At a time when women faced enormous hurdles and obstacles in the workplace, possessing fewer opportunities and earning lower wages than men, the progressive and woman-owned and operated Averill Morgan Co. recognized the strength of working women and immigrants by offering them respect and chances to advance. Ahead of its time in the 1920s and 1930s, the cleaning and dye company offered not only superior service but also a classy work environment in its 1141 N. Seward headquarters.
Averill Morgan’s executives gained years of experience working for City Dye Works, many starting in menial jobs and advancing into leadership positions. Founded in 1881 and incorporated in 1901, City Dye Works was run by President John J. Jenkins and was considered Los Angeles’ largest and best equipped cleaners, dyeing textiles and garments for trade businesses and the official cleaners for the theatrical circuit. As with many textile manufacturing companies at the time, women made up a majority of employees because they earned lower wages and worked in more hazardous conditions as they desperately needed the income.
In 1923, Kathleen Alice Enright Averill determined to form her own organization to better support and understand the needs of working women and immigrants. She joined forces with financier Thomas L.F. Morgan of Cincinnati, who had purchased Balloon Dye Works downtown on March 31, 1923. An ad in the November 27, 1923, Los Angeles Times noted that the company was incorporated October 1 at a cost of $150,000, with its main office and plant at 820 E. 16th St. and three branches in downtown and Hollywood. At that time, Morgan served as president while Averill served as secretary and treasurer of the new Averill-Morgan Company, Inc.
The ad noted the co-operative nature of the business, “which means that all of its employees have acquired an interest in the business,” enabling them to acquire experts and veterans in the field. Most of the employees listed are women, with years of dedicated service to City Dye Works. By 1925, however, Morgan appears to have moved on, and Averill now served as president and general manager, making the decisions and determining that intelligent, thoughtful, mature women could best lead and inspire the staff of the new company. Women served in all officer positions, an incredibly unusual situation for the time, recognizing the difficulties other females and immigrants endured at jobs. Lucy Eby served as Vice-President and Eloisa Cosgrove served as Secretary-Treasurer.
Averill herself immigrated from Ireland with her husband in 1889 at the age of 29. Widowed in 1900 and never remarrying, she found work as a domestic before joining City Dye Works in 1903-1904 as a clerk. By 1912, Averill advanced to secretary and by 1923 she served as Secretary/Treasurer and General Manager of the organization.
Lucy Eby, born 1873 in Arizona to an Anglo father and a Mexican mother, had joined her husband Edward as a laundry worker by joining City Dye Works in 1905, serving as forewoman. She continued in that position to at least 1921, when she appears to have left the company.
Eloisa Cosgrove, born 1869 in Arizona, also to an Anglo father and Mexican mother, is listed as presser for City Dye Works in the 1904 City Directory, a spotter in the 1910 Directory, and in 1920 as a forewoman for the company.
On September 13, 1931 newspapers announced that Averill-Morgan had leased 1141 N. Seward as their its headquarters for the next 15 years. Designed by Saunders & Sons to the specifications of Averill, the fireproof $50,000 two-story building featured over 16,000 square feet of floor space and was constructed specifically for the company by the owner, the adjacent lumber company. Proud of their striking new headquarters, Averill Morgan would feature its facade on matchbooks it distributed as well as ads in local newspapers.
A 1938 Los Angeles Times story would note the company possessed ten delivery wagons and 65 employees, covering areas as diverse as Los Angeles, Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Westwood, and beach cities, and called them the ‘“highest-priced” cleaning and dyeing concern in this community.’ Its “high quality work and care” attracted customers, as did its efficiency.
The company suffered damage to a truck and boat from a fire to the Lounsberry & Harris Lumberyard at 6641 Santa Monica Blvd. and Hollywood Door & Mill Co. on Lexington Ave. in 1946. Averill had left the company by this time, but the organization still maintained the name, even after her death in 1957.
On October 31, 1966, the Hollywood Citizen News announced that Maury Stein had purchased the building and equipment for $1.5 million as the new location of his Crest Film Lab, located at 932 N. La Brea Avenue. After servicing the film industry for decades, the building has served as offices for music and general business concerns, and continues to stand on Seward, though some of its windows have been covered.
1141 Seward Street offers a nice memorial to Averill-Morgan, the foremother of other strong and women-led concerns.