Willson Monarch Laboratory Records, 1889-1966


Willson Monarch Laboratories of Edgerton, Wisconsin (variously known as Willson Brothers, Monarch Laboratory, and Willson's Monarch Laboratory) was founded in 1882 by Dexter I. and Benjamin C. Willson, two brothers from Elmira, New York. Because the majority of the company's records were destroyed in a fire in 1928, very little is known about its early history. According to a sales manual published during the 1930s, the brothers possessed a thorough education in chemistry and drugs, and they built their early success upon the pain reliever “Monarch Oil,” later called “Olozon.” The company operated from a small pharmaceutical shop, and the brothers manufactured a diverse line of patent medicines and products including flavorings, extracts, spices, soaps, perfumes, and stock and poultry minerals.

The Willsons emphasized the rural market, employing salespeople to sell their goods on consignment from door to door throughout the Midwest. In an attempt to meet changing market conditions, in 1932 a branch store was opened in Milwaukee at 1231 W. State Street to distribute goods for the salespeople in the urban area. A similar branch store was located in Madison. The Milwaukee operation did not prove profitable, however, and the store was closed in 1936.

In 1927, Maybelle Willson Shearer, daughter of Benjamin Willson, became president of the Willson Monarch Laboratories corporation. In 1930, a merger with Swift Manufacturing Company of Saint Louis, Missouri, was considered but rejected by Monarch's stockholders.

Two of the most prominent individuals associated with the company during this period were Les Hall and Guy Johnson. Les Hall, the general manager of Willson Monarch until 1946, performed the largest share of the work involved in the daily operation of the company. His responsibilities included ordering supplies, handling customer correspondence, dealing with federal regulations, and supervising the salespeople. Hall was also treasurer and secretary of the Albion Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Guy Johnson, who was responsible for recruiting and training salespeople, served as the general sales manager until 1935. In addition, Johnson assisted in the operation of the Milwaukee branch store.

In 1946, Dr. F. E. Shearer, husband of Maybelle, became president of Willson Monarch, while still continuing to maintain his medical clinic in the same building as the laboratory. During the following year, he bought all of the Willson Monarch interests. In 1958, the company underwent liquidation. The business was transferred to Otto Bartz in 1960 and ceased operations sometime prior to 1970.