Are there any fans of Nelly Don here? She's one of my favorite designers from the past, so I thought I'd share some of her work with you all.
Nell Donnelly Reed was born Ellen Quinlan in Parsons, Kansas, 1889, and moved to Kansas City in 1906. She began designing and sewing her own housedresses, several of which she offered for sale to the George B. Peck Dry Goods Company in 1916. By 1931 she owned the Donnelly Garment Company, which manufactured the widely known "Nelly Don" line of women's apparel.
In December, 1931, Reed became the victim of a highly publicized kidnapping. Her captors eventually were caught, and prosecuted by James Reed, former U.S. Senator from Missouri, whom she eventually married.
Nell Donnelly Reed steered the Donnelly Garment Company through the Great Depression and World War II, and was known for instituting exceptional working conditions and benefits. The Donnelly Garment Company was among the first organizations in Kansas City to provide group hospitalization benefits, and the company offered scholarships and tuition money for employees and their families. On the basis of satisfactory working conditions, a majority of the employees of the Donnelly Garment Company refused membership during early attempts by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) to unionize the company.
The first location of Nell Donnelly Reedís dressmaking concern was her own home, but the business soon moved to a location at 29th and Brooklyn due to its rapid growth. In 1919 the company incorporated and moved to the Coca Cola building at 21st and Grand. Now employing 1,000, the Donnelly Garment Company occupied the Corrigan Building at 19th and Walnut in 1928.
In 1937 the company built a new production facility on Gillham between 31st and Linwood Boulevard, the first fully air conditioned building in Kansas City. A 1943 expansion brought the company to a five story building in St. Joseph, Missouri.
During World War II, the Donnelly Garment Company produced menís shorts for the U.S. Army, mosquito netting to be placed over helmets, Army nurse uniforms, and Womenís Army Corps (WAC) clothing. Annual revenues reached $14 million by 1945.
Reedís company moved from the Corrigan Building to 3500 E. 17th St. in 1947, maintaining two locations in Kansas City and one in St. Joseph. Nell Donnelly Reed retired in 1956, and the organizationís name was changed to Nelly Don, Inc. The company evolved throughout the 1960ís and 70ís, although the changing economic climate of the nation eventually brought its demise. The selling of fabrics was a sustaining innovation of the 1970ís, but Nelly Don, Inc. filed for Chapter 10 bankruptcy in 1978.