Sharrie Williams, author of The Maybelline Story, is an original descendant of the Maybelline family. Her Great uncle, Tom Lyle Williams, founded the Maybelline Co in 1915 and sold it in 1967. Sharrie shares her families photos, stories and vintage Maybelline ads.
Maybelline was known as "THE WONDER COMPANY" in the Cosmetic Industry
Harris A. Neil Jr with Harris A. Neil lll
PEOPLE, CULTURE AND STYLE by Harris A. Neil Jr.
in my work experience, before or since, came close to matching the
work environment of the Maybelline Company. The people, from my
mentors Tom Lyle Williams Jr. and John Cole on down, were outstanding. Rags Ragland, was the father
figure for all of us, the glue that held the place together, no
disrespect to Tom Jr.. The management style was professional, but very
simple and workable.
is probably the best indicator of how the company operated. I can’t
remember writing or receiving more than a dozen or so internal memos
in all my years with Maybelline. If there was an “Employee
Handbook,” I can’t remember it. We all knew where we stood, and
treated one another with respect and good will. Life was simpler
then, with almost no Federal or State personnel oversight except for
minimum wage and overtime provisions. There was no OSHA, no ADA, and
very few other “alphabet soup” agencies. There was some presence
at the City government level. For example, the company had to operate
the “Chicago way,” such as the annual courtesy call at
Christmas-time from the Chicago Fire Department. Several fire
officials would call on Tom Jr., and leave with whatever tribute was
prevailing for that year.
that streamlined system of communication kept things going
internally, things were much more conventional in external affairs.
In my case, I had heavy daily contact with our supplier group, and I
did almost everything in writing, to put a form of importance and
accountability into our relationship. It worked for the most part,
and it beat trying to remember what it was that we discussed when so
many contacts were buzzing around.
declared by (Tom Lyle Williallms,) T. L. (as explained in The
there was no pattern of nepotism within the company. Of course, there
was the arms-length relationship, company to vendor, with Deluxe
Mascara. Also, Ches Haines was the Maybelline Traffic Manager,
responsible for all material and order movement, in and out of our
loading dock. The company was 100% dependent on truck movement,
so this was a vital function. It could get quite exciting if the
Teamsters decided to walk out, or if Chicago had one of its
as the management group was small in number, so were the personal
office needs. In my early days, I worked in the general office area,
and there were four private offices on “executive row.” In later
years, Mary Ann Anderson came into the company as Vice President of
Advertising, and the company converted some apartment space adjacent
to the general office and created offices for that function. As
mentioned earlier, this expansion also moved further to provide space
for the new Computer Department, Credit Department, and for Rag’s
now two assistants. Bob Medlin had joined Carle Rollins to assist
addition, Ches and his assistant, Herb Zimmerman, had an office near
the Receiving/Shipping areas downstairs. Also, Julius Wagman was a
“vagabond,” spending much of his time across town with the action
at Munk Chemical Company, but visiting the Maybelline building
the management group loosely outlined above, there were many more
wonderful employees involved in clerical, production, warehousing,
material handling, accounting, you name the function and there were
people covering that square. Most of the employees were long-time
veterans, although we had newer hires that came aboard with the
growth that moved us all.
employment profile was a reflection of the neighborhood surrounding
the company. We sat in a North Side neighborhood called “Edgewater.”
Chicago, like all large cities, was a city of neighborhoods, and
Edgewater was a mixed area of single and multiple residences, retail
and commercial, but no industrial. There was also a large public high
school across Ridge Avenue from Maybelline..
this idyllic pattern of operation was the mostly invisible hand of
our founder and leader, Mr. Tom Lyle Williams. He and his California
staff communicated mainly with Rags and Tom Jr., but also from time to
time with Dorothy Molander, of course, and John Cole and Julius Wagman. I personally never
talked with the gentleman, but one time John recorded a detailed
guideline for us and I heard his pleasant, deliberate voice.
telephone was the conduit for all of T. L.’s daily contact, and it
was constant. Rags, of course, traveled in his national contacts, and
told me one time, humorously, that T. L. would find him at his hotel
and go on and on, whether or not Rags could talk right then. When
that happened, Rags would just set the handset on the bed and go
about what he needed to do. When he got back, T. L. would still be
talking and Rags would rejoin the conversation. Rags said he never
was the pleasant and very active work environment that we enjoyed
with one another over the years. It was pleasant and functional
without being stuffy. The only cloud on the horizon was that nagging
question of how we’d dodge the bullet on the space crunch we were
facing by 1967. The answer came one morning in October.
Stay tuned next Monday as part 6 unfolds. "The Plough Inc. Merger."