Photograph of protestors at a demonstration on March 17, 1937 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. This image was captured outside of the Grand Avenue Building, location of the Gordon Brothers Garment Company, Gernes Garment Company, and Missouri Garment Company building at 2617 Grand Avenue (now Grand Boulevard), Kansas City, Missouri. The sit-in turned into a riot as violence began between garment company workers, union protesters, and police.
A pamphlet showcasing six wardrobes from Nelly Don Soapsuds Fashions'. This specific document was mailed to Miss Adelaide Navious of 3028 Baltimore Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. The pamphlet also advertises Nelly Don Week, April 27 to May 3 at Emery, Bird, Thayer & Company at 1016-1018 Grand Avenue (now Grand Boulevard), Kansas City, Missouri.
A form letter from International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) Director of Publicity Max D. Danish to garment merchandisers. Danish informs the recipients that the ILGWU has taken out an advertisement in the Kansas City Star, Kansas City Times, Kansas City Journal-Post and New York Women's Wear Daily relating to a "controversy concerning collective bargaining" between the Donnelly Garment Company and the ILGWU.
Photograph of protestors at a sit-in on March 17, 1937 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. This image was captured inside of the Grand Avenue Building, location of the Gordon Brothers Garment Company, Gernes Garment Company, and Missouri Garment Company building at 2617 Grand Avenue (now Grand Boulevard), Kansas City, Missouri. This photograph was taken by Kansas City Journal-Post newspaper photographer George Cauthen.
Articles of Agreement between the Donnelly Garment Workers' Union and the Donnelly Garment Company at 1828 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri. At the time of the agreement, 1305 out 1333 Donnelly Garment Company employees were registered with the preceding union. This document defines the rates of pay, hours, election of union committees, and other labor issues.
A bar graphs displaying the minimum hourly wage provision for the lowest paid crafts in the dress industry from 1913 to 1939. The 'x' axis charts the year and the 'y' axis charts the minimum hourly wage in cents. The graph shows a gradual increase in wage over time with a dip in 1933.
Nell Donnelly and her chauffeur, George Blair, were kidnapped on December 16, 1931. Donnelly had become famous after her 1916 founding of the Donnelly Garment Company, which sold stylish but affordable dresses for daily wear by ordinary women. Backed by the sales of “Nelly Don’s,” as the dresses became known, the company grew into a multi-million dollar business with over 1,000 employees in the 1920s.
Johnny Lazia (born Lazzio) gained prominence in Kansas City’s politics during the 1920s and ‘30s due to his leadership of the North Side Democratic Club, engagement in local organized crime, and involvement with Tom Pendergast’s political machine. Pendergast dominated Kansas City politics not by holding elected offices, but through his machine of alliances and affiliates.
The history of the Donnelly Garment Company and its battle with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is one that defies conventional understandings of American life in the Great Depression. It is a story of a female entrepreneur succeeding in an era of economic paralysis, and one of a union failing to organize a factory in a period when workers won substantive rights. ILGWU president David Dubinsky, Nell Donnelly Reed, and Senator James A. Reed were the principal figures in a contest to organize a single garment factory, a legal battle that came to represent much larger questions.