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 family's photos, stories and vintage Maybelline ads.
ULTRA LASH MASCARA was Maybelline's prime money maker in the 1960s
GAME ON! By Harris A. Neil Jr.
Harris A Neil Jr with his son Harris Neil Jr . lll
the Maybelline environment, both internal and external, became the
stage of activity as I joined the company in early 1959.
quickly John Cole introduced me around and toured the entire facility
with me, from stem to stern. One of the first things I recall in
looking back is Dorothy Molander asking me how often I wanted to be
paid. How often? Yes, she said, some of us like a weekly check, some
twice monthly, whatever you’d like. I had never heard of anything
like that before or since, and I quickly opted for a weekly check.
After all, I was broke.
after I started our Assembly Supervisor, Hazel Peterson, retired. It
was just a coincidence but it put that part of the operation in a new
and untested direction. Even though I was new, John asked me to “be
the eyes and ears” of what would become the Production Department.
of this moved along while the brand-new “Magic Mascara” was
giving all facets of the company plenty of challenges. The several
suppliers of packaging and product components were on maximum output,
and the private label contractor came on line very quickly after the
aborted start on Maybelline premises. Juluis Wagman, Chief Chemist,
had set this up across town, and a small private-label outfit called
Munk Chemical Company. This arrangement not only worked for the
moment, the relationship between Munk and Maybelline grew over the
years to encompass many new products. You name it, if it was a liquid
product Munk was in the picture. As Maybelline grew, so did Munk.
products began to roll out in rapid succession. It seemed that we’d
just about catch up to volume from one blockbuster and another one,
even bigger, was coming down
If we could single one
over the others, it would have to be Ultra-Lash Mascara, with a newer
applicator brush and formulation. We chased after that one for months
before volume leveled out, at a very high volume that never
went down. It had to be the prime money-maker for the company from
roll-out to the Plough merger and beyond.
The “money-maker” reference above is speculation only. I was not
privy to the company’s finances except to track direct labor
this volume grew and new products came along, Tom Lyle Williams Jr., John and Harold
“Rags” Ragland, Sales Vice President, worked together in their
respective roles to improve the appearance and form of product
packaging into a new, uniform appearance. Simplified, the whole
product line (except for most Introductory sizes) soon went to market
blister-packed on bright-white product cards, either in direct
shipments or shipments coupled with carousel display stands that Rags
They were called “Eye Fashion Centers” and they
included a full array of the Maybelline line, insuring that retailers
had a complete, balanced line of products.
growth also required changes in the internal operation. Where
packages had been mostly hand-assembled in all history, now blister
packaging quickly became the dominant method. The equipment available
for this new packaging setup was quite new, because the concept
itself was just moving into the marketplace. It applied to many, many
product lines, not merely cosmetics. Such other lines as writing
instruments, batteries, shaving products, electronics, on and on, it
was the way to go on all retail fronts.
in order to get maximum production out of our square footage, we
ended up after several generations of machinery, with a small,
one-man company who was starting with a new and interesting machine.
The company became Alloyd, Incorporated, and the machine produced 60
packages a minute. When we worked into this new machine we found in
some cases that we could make “two-up” dies, thus increasing
production to over 100 packages per minute. This advancement bought
time for the company in the limited and unchanging space that
production occupied in the building.
with these changes and improvements, time and space were both running
out for the company. By 1966 it became painfully obvious that we had
come close to outgrowing the “cracker box.” In early 1967 as I
recall, Tom located and purchased a plot of suitable land
on Algonquin Road outside Chicago, beyondO’Hare Field. He also
engaged an architectural firm, Rabig and Ramp, to begin design work
and develop preliminary plans for a new facility. Also, John Cole
made contact with selected commercial realty companies to scour the
existing inventory of properties for a possible facility.
remember going with John and a real estate agent to a building in
Chicago that had been vacated by Kitchens of Sara Lee when they moved
to their own new facility in suburban Deerfield. It was obvious that
Sara Lee had left that building in the same predicament that was
facing Maybelline. It had been subdivided, repurposed, overworked,
and just plain worn out. When John and I left that place we never
talked about it again. There wasn't anything to talk about, really.
this period of growth moved along, all of our jobs moved with it.
Even without formal guidelines, it was the natural position of the
company to keep staffing “thin,” with no bureaucratic build-up. A
good example was with Rags, who managed the national sales and
marketing function with only one assistant, Carle Rollins, and an
executive secretary, Gladys Johnson. John’s staff consisted of
myself, and an excellent administrative and inventory person named
Joan Lundell. In turn, Joan had one clerical helper.
my case, my job began to “transition” to accommodate both the
company’s growth and also new tasks that became necessary with
that growth. I remember on day, back in 1961, when I got a carbon
copy of a letter John had written to a supplier. In it he referred to
me as our “Production Manager.” That was new to me but I liked
it, and that became my title from then on. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 5, as the plot thickens.