty much what we used to
make in the ’60s but with better materials,” he says. As for their lifespan? “My mom
still uses the same laundry basket from 30 years ago. It’s nice
making a product that won’t disappoint.”

Explore our Steele Canvas Basket Co. for J.Crew styles here.

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