Businesses, Community Buildings

The Riverside Manufacturing Company

During the mid 1940s, McHenry was going through somewhat of an economic boom, mainly brought upon producing war materials for the front. It was this opportunity that brought Sam & Madeline Nathanson to McHenry from Chicago. Sam was involved in the clothing manufacturing business since he started working. After selling their shares of a company in Chicago, Sam and his brother, Jacob, brought their expertise to McHenry in March 1943. Together they started the Riverside Manufacturing Company. Originally, their factory was located on Riverside Drive in what is now the Riverside Shop and Go and manufactured dresses. In July 1945, Sam bought Jacob’s shares of the company and took over as manager, while his wife Madeline was in charge of the employees.

Around the new year in 1946, the Nathansons moved their factory across the street to the location that is now the Corkscrew Pointe, located on the corners of Pearl Street and Riverside Drive. The move afforded them more spacious quarters for larger equipment, allowing for the expansion of the business. The former occupant of the site was the McHenry Tent and Awning Company. This company left the Riverside location after the end of World War II after providing tents and other materials for the war effort.

Picture of the Riverside Factory taken in its first location located at 129 Riverside. Compliments of the Pictorial Newsletter.

Part of the reason for the move to the larger location was the desire to make a larger selection of clothing. Besides dresses, the Riverside Manufacturing Co. also made house coats, jackets and even fan covers and variety of other items. There were about 35-40 women working at the company at any given time, with spacious accommodations for staff to do their work. It was advertised that a girl could make a minimum of .50 an hour, with the opportunity to make much more. Each person performed a specific task, such as stitching seems or sewing buttons. Garments were started in the second floor, when they were ready, the partially finished item was slid down a chute to the first floor. The factory had many windows allowing for lots of natural light, which would assist with the intricate work of making the garments. It was noted that it only took a matter of minutes to complete a dress.

One of the main issues facing the Company at its old location was the processes of pressing and cutting. In moving to the Pearl Street location, new equipment could be brought over that could do both. In being able to press their own garments, materials could be sent directly to larger chain stores that would then sell the merchandise. Likewise, by being able to cut their own fabric before working on it, the Nathansons would manage to have more control on what was cut and how, as well as not have to pay someone else to do it. The main store that the Nathansons sold to was The Cotton Store, which was a fairly prevalent chain at the time.

Advertisement for employment , found in the 24 Jan 1946 issue of the McHenry Plaindealer.

In 1953, the Nathansons looking to expand their business even more had two buildings constructed in West McHenry which would serve as the factories. They had given up making dresses in 1952 and were at the time of construction making sports wear and slacks, merging with a business named Magic Slacks. During this time, the Riverside Company had merged with the Northwestern Manufacturing Company, based in Chicago. Using the locations, the Nathansons planned to use the McHenry location for the manufacturing end and Chicago for the merchandising part. The building at the Pearl Street and Riverside drive location would become a warehouse for the slacks business, then the Riverside Retail Outlet, a store that ran here in McHenry for many years.

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Sources

“Dress Factory Moves Into Former Location of Tent & Awning.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 10 Jan 1946, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 September 2019.

“Riverside Manufacturing Ad.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 9 Mar 1950, 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 August 2019.

“Sam Nathanson Has Purchased His Brother’s Interest In Factory.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 5 Jul 1945, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 August 2019.

“Fine Working Conditions At Local Factory.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 24 Oct 1946, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 August 2019.

“Two Businesses Move Soon To New Quarters.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 18 Jan 1951, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 August 2019.

“Businessman of Twenty-Eight Years Dead At 68.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 10 Mar 1972, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 August 2019.