James Hall Gets Washed Out
The Lyons-Nichols Partnership in the Danville Laundry
At James Hall, the origin of the enduring enterprise of the Danville Laundry & Dry Cleaning Co. Inc. rested in the partnership of its two founders, the Lyons family and the Nichols family. The Lyons family were Jewish clothing merchants from Cincinnati. They joined with the third and fourth Kentucky generation of the Nichols family, Danville pioneers originally from Massachusetts. Upon the deaths of brothers Henry & Samuel Lyons, the laundry fell into the hands of John M. Nichols and his sons. Nichols already managed and operated the business on a daily basis with his sons. The Nichols hold on the Danville Laundry proved as enduring as did the Nichols family’s hold on the County Clerk’s office of the Boyle County Courthouse to the rear of James Hall. For decades and through four generations following, a member of the Nichols family has served Boyle County as county clerk.
“Henry Lyons was born in the City of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the year 1849, and was a son of Mr. and Mrs.Isaac Lyons, both of whom passed the closing years of their lives at Danville, Kentucky, where their sons Henry and Samuel had cared for them with earnest filial devotion in the gracious evening of their lives. The remains of the parents and both of the sons rest in the Jewish Cemetery at Cincinnati, Ohio. The sons were closely associated in business for many years and both were numbered among the most honored and influential citizens of Danville, to whose civic and material advancement and prosperity they had contributed in generous measure. In his youth, Henry Lyons profited fully by the somewhat limited educational advantages that were afforded him, and he early gained full fellowship with honest toil and endeavor. In 1866 he came to Danville, Kentucky, and as a youth of seventeen years here formed a partnership with Samuel Straus, his cousin, and opened a clothing store. Within a short time thereafter he assumed full ownership of the business, which he continued individually and with marked success until 1887 when he was succeeded by his brother Samuel, who had long been associated with him in the enterprise. He then went to California for a period of rest and recuperation, as his health had become much impaired, and upon his return to Danville, about four months later, in April 1887, his physical powers were up to good standard and he was ready to enter once more the field of vigorous business. He resumed his alliance with his brother, and they soon enlarged the scope of their business by opening a second store. They conducted these two mercantile establishments with characteristic ability and attending success until 1895 when they sold their clothing store to J. L. Frohman & Company, the members of which firm came to Danville from the City of Chicago, Illinois. The mercantile business had been conducted by the brothers under the firm name of Henry & Samuel Lyons. On the 10th of June, 1895, a partnership was formed by Henry and Samuel Lyons and John M. Nichols, and they established the Danville Steam Laundry, with modern equipment and service. They developed this enterprise into one of the most important and successful of the kind in the state. On the 4th of October, 1902, the large and prosperous business was incorporated under the title of the Danville Steam Laundry, and since June 19, 1909 the present corporate title has obtained — the Danville Laundry and Dry Cleaning Company. Samuel Lyons became president of the company, Henry Lyons, the secretary and treasurer, and John M. Nichols, the general manager. Henry Lyons, as before noted, died on the 9th of December, 1912, and his namesake, Henry Lyons Nichols, succeeded him as secretary and treasurer of the company. The personnel of the executive corps of this corporation thereafter continued unchanged until the sudden death of Samuel Lyons, the honored president, on the 25th of July, 1920, and with the necessary reorganization then entailed the present officers were chosen, as here noted: John M. Nichols, president; W. [Walter] Barrett Nichols, vice-president and assistant secretary; R.[Richard] Bush Nichols, manager; and Henry Lyons Nichols, secretary, and treasurer. Henry Lyons became one of the substantial capitalists and loyal and influential citizens of this section of Kentucky, and both he and his brother Samuel were foremost in the field of worthy charity and philanthropy, as well as in that of civic liberality and progressiveness. Of their varied activities and benefactions, more specific mention will be found in the memoir to Samuel Lyons, which immediately follows this review. The brothers played a large part in the business and social life of Danville and honored the state of their adoption by their generous, kindly and noble lives.”
Source: History of Kentucky, Volume 5. William Elsey Connelley, Ellis Merton Coulter. American Historical Society, 1922, pp.146-147.
History of Danville Laundry & Dry Cleaning Co. Inc.
Danville’s Advocate-Messenger newspapers recalled the following history of the firm on July 10, 1940.
“The Danville Laundry and Dry Cleaning Company was established in June 1895, in part of the building now occupied by the Company, by John M. Nichols and the late Henry and Sam Lyons.
“At that time there was no Family Wash business in any commercial laundry, nor was there a dry cleaning department.
“The Family Wash Department was added some years later and many years afterward the dry cleaning department was added.
“The firm was originally known as the Danville Steam Laundry and in 1910 changed its charter and became the Danville Laundry and Dry Cleaning Co.
“When the plant was opened seven people were employed; today the number of employees is slightly in excess of one hundred. The labor turnover is very small; some employees have been with the firm for forty years, and ten year’s service is very common.
“At one time this firm did the largest shipping business in the state of Kentucky. That was before the days of trucks. Business has changed, now necessitating the operation of firm-owned truck into the territories served. Outside of Danville there are operated trucks to Lancaster, Stanford, Hustonville, Liberty, Junction City, Perryville, Springfield, Harrodsburg, Burgin, Versailles, Nicholasville, and Lawrenceburg.
“At the death of Mr. Henry Lyons in 1913 his namesake, Henry Lyons Nichols, was made Secretary-Treasurer, and at the death of Mr. Sam Lyons in 1920, the two brothers came into the firm, it now being composed of John M. Nichols, President; W. Barret Nichols, Vice-president, R. Bush Nichols, Manager and Henry Lyons Nichols, Secretary-Treasurer.
“New departments are constantly being added, the latest being two air-conditioned storage vaults and a fur remodeling department.
The firm has tried always to keep abreast of the times and give the people of Danville and vicinity the Laundry and Dry Cleaning service they may expect from an up-to-date plant.“
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