Hollanderizing: A proprietary process for cleaning fur garments, named for its inventors, A. Hollander and Sons Fur Care (originally of Newark, New Jersey, and later of Toronto and Montreal).
“Hollanderizing: Canada’s leading garment care professionals since 1930.” (Hollanderizing.com.)
Hollanderizing was immortalized in “Take Back Your Mink,” written by Frank Loesser and sung by Miss Adelaide in the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls. I saw the play a couple of weeks ago in a delightful revival (directed by Mary Zimmerman) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Here’s the verse:
So take back your mink
To from whence it came,
And tell ’em to Hollanderize it
For some other dame!
Listen: Vivian Blaine as Adelaide in the original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls (which starred Robert Alda, father of Alan Alda, as Sky Masterson). And for more on “to from whence it came,” see this 2003 New York Times “On Language” column by Jerelle Kraus.
The term is obscure today—a U.S. trademark for “Hollanderized” lapsed in 2007 and was never renewed—but Hollanderizing was once ubiquitous enough that the original Broadway audience would have smiled knowingly. Here’s how the Hollanderizing website tells the story:
The Hollanderizing story began all the way back in 1889, when Albert Hollander arrived in the United States from Poland. Like so many other immigrants of the time, he started a business with little in his pockets and a big dream. Mr. Hollander had worked in the fur trade back home and decided to use his knowledge to form A. Hollander and Sons Fur Care Limited. Putting down roots in the garment district of Newark, New Jersey, the Hollander family quickly distinguished themselves as one of the finest fur care organizations in North America. The Hollander family’s philosophy was simple; provide the best total fur care solutions for their customers, and to never settle for anything but the highest quality. In 1918, they were granted a patent for their proprietary cleaning process known as “Hollanderizing.” The name gained so much popularity that Frank Loesser (creator/lyricist for the Broadway production “Guys and Dolls”) made reference to it in the song “Take Back Your Mink.”
The 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, which starred Nathan Lane, Peter Gallagher, Faith Prince, and Josie de Guzman, sparked some lively commentary in the New York Times about archaisms in the show’s lyrics and dialogue (inspired by stories by Damon Runyon, whose own surname gave rise to the adjective Runyonesque). On June 22, 1992, the paper published Todd Purdum’s feature, written partly in Runyonesque prose, about the play’s obscure references:
But the doozy of all the faded references may come in Adelaide’s nightclub striptease, when she tells an over-libidinous lover what for: Take back your mink to from whence it came And tell them to Hollanderize it for some other dame!
“Hollanderize?” said Bill Outlaw of the Fur Information Council of America in Washington. “Hold on a minute. I think someone can answer that for you.” …
But that someone could not. Leave it to Jack Purnick, an 89-year-old Manhattan furrier, to explain that A. Hollander & Son, founded on West 29th Street and later based in New Jersey, was the leading fur cleaner of its day, swirling minks and sables in drums full of sawdust and chemicals to freshen them up for each new season. It has been defunct for about a decade, though similar processes are still used.
“At this point, I don't think it would pay off,” Mr. Purnick said. “There's not enough volume. People look at life in a different manner. Years ago, when a woman turned 40, the husband would say, ‘I think it's time for a mink coat, honey.’ Now, they’re altogether different. This is not the values they go for. They don’t think along those lines anymore, and that's why the fur business is not like it used to be.”
(That was then; this is now.)
Seymour Kass of Brookline, Mass., begged to differ. In a letter published July 7, 1992, he wrote:
The common meaning of Hollanderize, when I worked as a furrier for my father ("King of the Muskrats") in the 1940's and 50's, was to dye the cheaper, plebeian, widely worn muskrat coats to give them the look of mink. Nearly all muskrat coats were Hollanderized.
Not so fast, said another letter writer with a significant surname: Jane Hollander of Long Branch, New Jersey:
Hollanderizing was a cleaning process for many types of furs. It involved sawdust and other agents to remove the grime that fur accumulated during a winter of wear. For many women, it was a spring ritual to take their coats to a furrier, who would send them to be Hollanderized
Although Hollanderizing has gone the way of the Studebaker, it is nice to be a slightly mysterious footnote to Broadway history. This is gratifying to the present family members, notably my aunt Leslie Hollander of Asbury Park, N.J., who has a long memory.
Twenty-three years and one World Wide Web later, “Hollanderizing” is even more misunderstood. When I searched for the lyrics to “Take Back Your Mink,” I found site after site with this mondegreen (a mishearing, or musical eggcorn):
So take back your mink.
To from whence it came
And tell them to alter and rise it
For some other dame
“Alter” is plausible, but as far as I know there’s no “rising” process involved in fur care.
The -ize suffix has, over the years, attached itself to other surnames to create brand names. A rival fur-cleaning process, Shinerizing—named for Hyman Shiner and his sons Sol and Huck, who owned a fur-cleaning and fur-storage business in Toronto—was registered in 1943 and later sold to Hollanderizing. (A Wikipedia entry notes that “another merger of sorts occurred in 2000 when Judy Shiner—daughter of Huck Shiner—and Richard Toker—grandson of Moe Toker [president of Hollander Canada in the 1960s] married.”) Martinizing (or, to give it its full name, One-Hour Martinizing) is a dry-cleaning process invented in 1949 by Henry Martin, a New York chemist. And to Simonize a car is to polish it to a high sheen with Simoniz, a wax invented in the early 20th century by George Simons.