8/27/11

THOS. CUSACK CO. billboards


I have another mystery and hope in time some readers will step forward to fill in the gaps.

Click on image to see it larger.


I have no information about this photo; no idea where or when it was taken. The only historical reference point are the billboards created by the Thos. Cusack Co. which these lovely folks are strolling by.
MONDAY OCT. 6, 1924
Time Magazine
In 1875, one Thomas Cusack, a youth in his teens, started a business with only a paint pot and brush and a remarkable personality as assets. The business consisted in painting advertising signs on the sides of buildings in a small way. Gradually, he took to building billboards of his own, and leasing suitable walls and other locations for outdoor advertisements.

After a half-century, Mr. Cusack decided to retire from active work. But it took a banking syndicate to buy out his interest in the Thomas Cusick Co. of Chicago. What his selling price was is unknown. But the company's last balance sheet showed assets over $26,000,000 and annual gross business over $23,000,000. The headquarters of the company are located in Chicago, with branches in about one hundred other cities. The concern owns 100,000 separate leases controlling 40,000,000 square feet (10 10/99 square miles) of wall surface and 1,800,000 square feet (5/11 square mile) of billboards.

The bankers who have acquired the Cusack Co. expect to make a public offering of the stock shortly. This is said to be the first time in the history of U. S. business that Wall Street bankers have taken over an advertising concern, and also the first time that shares in such a business should be underwritten and sold to the public through the Wall Street markets. (SOURCE: TIME)
And then, on July 29, 1929, just a few months before the crash of the stock market this article appeared in Time extolling the great earnings of Thos. Cusack Co.:
Last week many a U. S. corporation issued earnings figures for the first half of 1929, showed general increases over the corresponding 1928 period. The first half of the year is almost always better than the second because of the July and August "summer slump." But even with this qualification 1929 promised to be a banner year of bumper prosperity. Of special interest among many earnings were:

Company Comparison 1929 1928

Congress Cigar Co., Inc.
(La Palina Cigars, makes 1,300,000 cigars daily, no hand work, all machine made)
Net profit, 6 mos. $1,274,707 $1,172,091

White Rock Mineral Springs Co.
(Charged water, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, root beer, "Kentucky nip") Net profit, 6 mos. 589,481 546,728

American Chicle Co.
(Gum; owns 5,000,000 chicle-growing acres in Guatemala, Mexico, British Honduras) Net profit, 6 mos. 1,039,167 892,391

American Chain Co., Inc.
(Chains for jewelers, chains for ship anchors. and all in between sizes including Weed, "Rid-o-skid" and other auto chains)
Net profit, 6 mos. 1,034,029
net loss 354,428

General Outdoor Advertising Co., Inc.
(Largest U. S. outdoor advertising company, responsible for a large proportion of roadside billboards; controls Thos. Cusack Co. and 20 other subsidiaries) Net income, 2nd quarter 806,975 1,180,137

Brillo Manufacturing Co. Inc.
(Combination red soap and steel wool in a green box, used by housewives to scour stubborn pots & pans) Sales, 5 mos. ending May 31 888,042 790,627

Company Comparison
1929 1928

General Baking Corp.
(Spent $10,000,000 in expansion in last three years, acquired seven smaller bakeries east of the Mississippi last year; plans to build six new plants in 1929 and 1930) Net income, 27 wks. 4,115,833 3,418,375

Chicago Yellow Cab Co., Inc. (operates 2,800 Yellow Cabs in Chicago; also Drive-it-yourself companies in New York, Chicago, Delaware) Net profit, 6 mos. 1,196,791 957,843

S. S. Kresge Co.
Net income, 6 mos. 7,013,456 6,527,111

General Motors Corp. (1930 Buick model to be introduced shortly; new Chevrolet plant planned)
Net profits, 6 mos. 150,000,000 * 161, 267,974

* Approximated. Decline in 1929 net is reported due to introduction of several new G. M. products, entailing big production costs. (SOURCE: Time Magazine)
So who was Thomas Cusack? Well, I can tell you he was no longer alive when the stock market crashed.
Thomas Cusack of Chicago was born in Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, October 5, 1858, and died in Oak Park, Illinois on November 19, 1926. He was a pioneer and entrepreneur in the outdoor advertising industry and a politician, serving as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Illinois' 4th District from 1899 to 1901.

Thomas Cusack immigrated with his family to New York City from Ireland in 1861 when Cusack was a young boy. Shortly after the move, his parents died, leaving Cusack and his younger brother orphaned. Cusack was raised by relatives in Chicago, where he received his education and learned how to paint, a skill that would ultimately make him a very wealthy man. At the age of 17, Cusack established his own sign painting business, the Thomas Cusack Company, in Chicago, Illinois, making him one of the pioneers in the field of outdoor advertising. The business soon grew to be very profitable, leasing over 100,000 billboards and advertising spaces and turning Cusack into a prosperous and influential Chicagoan.

In addition to business saavy, Cusack had a strong sense of civic duty. In 1890, Mayor of Chicago Hempstead Washburne appointed the "billboard baron" to a seat on the city's school board. Cusack's fervent support of public education drew the attention of Progressive Party Illinois Governor John P. Altgeld, who invited Cusack to serve on his general staff. In 1898, Cusack was elected to his first and only term in the United States Congress from the 4th District of Illinois. After his term, Cusack decided to return his attention primarily to his outdoor advertising
business, which had grown considerably in size to more than one-hundred offices and was producing an annual revenue of over $20 million. Cusack was known for his fair labor practices and amicable relationships with his employees, and was most proud of the fact that, in a city known for labor strikes, his workers never walked off the job. In his day as a sign painter, Cusack remembered getting $8 a week in wages. By the time he sold his business to a New York banking syndicate in 1924, he was paying his workers $10 to $15 a day.

At the pinnacle of his success in business, Thomas Cusack bought the entire unincorporated town of Cascade, Colorado at the Ute Pass in the Rocky Mountains. He hired architects and contractors to build a plush mansion nestled in the Ute Pass, which he named "Marigreen Pines" after his wife, Mary Green. Having lived through the Great Chicago Fire and experienced so many early losses in his life, Cusack built Marigreen Pines out of brick, marble and concrete to safeguard his family from harm. Marigreen Pines became a much loved mountain home for Cusack and his family, where he routinely and graciously hosted many friends and relatives, engaging them in lively conversation and debate.

Thomas Cusack died on November 19, 1926, at the age of 68. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois. In the 1970's, Cusack's last surviving daughter donated Marigreen Pines to the Congregation of Holy Cross to serve as their novitiate. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
To see remnants of Thos. Cusack Co. signs click here, here, here for a bit more history about Cusack, here, here, and here. I'm sure if I kept looking I'd find many more.

While doing my search I came upon this little scrap from The New York Times. A sad little story.



Now that we know something about the billboards in this shot and the family that owned the company, it would be nice to find out which city this is. A generic looking city except for the ummmmm...rather phallic looking monument in the background. Perhaps someone will see this and let us know where this is located. Someone somewhere must recognize this ummmmm...thing.

__________
UPDATE: Thanks to WJY I can now say that this shot was taken in Chicago, headquarters of the Thos. Cusack Co., and that the monument is actually the Chicago Water Tower.

UPDATE: Thank you! to an Anonymous reader for the following:
North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. Four story Building on the right is Lake Shore Bank (now a Chase Bank Branch) and the building under construction is probably the Allerton Hotel (also still there). Elsewhere, I saw you already Identified Old Water Tower. Love the old 21st Ward saltbox.

UPDATE: Three images of the same area in Chicago provided by reader Chuck Zornig. Thank you Chuck. Fascinating to see! I believe the first shows the opposite side of the street from the image above, the second from the same angle as my original image.


500 N Michigan Ave [1931 c] Grand Ave


From Chicago Daily News Collection: Michigan Ave & Grand [1924] Lake Shore Trust Building (605 North Michigan Avenue)

700 N Michigan Ave [1982 c.] Woolworth's

11 comments:

  1. It looks like the old Chicago water tower on North Michigan Avenue. It's still there and there are lots of pictures of it on line.

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    1. Anonymous7/14/2014

      Well not sure where to give answers, so I'll just put it here. The photo of Wolf Plumbing in North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, The 5-6 story building on the right ede is Lake Shore National Bank, Now a Chase Branch. About Ohio or Ontario Street.

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  2. a google image search might have solved the puzzle but thankfully, a reader had THE answer. much simpler. fascinating post!! i might have to look up that "marigreen" mansion now...
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  3. We have stayed in Mr. Cusack's home, Marigreen Pines. We have stayed in Mr. Cusack's home, Marigreen Pines. It is owned by the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order of priests and brothers who run the University of Notre Dame and other Holy Cross institutions. Our son lived there in his novitiate year from August 2007-2008. We visited in the spring of 2008 and spent Easter with the seminarians. We came back and spent a week in July 2008 in Green Mountain Falls when our son made his first vows at the end of his novitiate year. He was ordained a priest at Notre Dame last April 14, 2012. I found this when googling Mr. Cusack's name. Marigreen Pines is the most wonderful, peaceful place in all of the world. It has been well taken care of and retains its grace and beauty. It houses the novitiates and their superiors. I am sad today because it seems that it might well be destroyed by the fire in Colorado Springs. The house was fully equipped with sprinklers throughout and outside because of Mr. Cusack's fear of fire. One of his daughters was a nun and consequently, the house went to her order and it was subsequently taken over by the Congregation of Holy Cross and is used for seminarians' novitiate year. It is an incredible place for the men to spend their first year in discernment. There is a small home on the road that was the original home for the Cusack family. From what I have read, Mrs. Cusack saw the property when they were on their way (in a horse drawn wagon)to California (I think) for their honeymoon. Mr. Cusack bought it for her (Mary). Their family grew and Mr. Cusack built Marigreen Pines for his wife. I am not sure exactly when but she died either before it was completed or shortly after. I am speaking in present tense with the hope and prayers that Marigreen will be spared! Thank you for all of the information on Mr. Cusack!!!

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    1. It is quite sad to see the swath of destruction from the fire. Let's hope they get a handle on it soon. And thanks for the interesting post.

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  4. KansasKate3/11/2013

    There was a Thomas Cusack sign company in Kansas City. Not too surprising since Chicago > St Louis > Kansas City expansion makes sense geographically.

    In Pittsburg, Kansas, a recent restaurant renovation revealed the neighboring building's wall, which at some point had been an exterior wall. Near the top it says "sold everywhere 5¢" and at the bottom "Thos Cusack Co Kansas City". (I have photos, but don't know how to attach them here.)

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    1. I'd love to see your photo. If you want to send it scroll down this page and in the left column you'll find "View My Complete Profile." Click on that which will take you to a page where you can click to send me an email. I don't post my email address in posts since they then end up as part of searches.

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  5. Anonymous10/27/2013

    Mary Green died before the house was built. He was so saddened by her death that the children encouraged him to build the home. He spent 3 years traveling the world to locate materials and furnishings for the home. The original estate was 750 acres and the "cascade town company" was an additional 750 acres. The pyramid mountain/Waldo canyon fire destroyed many trees on the combined 1500 acres.
    Pyramid mountain is part of the original town company land. Cusack intended to develop the Town company land into a resort for his employees, but he passed away before very many buildings were built. The buildings were southwest style and made of poured concrete.

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  6. I own a small sign shop in the town of Clifton forge, VA. Imagine my surprise when I uncovered a ghost sign with a Thomas Cusack signature ! This was once a booming train town and my store site was once an alley way. That's why is painted on my inside wall.

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    1. That's exciting! If you'd like to share it I'd love to post an image.

      It's fun when a wall gets torn down and some old advertising reappears.

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