Elder Manufacturing employees gathered for a photo circa 1919, when the company began operating here. (CONTRIBUTED BY JOHN BURRINGTON)

Old News

From the 3rd floor
of the Webb City Public Library

Elder Mfg. was an important part of Webb City for 66 years

Webb City Area Genealogical Society

Nov. 11, 1918

Elder Manufacturing Company Will Open Plant in Webb City About January 1

The Chamber of Commerce yesterday closed a deal which will bring to this city a large factory employing 300 workers, January 1, when the Elder Manufacturing Company of St. Louis takes possession of the Motor Inn garage building at First and Webb Streets.

Men’s garments, underclothing, suits, ties and work garments, children’s clothing, etc., will be manufactured by more than 300 women and girls.

With the establishment of the plant in Webb City the Elder Company will operate ten factories, the greater part of which are located in St. Louis.

The concern is one of the most prominent in this section of the country, is rated high, having bought $100,000 worth of bonds in the last liberty loan drive.

May 8, 1919

Elder Factory is at Work – 60 People

The Elder garment factory is a reality. Work began this week at the new plant in the former Motor Inn building, and 60 people are now at work, with about 15 being taken on daily for instruction under Miss Slatteck, forewoman. Eventually some 200 are to be employed, machinery being installed to accommodate that number.

Miss Slatteck, who has now superintended the starting of six Elder factories, reports that the Webb City employees so far as the quickest and most intelligent to learn that she has ever instructed.

Jan. 16, 1920

Average of $10 a Week Earned at Elder Plant

120 girls in the plant made $1,200 in a week, average of $10. The system is to start girls on piece work giving them all they can make plus $4.25 bonus the first week, and 25 cents less bonus per week until $1.00 is reached.

In the meantime the girls improve rapidly. One girl from the country ran her wage up to $16.00 in short order, and another woman here in town is quoted as making $2.75 per day.


Elder Mfg. was still going here through the fall of 1985.

Owner came in 1985 to announce pending closure

In September 1985, the Sentinel covered Elder Manufacturing owner Jack Rowan’s visit to Webb City when he announced he would likely close the plant here.

Despite persuasion by Webb City Chamber of Commerce officials, he said he was moving his manufacturing operations to Paragould, Ark., because of the anti-business attitude in Missouri. A bill (that only got three votes) had been introduced in the legislature a year earlier to regulate plant closures.

The Sentinel wrote: “It’s ironic that the Elder plant was moved from downtown St. Louis to Webb City in 1919 to avoid a city merchants and manufacturers tax, and now Rowan is planning to move out of the state to ‘rid myself of onerous legislation.’”

Rowan denied he was avoiding the union, admitting that the pay would be higher in Arkansas than here. Wages here were in the range of $3.35 to $4.50 per hour.

Freda Van, president of Local 116 of the Almagated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, said her members were sad to see the plant close and that many would have difficulty finding another job. Besides losing their livelihood, they would be losing friendships. 

John Beerly, plant manager, said there was enough material on hand to keep the employees working eight more weeks.

On Nov. 8, 1985, the union had fried chicken catered for the 149 employees as an early Christmas dinner, but one employee said it was more like a goodbye dinner.


An employee dinner on Nov. 8, 1985, came near the end of the plant’s operation.

Sentinel bound volumes are now in the Genealogy Room

The WCAGS has accepted ownership of the complete collection of bound volumes of the Webb City Sentinel, from 1983 (after the fire) until the final issue on Dec. 30, 2020.

Those issues can also be viewed on microfilm, along with much older issues.

Webb City Area Genealogical Society

WCAGS members staff the Genealogy Room on the third floor of the Webb City Public Library. Current hours are noon to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month in the Genealogy Room.

Everything you want to know about Jasper County Missouri Schools is available at a site compiled by Webb City Area Genealogical Society member Kathy Sidenstricker.

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