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Timeline: 1930s & 1940s

Ian P. Murphy |

1930s[NP][/NP]The magazine launches in the depths of the Great Depression, bearing the winged logo of the National Recovery Act (NRA). Soon, the fledgling industry it serves — until now, dominated by large laundry and petroleum plants — shows a new, entrepreneurial spirit. War looms in Europe by the end of the decade, but operators in the U.S. seem set for real growth.1934 — “A new magazine is born — dedicated to lend a helping hand and a cheering smile to every cleaner and dyer,” writes Andrew Roth, publisher. The first issues feature an open letter to President Roosevelt, the long-running “Knocking The Spots” maintenance and “In The Bag” letters columns, Smitty Abrams’ “Rumblings” (er, “Ramblings”), and cartoon cleaner Brighton Kleene. American Drycleaner is the “The kind of friend who’ll offer you serious advice when you want it,” says Leo J. Reynolds, editor, “and who’ll give you a good belly-laugh and a poke in the ribs, when you feel like that.” First-year advertisers include Huebsch, Cissell, U.S. Hoffman, R.R. Street and American Disinfecting Co. [Adco].[NP][/NP]1935 — D.O. Summers profiled in new “Industry Leaders” column... Telephone sales “Ringing Up Profits”... American Institute of Laundering (AIL), National Association of Dyers & Cleaners (NADC) consider certifications for members.1936 — Leather specialist C.K. Kirkpatrick lends column... Dow Chemical Co. advertises “synthetics” carbon tetrachloride and perchloroethylene... Commerce Department rates drycleaning plants last in survey of retailer appeal.[NP][/NP]1937 — First Buyer’s Guide appears... NADC convention in Cincinnati delayed as the Ohio River breaches its banks... Cleaners Hanger introduces dress hanger with cardboard cover... Drycleaning sales increase 12% during the year, according to Dun & Bradstreet... Drycleaning detective Hawkshaw Holmes begins solving readers’ fabricare mysteries.1938 — Summer suits feature “Congo cloth,” a new spun-rayon fiber... “Adventures in Spotting” column takes on Coca-Cola stains.[NP][/NP]1939 — NADC opens new headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.... About 40 take drycleaners’ tour of Mexico following Dallas convention... Mehl Bag Co. introduces new transparent “Cellophane” garment bags... British drycleaner Achille Serre processing canvas for antiartillery sandbags... Editors predict that if America can stay out of the war in Europe, the ’40s will be a “decade of opportunity.”1940sAs the decade begins, the industry is exploring innovations that promise unprecedented expansion. War in Europe and the Pacific forestall growth in favor of the public good, however, and the industry pitches in with all its might to collect scrap metal and conserve resources. When the troops finally come home victorious, the industry is ready to clean up.[NP][/NP]1940 — Lincoln Bag Co. declares pre-emptive strike on moths... Cleaners urged to modernize ahead of war; national defense spending expected to produce industrial boom of $500 million per month... Average operator makes 5.9% profit, NADC says.1941 — “Tell Your Cleaner What Caused the Stain” campaign released in 89 newspapers... Army requisitions supplies of chlorinated solvents upon declaration of war.1942 — War Production Board (WPB) ends manufacture of new drycleaning equipment; drycleaners must ration tires, fuel... Trousers now must be manufactured or retailored cuffless to save fabric.
[NP][/NP]1943 — Emergency meeting in Chicago addresses manpower shortages, rationing... WPB says drycleaning is among services “essential” to the war effort in 14 cities nationwide... Wives assume control of most operating plants... Industry “gets in the scrap,” collecting metal for the war effort.[NP][/NP]1944 — Perc and trichloroethylene now subject to government rationing... Industry meeting in Chicago discusses postwar planning... Suppliers push war bonds instead of equipment.1945 — Veterans flood workforce; first G.I. loan to the industry helps Bob Reynolds open Handy Cleaners in Omaha, Neb.1946 — Two-thirds of plants in the U.S. (66.7%, or approximately 10,000) do less than $1,000 volume weekly.1947 — Chicago’s Navy Pier hosts first national convention in six years... Cleaners experience record growth and volume... “Leakproof” ballpoint pens appear, leak... Columnist Dave Galliher attends National Institute of Cleaning & Dyeing (NICD) General Drycleaning course, writes about it... Mothproofing offered by 55% of operations.1948 — NICD launches consumer education campaign... “Over The Counter” debuts as the diary of Ruth, a spunky Massachusetts countergirl.[NP][/NP]1949 — Betty Stoops wins 22 prizes from Dow Chemical Co. when she takes “America’s No. 1 Countergirl” prize... 19-piece Unipress shirt-laundry setup costs $4,709 delivered... Kirk’s Suede & Leather merges with Chicago chemical supplier Wm. A. Reed & Co.Timeline:
1930s &1940s — 1950s & 1960s — 1970s & 1980s — 1990s & 2000s
 

About the author

Ian P. Murphy

American Drycleaner

Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer based in Chicago, and was the editor of American Drycleaner from 1999 to 2011.

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