Lambert Mfg. — Gallatin’s First Major Factory

In 1953, the prospect of having a cap factory in Gallatin, MO, had become realistic. Jim and Joe Lambert, who had established their business in Chillicothe in 1936. Another Missouri manufacturing company indicated that if the Lamberts would furnish a building with a sufficient work force to meet their need, they would start a factory in Gallatin.

In 1953, the prospect of having a cap factory in Gallatin, MO, had become realistic. Jim and Joe Lambert, who had established their business in Chillicothe in 1936. Another Missouri manufacturing company indicated that if the Lamberts would furnish a building with a sufficient work force to meet their need, they would start a factory in Gallatin.

The product was to be a complete line of men’s and boys’ caps, including work, sport and utility types. Two other towns had already offered to supply the company with a building. In order to determine if Gallatin would also be considered, the company had to know about the available work force.

The manufacturer was ready to move! Competing communities were given a short time frame. People wanting work were give 30 days to register. The number responding in the Gallatin community was 174 men and women — nearly twice the registration anticipated. Some of these applicants were from other towns; some were employed at other jobs. All apparently thought the proposal for a Gallatin factory was more appealing.

Gallatin was chosen for the factory site, but this required citizens to raise approximately $40,000 to build a building with at least 10,000 square feet of floor space. The firm offered to guarantee a payroll for its first 12 months of operation on the condition that the new proprietors could lease the building for $1 a year. Factories being constructed elsewhere in other small towns often demanded and received free rent in return for payroll benefits.

A special fundraising committee was appointed to get financial commitments from businesses and interested individuals. The majority of the people believed the funds could be raised. Many made sacrifices to the extent they borrowed money to donate to the cause. Still, others felt the company was going more than halfway when it agreed to offer benefits for a 10-year period which included building maintenance, insurance and property taxes in addition to the guaranteed payroll.

At this time the Gallatin Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) was established. Stockholders were 12 individuals each pledging $1,000. The corporation’s affairs were to be handled by a board of nine directors who would appoint a president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer.

The corporation wanted to be capitalized at $50,000 through the sale of stock to local people. The value of the shares had been set low at $25 so that as many people as possible might participate. It was meant to be a community project. No matter how large or how small the amount, the people who invested in stocks would own a piece of the building.

The manufacturer encouraged the citizens by pointing out a primary payroll dollar turned over approximately seven times before leaving the community. This meant from an original investment of $40,000, the community would realize both directly and indirectly a return of over $5 million. A businessman who was familiar with the Lambert Company bet a new hat that the factory would need additional space within the next two or three years.

In 1953 Jim and Joe Lambert looked to expand their headwear business which had operated in Chillicothe, MO, since 1936. Seventeen building sites were considered. The site for the factory was land owned by H.L. Tate along Highway 13 in south Gallatin (near the A.K. Moore building at that time).

The factory was to start with 45 women employees. It was believed that the plant would eventually expand and employ from 100 to 150 persons with a weekly payroll in excess of $3,000. At first, the payroll would be about $1,300 weekly and would steadily increase as workers became more proficient.

The boiler for heating the building and supplying steam for blocking the caps was one of the largest single expenses at $3,000. However, a used boiler was found for about $1,000. It was large enough to provide for a second factory building if one should be added at a later date.

It was hoped that the factory would trigger additional business growth for Gallatin and stem the loss of young people locating elsewhere. Daviess County had been losing population for six decades; increasing farm sizes also contributed to population loss.

Seventeen building sites were considered. The site for the factory was land owned by H.L. Tate along Highway 13 (near the A.K. Moore building at that time). This site was close to water and sewer utilities. The building’s foundation could be prepared with little expense, and ample parking space was available. A consulting engineer determined the building type and design and also assisted in selecting a contractor.

Snyder Quarries donated the use of their bulldozers and Union Township furnished a grader. Several people donated a few days of labor on the building construction. Lamberts paid 25 to 30 people during the factory’s startup pluss the installation of machinery. Temporary business officers were set up in the display room of the A.K. Moore building.

A dedication ceremony featured a traditional ribbon cutting. The first cap made in the new building was presented by the Lamberts to Gallatin Mayor C. Binney, symbolic of the beginning of Gallatin’s first major industry.

Employees at Lambert Cap Factory in 1954 are: back row — Mabel Owens, Eleanor Duly, Florence Savage and Shirley Knott; 2nd row — Wilbur Roloson, Bob Chance (Mgr.), Opie Cox, Ford Savage, Amel Price, Mamie Tadlock (office), Edna Landes, ___, Della Prindle, Rose Gwinn, Avis Lee, ___, Beatrice Kromeich, Lavonne Teel; 3rd row — Ruby Kowns, Mary Hicks, Ruby Bassett, Anna Vasterling, Patsy Harris, Ann Reynolds, Martha Woods, Ann Uthe, Beulah Houghton, Dorothy Stith, Alma Wilson. The original factory was a cement and cement block building located at 609 South Main Street (Highway 13).

It was stated that the Lamberts would spend from $200 to $600 to train each new employee before realizing a profit from that employee’s labor. Applications were made to the wage and hour division for a learner’s certificate which enabled Lamberts to hire inexperienced help at less than 75 cents an hour minimum. The work force ratio was to be approximately one man for every 10 women.

The factory’s payroll grew to approximately $100,000 for 56 employees by the end of the first year. Thus, Lamberts doubled the guaranteed payroll of $50,000 promised when coming to town. Production tallies were from 750 to 1,000 dozen caps manufactured each week. Even with the large production, the company still had to buy caps from other manufacturers to meet demand; Lambert simply couldn’t make caps fast enough.

On its first anniversary in 1954, the employees were paid in silver dollars for a 3-week period to show the community the effect of the local payroll. Workers’ checks were cashed at the factory, and the silver dollars issued in return. Employees had been instructed to spend their silver dollars for their purchases rather than deposit them or to exchange the silver for paper currency. Merchants were urged to place the silver dollars back in circulation. This project gave a first hand demonstration of how local payroll dollars were spent seven times before leaving the community.

— taken from GIDC records

Rows of workers sewed caps together, sold throughout the nation. Workers were compensated on a “per piece” basis. (photo circa 1980s)