125 Years of Invention, Imagination, & Industry
The DeMoulin Brothers
The oldest of the DeMoulin brothers, Erastus was born September 9, 1860 at Jamestown, Illinois. U.S. DeMoulin once described his brother as “strong and brawny” and “most considerate in every way.” Unlike his brothers, “Ras” was content to run the family blacksmith shop in Sebastapol. It was there that the first DeMoulin lodge goats were made by the skillful Erastus.
He officially joined his brothers in their lodge paraphernalia business in October 1901 when he accepted an offer to be the factory superintendent. Erastus’ family moved to Greenville the following year. When the company incorporated in 1905, Ras and his brothers were elected directors, but he held no formal title in the corporation and preferred to work behind the scenes.
Erastus married Leonie Malan in February 1886 and they had three children: Oradelle, Lillie, and Leslie, who would later become the factory president. His granddaughter, Elizabeth DeMoulin Pirtle, fondly remembered Erastus as “one of the sweetest men in the whole world.” James McDonald called his grandfather “a very gentle soul.” Erastus was the tuba player in the Greenville Concert band.
When Erastus died March 27, 1936, the pallbearers at his funeral were DeMoulin employees Charlie Lipple, Phil Diehl, Charlie Gum, Ernie Streiff, Joe Clare Sr. and Alvin Watson. It was a fitting tribute to the man who preferred being in the woodworking department than the office.
Born two months premature on October 3, 1871 at Jamestown, Illinois, U.S. DeMoulin was saved through the efforts of a Dr. Gordon who rubbed the infant with olive oil, wrapped him in cotton batting and placed him in a basket in the family’s oven. This makeshift incubator must have worked because U.S. lived for 84 years.
U.S. joined his brother Ed in the lodge paraphernalia business on Friday February 13, 1895. DeMoulin selected that day to prove that he was not a superstitious man. U.S. held patents on several lodge initiation pieces including the Lung Tester, Traitor’s Judgment Stand, and the Lifting and Spanking Machine. He served as vice-president of the company until Ed’s death in 1935, at which time he assumed the duties of president. U.S. remained company president until his retirement in 1946. He continued to visit the office for the remainder of his life.
At an early age he developed an interest in music and played the baritone for decades in the Greenville Municipal Band. DeMoulin was known as an outstanding marksman and co-founded the Greenville Gun Club in 1902. Perhaps his greatest legacy is HSHS Holy Family Hospital (formerly named Utlaut Memorial Hospital, then Greenville Regional Hospital) which was built upon land donated by U.S.
His first marriage, to Emma Diehl, ended in divorce when he refused her request to have children. Emma’s alleged affair with a St. Louis streetcar conductor was cited as the reason for the break-up leading to the St. Louis Post Dispatch printing the headline “Goat Maker Sues Wife.” DeMoulin’s second wife, Cora, apparently agreed to his wish to have no children and the couple enjoyed many years together.
He was an avid reader and considered himself well-versed in many topics. U.S. embraced his role as Greenville’s elder statesman and was later remembered as tall, dignified, and always dressed in white shirt and tie.
DeMoulin built his home on 4th Street in 1900 at a cost of $5,000. Greenville’s first tennis court was constructed on the grounds in 1912. A garage was added in 1921 and a sunroom in 1925. U.S. lived there until his death on July 11, 1955.
Born June 11, 1862 at Jamestown, Illinois, Ed DeMoulin learned the family blacksmith trade. He may have soured on the vocation when at age fifteen he nearly lost his thumb in a sawing mishap. DeMoulin developed an interest in photography and opened a studio in Greenville. His reputation grew as an outstanding photographer and artist. His first patent was issued in 1892 for a camera attachment that created seamless, dual images of a subject in a single photograph.
Ed became involved in Greenville’s fraternal orders including the Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) where he became acquainted with William A. Northcott. The Bond County State’s Attorney, Northcott had been elected national president of the MWA in 1890. Seeking to increase membership, Northcott sought the input of Ed DeMoulin who then consulted his brothers. The DeMoulins soon found themselves creating lodge initiation paraphernalia for the MWA and other lodges.
Like his brothers, Ed was a member of the Greenville Concert Band and was often praised for his French horn solos. Technology was perhaps his true love. He was the first person in Greenville to own an automobile, having purchased a two-seat Oldsmobile in 1902. In the summer of 1892, Ed and two other men invested in a steam-operated “merry-go-round and panorama” they toured southern Illinois with. In 1899 he spent $300 on a 12 disc music box that automatically changed them after each tune.
DeMoulin, a four term Greenville mayor (1897, 1899, 1903 and 1905), was instrumental in the community’s industrial growth. He also championed infrastructure improvements like electric street lights, a new water tower, and the oiling of streets. He later purchased a home in Los Angeles, California and by 1920 was living there permanently.
Ed’s first wife, Constance, died in 1899 after a brief battle with influenza. They had five children: Gladys, Horace, Eric, Adele and Lillian. Later that year he married Anna Diehl, the sister of U.S. DeMoulin’s first wife, Emma. Her brothers, Henry and Phil, would be long-time DeMoulin employees.
Ed DeMoulin died October 29, 1935 at his Los Angeles home. His body was returned by train to Greenville for burial at Montrose Cemetery.
The DeMoulin Factory Timeline
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- 1862 Edmond DeMoulin is born near Jamestown, Illinois.
- 1887 Ed moves to Greenville, Illinois and takes over ownership of the Butler Photo Studio.
- 1892 Ed receives his first patent, a camera attachment that allows him to do “trick photography.”
- Ed begins his lodge regalia and paraphernalia business with the Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) as the sole client. William A. Northcott, a Greenville resident and friend of Ed’s, quietly invests in the business. Northcott is head consul of the MWA.
- 1894 The first DeMoulin goats are manufactured by Erastus DeMoulin at the family blacksmith shop in Sebastapol, Illinois and shipped by wagon to Greenville.
- 1895 U.S. moves to Greenville and becomes a partner. He purchases Northcott’s silent share of the company. The business is now named Ed DeMoulin & Bro.
- The first DeMoulin catalog is printed for the MWA.
- 1896 After operating in various buildings near downtown Greenville, a three story factory is built on south 4th Street on “the old mill property.” The site provides rail access. The business grows quickly and the factory is expanded in 1898 and 1901.
- 1897 DeMoulin makes its first band uniform (for the Greenville Concert band).
- 1898 The brothers obtain a patent on their Lung Tester, which will become one of their top lodge initiation sellers. (The patent is revised in 1902).
- 1902 Erastus DeMoulin moves to Greenville and becomes plant superintendent.
- 1905 The factory is incorporated as DeMoulin Bros. & Co. with Ed as president, U.S. as vice president/general manager and Henry C. Diehl as secretary. Diehl is the brother-in-law of both Ed and U.S. Although a stock holder, Erastus holds no formal title in the corporation.
- 1907 A fire destroys the factory. A state-of-the-art brick facility is built on the same spot. This building is still in use today.
- 1913 The company begins manufacturing military academy uniforms.
- 1922 A practical joke by DeMoulin employees on a local railroad shipping agent involving a DeMoulin trick chair leads to a lawsuit that eventually costs the factory $5,000.
- 1923 The company patents the last of its lodge goats, the Low Down Buck.
- 1925 DeMoulin Bro. has added graduation caps and gowns to its diverse product list.
- 1934 The factory has one of its biggest years for making circus band uniforms, outfits, and elephant blankets.
- 1935 Ed DeMoulin dies of a stroke at his Los Angeles home. Ed had moved here in the late 1910s. U.S. had already been serving as company president.
- 1936 Erastus DeMoulin dies from heart attack at home in Greenville.
- 1947 U.S. DeMoulin retires and names his nephew, Leslie DeMoulin, as company president.
- 1955 A fire does $400,000 damage to the woodworking department. The lodge paraphernalia business, which had been tapering off since the 1930s, is closed. Band uniforms and graduation caps and gowns are the focus.
- U.S. DeMoulin dies from a heart condition at his Greenville home.
- 1961 Spinning off into its own division, the Monticello Cap and Gown Company is formed. The cap and gown business enjoys continual growth over the next twenty years.
- 1962 The employees vote in favor of joining the ILGWU Union.
- 1963 Leslie DeMoulin dies after a short illness. His son, William L. DeMoulin, is the company’s new president.
- 1982 The Monticello Cap and Gown Company is sold after receiving an unsolicited offer from a Chicago firm.
- 1989 DeMoulin Bros. and Co. is sold to a group of local investors including Dick DeMoulin (William’s son.)
- 1992 The company celebrates its 100th anniversary.
- 1995 Bill Marsden of St. Louis buys the company, becoming the first non-DeMoulin to serve as company president.
- 2002 Magician David Copperfield, a collector of DeMoulin lodge initiation gags, tours the factory.
- A tornado lifts a portion of the roof. No one is injured.
- 2004 The book “Three Frenchmen and a Goat: The DeMoulin Bros. Story” is written by John Goldsmith.
- 2007 William L. DeMoulin dies after years of failing health.
- 2010 The DeMoulin Museum opens in downtown Greenville.
- 2011 DeMoulin Bros. introduces Rejuvitex, a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. DeMoulin marching band uniforms are now eco-friendly!
- 2015 The DeMoulin Museum welcomes its 5,000th visitor during Greenville’s Bicentennial Celebration.
- 2017 The company celebrates its 125th anniversary with a program and factory tours.
- 2018 The DeMoulin Museum moves to its new location in the former Central Christian Church building.