Elder Shirt Factory

McLeansboro, IL

Elder Manufacturing, Hamilton County, Illinois

Elder Manufacturing, 1st Building
Flora Mayberry's Photo Album


Year Event
November 13, 1919 Elder Manufacturing Company committed to McLeansboro, IL as an additional location. The factory occupied temporary quarters at Goodrich's Market on the east side of square.
January 22, 1920 Training of new employees commenced.
May 27, 1920 New sewing machines installed.
Fall, 1920 The first company building was located on North Washington Street near the railroad.
The plant initially produced men’s summer underwear.
1921 70 people were employed by the company
1941 National Labor Board called for an election with workers in McLeansboro worker desire for a union.
The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of AFL & CIO was chosen as the representative.
Thelma Clark and Richard Blazier organized the workers.
Local 403 was chartered and first contract signed in September 1941.
World War II The McLeansboro plant produced several uniform items for the Army. The quantity provided is not known but the dates and types are as follows:

  • 1943, Special Khaki Cotton Shirt
  • 1944, Khaki Cotton Shirt
  • 1945, Cotton Shirt
1955 John H. Stelle, native son, prominent politician, and businessman financed the construction of a second building in 1955 at 300 Rowen Drive. Stelle loaned Elder $90,000 over a ten year term. McLeansboro Industrial Development, Inc. provided the reminder of the $125,000 project cost and the new building location at Cherry Street and Rowan Drive while obtaining the previous site in trade. The structure was completed in the fall of 1956.
1963 A warehouse with a capacity of 8700 square foot was added to the back of the building. A factory outlet for local shopping was added to the warehouse.
1978 Elder closed its doors on April 30, 1978 citing competition from foreign manufacturers. As a result of a petition filed by the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union with the Department of Labor, the former employees in McLeansboro were deemed eligible for adjustment assistance under Title II, Chapter 2 of the Trade Act of 1974 on September 28, 1978. She and many of her coworkers that were both family and friends found employment with the Decatur Garment Company making dresses north of the square. Senator Paul Simon advocated for the former workers in later years and some received a sliver of their pension but no health benefits.
Epilogue Millions of shirts were sewn by the women of Hamilton County during six decades. Many served over 30 years despite extreme conditions in buildings that never had air conditioning. The lint from the fabric was as deadly as dust in a coal mine. Sewing machine operations negatively impacted their backs in the days before ergonomic concerns. The community was unaware that name brand merchandise sold in expensive stores had been made by their neighbors, right here in Hamilton County.
Their efforts are not forgotten.
BVD underwear, nightshirts
Uniforms for US Army
1943, Special Khaki Cotton Shirt
1944, Khaki Cotton Shirt
1945, Cotton Shirt
Arrow, Elder, Elderado, JC Penny, Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Van Heusen

Tom Sawyer Advertisement

Life Magazine, March 31, 1958

Hamilton County Sesquicentennial 1821 - 1971 Ad

Hamilton County Sesquicentennial Booklet Ad

Flora (Buttry) Mayberry’s photo album
Veda (Buttry) Sutton’s scrapbook
Harrelson, Ralph S., A New Geography of Illinois: Hamilton County. Benton, IL: Illinois Magazine XVII, No. 2 (February 1978)
The Yesterdays of Hamilton County
Hamilton County Sesquicentennial 1821 - 1971
Life Magazine, March 31, 1958
Uniforms of the US Army Ground Forces 1939-1945, Addendum, By Charles Lemons
United States Military Uniforms of World War II
Christopher Reuscher

National Archives And Records Administration. Federal Register: 43 Fed. Reg. 3 Sept. 29, 1978. Friday, 1978. Periodical
Mt. Vernon Register

Elders August 1947

By Oliver

Elders August 1947, Left

By Oliver

Elders August 1947, Middle

By Oliver

Elders August 1947, Right

By Oliver

January 1958

Irene Goodwin 40 Year Retirement

Flora Mayberry, ?, Irene Goodwin, Harriett York, ?

January 1958

January 1958

January 1958

Flora Mayberry

September 1964

1955 - John Stelle Finances New Elder Building

John Stelle - middle, first row

Art B. Heman

1964 - Mary Snyder Retirement 21 Years

Mary Snyder, Russell Pemberton

Violet W, Helen J, Hazel Ingram, Flora Mayberry, Vauda Stewart

Hazel Ingram

?, ?

Elder Float in Fall Festival

Elder Float in Fall Festival

?, Rhonda Sutton

Elder Float Driver

?, Charlie Turner, ?

1935 Elder Women's Softball Team

1935 Elder Men's Softball Team

Agnes Del Gaudio, Harriet York, Alva Knight, Robins Goodwin, Grace Campbell, Myrtle Pool, Mauda McMahon, Belle Wallace

1963 Elder Retirees

Myrtle Smith, Luella Harper, Elise Mayberry, Mae Wilson, Rella Taylor, Irene Goodwin, Allie Burton, Margaret Ward, Hazel Morris

1970 - Maggie Ward Retirement
31 years

Maggie Ward - 3rd from right

?, ?, Russell Pemberton, Davie Scott, ?

Flora Mayberry, Geri Webb

Flora Mayberry, Nadine Campbell, Violet Wheeler, Janet Jacobs

Elder Manufacturing Signature Card

Flora Mayberry

Flora Mayberry's Elder Service Pins<br/>35 years

Flora Mayberry's Elder Service Pins
35 years

David Cantrell Collection

Flora Mayberry, my grandma, worked at the shift factory in McLeansboro, IL for 35 years. After the first 10, she had an interruption in employment. The photo below has her two 10 year pins, one 15, 20, and 25 year along with the union emblem. Her assembly line role in later years was sewing shirt sleeves. On several occasions, the company provided shirts to the Price is Right game show for Bob Barker. Grandma was tasked with the construction from start to finish for this special customer. I am proud of her skills as a seamstress. She applied her ability to making quilts for all her children, grand children, and some of the great-grand children before she passed away in 1996. She also made dresses and other clothes for her family. The cold nights seem just a little bit warmer when wrapped in a quilt made with love.

Shirt Factory Employees

Tom Sawyer™ Shirt Label

Made by Elder Manufacturing Company

Tom Sawyer™ Brochure
Included in Shirt Package

Made by Elder Manufacturing Company

Tom Sawyer™ Color Options
Included in Shirt Package

Made by Elder Manufacturing Company

Mark Twain™ Shirt

Made by Elder Manufacturing Company

Mark Twain™ Shirt Label

Made by Elder Manufacturing Company

Mark Twain™ Shirt Packaging

Made by Elder Manufacturing Company

1973 Elder Factory
Washington Street

USGS Earth Explorer

2017 Elder Factory
Washington Street

EPA EnviroMapper

1973 Elder Factory
Rowen Street

USGS Earth Explorer

2017 Elder Factory
Rowen Street

EPA EnviroMapper

Plant Managers
Dick Simenon, T. E. Goodwin, C. R. Rumsey, M. E. Clark, William E. Lewis, Russell Pemberton, Wayne Pemberton, Davie Scott