Collection documents Lillian Vernon, entrepreneur who started a catalog business on her kitchen table. Materials include video and audio cassettes, awards, certificates, clippings, and sales catalogs.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of 12 cubic feet of material relating to Lillian Vernon, entrepreneur, who started her catalog business at her kitchen table. Materials include video and audio cassettes, awards, certificates, clippings, and sales catalogs, 1987-2008.
Collection is arranged in three series.
Series 1: Lillian Vernon Bound Catalogs, 1987-2007
Series 2: Biographical Material, 1989-2004
Series 3: Audio Visual Materials, undated
Biographical / Historical:
Lillian Vernon, born Lilli Menasche (1927-2015), immigrated with her family to the United States from Germany after escaping the Nazi regime of the 1930s. Vernon inherited her family's entrepreneurial spirit and in 1951 when pregnant with her first child, she searched for a way to stay home and yet augment the family budget. Using her combined wedding gifts, Vernon invested $2,000 in the business and placed her first advertisement in Seventeen for monogrammed accessories for teenagers. She received an overwhelming response and her business was launched. In the early years, the size of the business was limited to Vernon and her kitchen table, where she sorted and filled orders.
Vernon grew her enterprise into one of the nation's most successful mail-order catalogs and a major corporation. The Lillian Vernon Catalog, which the company launched in 1956, became an iconic shopping resource for American women. Produced monthly, the catalog was typically 120 pages and usually featured 750 items. In response to a catalog and shopping mall boom in the United States in the 1980s, the company produced a number of specialty catalogs in order to broaden its market, including ones targeted for children and homemakers.
In 1987, Vernon's company became the first business founded by a woman to be publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Responding to the increasingly important online market in the early 1990s, the Lillian Vernon Corporation opened a storefront on AOL in 1995 and followed with an online catalog and website. However, by the end of the 1990s, the company began to struggle to meet online needs, especially after the collapse of the dot-com bubble. Vernon sold the company to Zelnick Media in 2003, but retained the symbolic title of non-executive chairman.
Materials at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Work and Industry holds related objects: engravo-graph machine, engraving blocks, kitchen table, wood sign, purse, and belt. See accession 2019.0306.
Collection donated by Fred P. Hochberg and David Hochberg, 2019.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Series includes a resume, seventeen photographs of Kruger's sculpture including a list of her works with brief descriptions focusing on the chronology of her work, and printed material including exhibition catalogs and announcements and clippings.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Louise Kruger papers, 1949-1973. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Processing of this collection received support from the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative.