I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but while in Altavista, it was brought to my attention by my new friend, Virginia (a 50 year employee at Lane!), that a book exists that chronicled the first 50 years of the Lane Company. Not a brochure, not a booklet, not a pamphlet, not a speech transcript, a real live, 147 page hard-bound book!
Virginia was kind enough to show me her edition and I was able to obtain copies of certain pages pertaining to our boxes. Additionally, another Lane employee wrote me, upon my return from Altavista, to tell me about the book and mentioned he had donated his edition to the Virginia Historical Society. Virginia encouraged me (and I had prior permission to do this) to search the B.B. and Minnie Lane house bookshelves (where I was staying) for a copy. The house had many, many books but I was able to locate a copy in the office/library and read as much of it as I could given the short time I was there. As I mentioned in a couple of posts back, my persistence looking for the book paid off and I was able to buy a copy that was “withdrawn” from the University of Michigan – Dearborn library. And here it is…
I have read the book cover to cover. Our Girl Graduate Plan is covered in about 1 page – 3 if you include photos. But, oh does it contain some gems!
Before I get into the gems, it is worth noting the book was written by Helen Hughes Lane, the second wife of the founder of the Lane Company, E.H. Lane Sr. The book contains a lot of information about the Lane family and the evolution of the company from its beginnings as the Standard Red Cedar Chest Company. The Lane’s weren’t sure the company would be a success so they kept their name un-associated with the company until 1922.
OK, back to our boxes. I have probably said this before, but the “idea man” behind the Girl Graduate Plan was a man named J. Arthur Krauss who was hired by E.H. Lane Sr. in 1922 as director of sales and advertising. Mr. Lane Sr. believed in the motto, “You’ve got to sell with and idea.” Mr. Krauss embraced this philosophy as well and ran with it. As the story goes, Mr. Krauss noticed the workers from the plant were making little boxes for their wives, girl friends and family members from the cedar scraps left over from the manufacture of the cedar chests. When Mr. Krauss saw little boxes for sale at a clothing store called Rothchilds in Kansas City, the idea was born.
Directly from an interview with Mr. Krauss from the above mentioned book, he states about the little Girl Graduate boxes, “(we) found the supplier was an Italian who had a little shop over his garage. I got in touch with him and contracted for all he could make, paying $1.35 apiece and reselling them to the (Lane cedar chest) dealers. We worked on the carload sales plan, advertising on Friday night and closing the Special on Mondays. Boy, I wanna tell you that thing hit. We later found outfits in Ohio and Chicago that could make the miniatures and bought ’em by the thousands.”
In the book, Mr. Lane Sr. says the boxes were distributed starting in 1925 but the Plan wasn’t officially rolled out until 1930. I am going to guess, since Mr. Krauss said they bought “thousands” of boxes from Ohio and Chicago and Kansas City, that the boxes distributed from 1925 until sometime in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s were NOT made in the Miniatures Department of the Lane factory. In fact, around that time, that department was probably being organized and built out to handle the manufacture of little boxes.
Oh, and then there’s this….OUR HERO, J. Arthur Krauss seated in a photo taken in 1925.
And what is that on his lap??? Looks like a Tall Hasp with Feet box to me! Oh yea! That’s right, the picture is from 1925! Does J. Arthur look like an advertising and marketing guy or what! Nice tie!
Now, who manufactured little cedar boxes in Chicago and Ohio in the 1920’s and 30’s? I’m working on it…got some great stuff to share with you very soon. This post is long enough.
Until next time.