“The ‘Made in Kalamazoo’ label is a guarantee to purchasers throughout this country. It is time that the people of this city began to look for the label and demand it.”
—Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 March 1914
Although a weak economy and high unemployment marked the beginning of 1914, an air of hope was spreading across the U.S. A new sense of charity as a civic responsibility took hold, especially in industrial cities. In Kalamazoo, the newly formed Child Welfare League seized upon an idea to acquire needed funds and hopefully to help provide job growth in the community.
At their May 1914 meeting, the CWL membership decided to organize a Made in Kalamazoo exhibit to promote the purchase of locally made products. The CWL provided mothers with knowledge to improve the health, development and education of their children. The League hoped that increased interest in buying locally made goods would help to create jobs and in turn to create a better environment for the children of the city. While the CWL began to organize their exhibit in the spring, it would be fall before the buy local/U.S. goods campaign took hold across the country.
In 1911, Miss Lucy Gage, head of the Kindergarten Department at the Western State Normal School, hosted afternoon teas at Vine Street School to encourage mothers to meet with the kindergarten teachers. Miss Gage wanted to establish a closer relationship between the teachers and mothers to improve the work in the kindergartens.
For two years, teachers and mothers met casually to share ideas regarding children at home and in school to better understand child development and behavior. With a growing interest among mothers and teachers, the group formally established itself as the Child Welfare League on 29 April 1913.
The minutes of the May meeting recorded that 93 members paid the twenty-five cent annual dues. Because of an increase in membership and a need for a more suitable location for guest speakers, the CWL moved out of Vine Street School, and in October 1913 began to hold its meetings in the rooms of the Commercial Club (later the Chamber of Commerce) on the fifth floor of the Telegraph-Press building at 114-118 W. South Street. There the CWL met after school on the first Thursday of each month.
A unique aspect of the CWL as a charity was that the organization viewed its role as a disseminator of information rather than of goods and money. The following samples were topics that the CWL meetings addressed through group-led discussions and guest speakers.
Miss Lucy Gage spoke on age appropriate toys for children and their aid in the proper development of a child. Dr. Clarke Faulkerson, a local physician, spoke on the Congress of School Hygiene he attended in Buffalo, N.Y. His talk discussed the importance of dental, school and sex hygiene. He also discussed the open air school movement which was beginning to grow. These schools combined medical surveillance with education and believed in classes held in the fresh air year round to prevent tuberculosis.
Mrs. H. H. Halley and Miss Agnes Gillies read and discussed articles on discipline and obedience, with an emphasis on parental discipline. Mrs. Robert Walton and Mrs. C. S. Carney led a group discussion in which mothers shared their personal problems with child training. Professor Robert Rhinehold of Western State Normal School spoke on the need of the father’s influence in training children.
The CWL began to work with the Junior Dramatic League to discuss appropriate dramas to bring to Kalamazoo playhouses for children on Saturday afternoons.
Professor James A. Starkweather, principal of the Woodward Ave. School, and Prof. Shattuck O. Hartwell, Superintendent of Schools, spoke on the rapid growth in the student population with no expansion of existing buildings. Both addressed the district's use of the Gary System to handle the increased numbers in the current space. The Gary System, named for the city in which it was organized, was developed to integrate classroom work and vocational education in a manner that allowed for the rotation of students through various activities/classes at their own pace and also aided in the Americanization of immigrants. This reduced the number of students in classes and did not require large spaces or building renovations, but a schedule that rotated students to the different options offered. Starkweather and Hartwell asked parents to be patient as the transition took place.
An open discussion on the role of mothers and issues with children at different age levels.
Reverend Caroline Bartlett Crane, minister of the People’s Church and civic reformer, spoke on the garbage question in Kalamazoo. Rev. Crane explained the different sanitary methods available for the disposal of the waste material of a city.
“The first room shows the model playroom. In the second are the toys and books for the younger children, while in the third room are those for older children. In the fourth room will be a cribside bed where two nurses from the cribside room in Bronson hospital will demonstrate the correct dressing of a baby and the proper care of a sick child.”
—Kalamazoo Gazette, 5 December 1913
It was a great concern of the CWL to reach parents who lacked knowledge of how to care for their children. To help make this possible, Miss Lucy Gage of the Western State Normal School initiated the CWL’s use of public exhibits to share information with the community. After her talk on toys and their relationship to the development of the child, Miss Gage proposed an exhibit to model this for parents. The exhibit showed parents the use of books, games, and pictures in groupings appropriate for various stages of early child development.
On the 5th and 6th of December, people crowded into the YMCA, then at the corner of W. Main and S. Park, to view the practical and simple materials selected by mothers for the display. Parents learned which items were most appropriate, based on a mother’s experience and not on what a store suggested. Although many local businesses had representatives on hand, their role was to learn from parents which items in their stock met with approval and what changes stores could make to help improve local patronage.
The CWL’s Playroom
At the May 1914 meeting, the CWL decided to use the success of the model playroom exhibit to create a playroom for public use. The CWL would fund pay for a play director and a nurse on staff. One afternoon a week it would be open so mothers could leave their children while they shopped or took care of other matters. People’s Church at 321 W. Lovell donated space for the playroom.
Although donations would be sought from mothers leaving their children at the playroom, sufficient funds were still needed to obtain materials and to pay the staff. It was at this time that the CWL set in motion its plans for the Made in Kalamazoo exhibit. Through the display of locally manufactured products, the CWL hoped to earn the needed funds for the playroom. Over the summer months, efforts were made to begin this work, but a chairman and committee were not established until the October meeting.
With the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914, the U.S. began to worry that the economy would stagnate. As a neutral country it was still able to sell to and import from the warring nations, but there was concern for how long Europe could afford to purchase goods from abroad and to manufacture goods at home that were not related to their war effort.
Within the first week of the war, U.S. journalists wrote of the opportunity it offered to manufacturers. War was the impetus to increased production of American goods. Journalists instructed manufacturers to focus on the home markets and to endure a temporary reduction in profits. MADE IN THE U.S.A. became the call across the country. Collier's magazine began a series of weekly editorials that emphasized the buying of goods made in the U.S.A. as the patriotic duty of all citizens. Mr. E. C. Patterson stated in one editorial that the stamp MADE IN THE U.S.A. was better than MADE IN AMERICA because America denotes a larger continental region and not just the United States. He further emphasized this in another editorial by stating, “U.S. spells US.”
Women received special attention in the Women’s Home Companion. Grace M. Gould, a writer for the fashion section, wrote that women gave preference to foreign designers out of an old belief that European was better than American. This had to change. Mrs. T. R. Marshall, wife of the vice president of the U.S., told women that they could influence American industry through their patriotic support of American made goods. Although not every U.S. made product would satisfy all shoppers, local manufacturers hoped that their goods would receive a serious look.
MADE IN KALAMAZOO
With no mention of the economy, war, or the Made in the U.S.A. movement, the CWL returned to work in October and furthered the plans for its MADE in KALAMAZOO exhibit. The membership elected Mrs. S. H. Van Horn, president of the CWL, to chair the exhibit committee. On 2 and 3 December, the Telegraph-Press and the Gazette reported on Mrs. Van Horn’s work on an exhibit that would display a variety of goods manufactured in Kalamazoo as the means to obtain funds for a public playroom. On 5 and 6 December, the papers reported the names of the other committee members and that 200 businesses had already agreed to participate or had made a financial contribution to support the exhibit.
Many of the committee members had close connections with the businesses and industries in Kalamazoo, which may have helped with the recruitment of participants.
Mrs. Samuel H. Van Horn – wife of a probate judge
Mrs. Robert Walton – wife of the assistant treasurer of the Kalamazoo Corset Company
Mrs. Claude Carney – wife of an attorney
Mrs. Arthur Van Bochove – wife of a traveling salesman
Mrs. Edward Fisher – wife of a wood worker at the Globe Casket Manufacturing Company
Mrs. Robert Staebler – wife of the secretary, treasurer and general manager of the Kalamazoo Paper Box Company
Mrs. Douglas Rickman – wife of a bookkeeper at C.G. Bard Mill Supplies
Mrs. Fred McCurdie – wife of the superintendent of the Clarage Foundry & Manufacturing
Mrs. Arthur Stout – wife of the manager of the Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Company
Miss Grace Mosher – a public school teacher
The newspapers printed a short list of participating and/or contributing companies.
|Advance Vacuum Company
||Kalamazoo Glass Company
A. M. Todd Company
|Burden Broom Company
||Kalamazoo Loose Leaf Binder Company
|City Health Department
||Kalamazoo Paper Box Company
|Cold Storage Company
||Kalamazoo Paper Company
|DeBolt Candy Company
Kalamazoo Sled Company
|Dewing and Sons
||Kalamazoo’s Soap Company
||Kalamazoo’s (Bobb) Specialty Company
Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Company
|Goodale Aluminum Company
||Perfection Match Company
|Hanselman Candy Company
Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company
|Harvey Candy Company
|Hinckley Electric Company
||Vegetable Parchment Company
||Washing Machine Company
Kalamazoo Corset Company
||Wertzler Glass Company
|Kalamazoo Drug Company
||Young Rug Company
Each company paid a rental fee for a display booth. If a company sold products at the exhibit, it had to share a percentage of the sales with the CWL. To impress upon the public that the exhibit was strictly for the promotion of Kalamazoo manufacturers, the CWL stated that they were “selling nothing of their own” except light teas and lunches. Celery City and Gill Lumber Companies donated the lumber to build the booths. Edward Vincent, a local realtor, donated the use of a store front in his new building at 311 S. Burdick. The Commonwealth Power and Hinckley Electric Companies provided the electricity for the exhibit. This last was a significant contribution considering that the incandescent bulb was barely four years old. Adams-Brander and Merchant Publishing Companies donated the posters that were displayed around the city.
Patriotic Duty to Shop Locally
The day before the exhibit opened, a Gazette editorial reiterated the importance of the Made in Kalamazoo exhibit. It firmly reminded people “during this great buying season” that it was their patriotic duty to shop locally and to help rejuvenate local trade and the manufacture of Kalamazoo products. Noting that women do “7/8ths of the shopping” for a household, the article told women of their ability to revitalize local industry simply through their purchasing daily necessities from local merchants. Most importantly, all should insist on seeing the MADE IN KALAMAZOO label so that money spent in Kalamazoo stayed in Kalamazoo. The Gazette concluded with mention of its own earlier attempt to organize such an exhibit with no success. It hoped that this time citizens understood the importance of such an exhibit and what it could do for industry and the community. A community that did not look after itself could not call itself a successful and caring place to live.
Monday, 7 December 1914, the MADE IN KALAMAZOO exhibit opened its doors to the public. Although it was Christmas time, a patriotic theme was used. Red, white and blue bunting and American flags filled the Vincent Block. J. R. Jones and Sons added their collection of international flags to the decor. These flags may have looked out of place, but it was a way of showing that everything a shopper desired was available in Kalamazoo and also that some Kalamazoo manufacturers sold their products around the world. There was no entrance fee, and the exhibit was open all day. Evening visits allowed people to better appreciate the Hinckley light display and the stained glass on view from the Kalamazoo Glass Company. Two new items for the home gained special attention. Wax paper, made at the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company, provided the means to protect and preserve foods longer. The Kalamazoo Vac Company displayed its first electric vacuum cleaner and described it as a way to simplify carpet cleaning. The CWL believed that a clean, orderly home was essential for the well being of the children. The exhibit showed how Kalamazooo-made products made this possible at little cost.
The exhibit closed at noon on Monday, 14 December. The CWL called the exhibit a “profitable and financial success.” For their efforts they took in $151.32 from rental fees and commissions on sales. Many companies donated leftover items for the CWL to sell. It took them another year and a half to sell the brooms, clothes bars, aluminum kettles, fancy boxes, egg beaters, cake liners, paper dish cloths, nursery blankets and rolls of parchment and wax paper. All of which gave the CWL an additional $8.50. People who viewed the exhibit confirmed that they learned a great deal about products available locally and that they planned to patronize home factories and industries.
Prior to the exhibit few manufacturers advertised their products as locally made. During the week of the exhibit, small boxes appeared on the front page of the Gazette to promote local shopping:
After the exhibit, the MADE IN KALAMAZOO logo became a common sight in advertisements and on products. In the new year of 1915, the MADE IN KALAMAZOO logo continued to appear and preserved the patriotic spirit of the exhibit.
The earliest post-exhibit mention of the public playroom at the People’s Church was in the 9 March 1915 minutes of the CWL. The minutes discussed various toys needed for the playroom, which was already in use. At the same time the treasurer’s book showed debits for pay to teachers, i.e. play director and nurse, and girls from Western State Normal School. The credit side of the treasurer’s book showed contributions made by mothers and indicated that the room was in good use on the weekly afternoon it was open. This allowed the CWL to put their best practices into public use, while further aiding local businesses with a convenient location for mothers to leave their children before they began shopping. Thanks to the CWL, the Made in Kalamazoo exhibit gave local industry and stores a boost, and the public gained a safe place for children.
“Women of the United States determine to buy 'Made In America' products”
- 1 December 1914, page 5, column 6
“Child Welfare League to hold 'Made in Kalamazoo' exhibit”
- 2 December 1914, page 6, column 6
“Child Welfare League to hold sale in effort to open playroom for kiddies”
- 3 December 1914, page 5, column 1
“Kalamazoo-made goods on exhibit”
- 5 December 1914, page 3, column 7
"'Made in Kalamazoo' industrial exhibit of Child Welfare League opens tomorrow with wide variety of articles on sale”
- 6 December 1914, page 6, column 7
“Aid Kalamazoo by supporting her industries”
- 6 December 1914, page 1, column 3
“Two hundred Kalamazoo-made manufactures are displayed at the Child Welfare exhibit”
- 7 December 1914, page 6, column 2
“Made in Kalamazoo exposition opened”
- 8 December 1914, page 8, column 3
“Child Welfare League’s 'Made in Kalamazoo' sale attracts much attention”
- 10 December 1914, page 5, column 3
“Child Welfare League”
- 13 December 1914, page 6, column 3
"What War means to Fashion”
- Gould, Grace M.
Woman’s Home Companion
- November 1914, Volume 41, Number 2, page 76.
- Patterson, E. C.
- 24 October 1914, page 21
“U.S. Spells US”
- Patterson, E. C.
- Collier’s Weekly
- 7 November 1914
All manuscript materials listed here are in File B-3 in History Room Storage. Ask at the Local History Room Desk for assistance.
Child Welfare League, Minutes, 1913-1922
Child Welfare League, Treasurer’s Book, 1913-1924
History of Child Welfare League
- Cundiff, Ruth
- Manuscript, Kalamazoo Public Library Local History Collection