Willson Monarch Laboratory Records, 1889-1966

Scope and Content Note

The Willson Monarch collection contains information on the company primarily from the 1920s through the 1950s, with only a limited amount of information present for either the earlier or the final years of its operation. The laboratory fire that occurred in 1928 was responsible for the destruction of many of the records. However, many important aspects of Willson Monarch history are still well represented by the collection. For example, the sales department files contain a good deal of information on the company's agents, a surprisingly large number of whom were women. Also well documented are the various products sold by Willson Monarch, the manner in which they were promoted, and problems concerning their packaging. Unfortunately, while the types of financial files are diverse, they are not complete. There is as well, very little correspondence or policy-level exchanges between the officers in the Edgerton office.

The collection consists mainly of financial reports and records, correspondence, advertising materials, and a few photographs. The records are organized as: Incorporation Records, Financial Records, Sales Department Records, General Correspondence, and Publications and Advertising.

The INCORPORATION RECORDS are limited in scope, consisting only of the articles of incorporation, incomplete stock records, and information on the liquidation of assets that took place in 1958. The capital stock certificates (1927-1930) and journal (1894-1896) list Willson Monarch shareholders and the amounts of their ownership. Information on the value of the stock, although only for the years between 1933 and 1945, can be found in the capital stock tax returns.

The FINANCIAL RECORDS, which are arranged with general, summary types of records preceding the more specific files, are also incomplete, with little material dating from the company's early years. Beginning with a guide to account classifications, this section encompasses federal and state tax returns, audit reports, ledgers, journals, balance sheets, and sales records, as well as federal and state reports, manufacturing statistics and charts, employment information and figures, and some legal records.

For the most part, the SALES DEPARTMENT RECORDS contain correspondence regarding agents and their accounts; the remaining files document the hiring of a new sales executive and the operation of the Milwaukee branch. Taken as a whole, the sales department records yield a good deal of information on how Willson Monarch marketed its products, primarily during the 1920s and 1930s, and how it conducted business through its salespeople. Also evident is the role of the large number of women agents.

The files are subdivided into Prospective Agents' Correspondence, Agents' Correspondence, Collections, Agents' Records, Sales Executive Applications, and Milwaukee Store Files.

The majority of the Prospective Agents' Correspondence consists of exchanges between L. G. Hall or E. T. King (field manager, 1929-1931) and people wishing to become agents for Willson Monarch. The letters have been grouped alphabetically, although some individual files have been established for more extensive correspondents. Also included are newspaper want ads, applications, references, surities, contracts, field reports from a few salesmen, initial orders, and some business propositions from agents. The field reports of E. T. King and C. G. Faas, which discuss their attempts to recruit and train agents, reveal the type of person for which Willson Monarch was looking.

The Agents' Correspondence, which primarily consists of orders and questions about products, quotas, and applications, has been arranged alphabetically, with the more complete individual files of agents followed by less extensive, general files. This section provides perhaps the most complete information on how the company sold its products. The Collection files contain information on agents with delinquent accounts, including their initial applications, correspondence, and information on Willson Monarch's attempts to collect on their accounts through the services of Dun & Bradstreet. There is also a small file of photographs of Willson Monarch salespeople, often with the vehicles or horse-drawn wagons they used to sell their wares. Sales Executive Applications and information on the management and personnel of the Milwaukee Store comprise the remainder of the category.

GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, which mainly dates from the period 1930-1942 and which largely documents the work of L. G. Hall and later Helen Short and Otto Bartz, consists of files on diverse topics such as customer orders, applications for various company positions, orders for manufacturing materials, correspondence with the firm's analytical chemist (A. H. Tiegen), correspondence with state agencies, and letters of product appreciation. Other important areas include the proposed merger with the Swift Manufacturing Company, Willson Monarch's membership in the Inter-State Manufacturers Association (which supplied advice on how to train and motivate salespeople, market products, and deal with increasing governmental regulation), and state licensing of agents by Nick Neupert. The effects of the Depression on business and the difficulties of obtaining supplies during World War II are frequently evident.

PUBLICATIONS AND ADVERTISING is comprised of printed materials intended for internal use by agents and other company employees and files related to product labels.

Included are extensive files of two newsletters (Monarch News and Weekly Punch), form letters, a company sales manual, and tips for new dealers, all of which supplement the agents' correspondence and which provide an additional source of information on how Willson Monarch marketed its products. Monarch News began as an internal newsletter concerning the lives and activities of various employees. After changing title in 1932, it was used to inform and motivate agents and to increase sales. Documentation of the actual operation of the Willson Monarch printing department, however, is marginal, consisting of only a small amount of correspondence.

The citations for improper labeling and related correspondence illustrate the effects of increasing governmental regulations on Willson Monarch during the 1930s. In addition, the file of product labels and catalogs provides information such as formula, uses, and directions that cannot be found elsewhere in the records.

The only material in the collection from the company's very early history may be found here in a file concerning problems with trademarks.