For well over a century Greenville, Illinois has been home to some of the world's most unique and interesting products. From rolling goats to modern band uniforms, the DeMoulin Bros. factory has made items to amuse lodge members, furnish churches, and attire graduates and marching bands. Read below to find out more about the three inventive brothers and the company they started.
Edmund DeMoulin (1862-1935)
Ed learned the family blacksmithing trade at their business in Sebastapol, Illinois. He picked up photography as a hobby and moved to Greenville, Illinois in 1886 to pursue this as a vocation. In 1892 at the request of fellow Greenville resident and Modern Woodmen of America Head Consul, William A. Northcott, Ed began devising initiation gags to boost that group’s membership. He was the president of Ed DeMoulin & Bro. (later DeMoulin Bros.) until his death in 1935. However, his involvement greatly tapered off after moving to California around 1916. Ed was very involved in Greenville politics and served four terms as mayor.
Ulysses S. DeMoulin (1871-1955)
The business savvy behind the factory belonged to U.S. DeMoulin. He also invented some of the company’s patented lodge initiation paraphernalia. U.S. ran the company in Ed’s absence and became its president in 1935. Married twice but having no children, U.S. selected his nephew, Leslie DeMoulin, as his replacement.
Erastus DeMoulin (1860-1936)
Erastus, also referred to as E.R. or Ras, was said to have been a master blacksmith. He made the factory’s first lodge goats at the family blacksmith shop in Sebastapol and then transported them by wagon to Greenville (a trip of nearly twenty miles.) Ras moved to Greenville in 1902 and became plant superintendent. He was always the “behind the scenes” brother. His son, Leslie, and grandson, William, would later become DeMoulin Bros. presidents.
DeMoulin Bros. & Co. was founded in 1892 by Ed DeMoulin, a photographer and lover of gadgetry. The company began as the MWA Paraphernalia Co. making regalia and lodge initiation devices for the Modern Woodmen of America. In 1895, Ed was joined by his brother, U.S., and the company expanded its market to other fraternal orders. Now known as Ed DeMoulin & Bro., the factory grew quickly and secured a sizable chunk of the lodge business. The DeMoulin brothers, including the eldest, Erastus, held several patents on lodge initiation devices like the Lung Tester, the Invisible Paddle Machine, and the Lifting & Spraying Machine.
By the start of the Twentieth Century, the company was making a wide range of items to prank lodge initiates. An early favorite were mechanical goats that would buck and bounce the riders as they were pushed along. They also made electric carpets, pie throwing tables, collapsing chairs, water squirting guns, and exploding spankers; just to name a few. These devices they illustrated in their mail order catalogs sent around the country. They also made more serious items such as convention badges, banners, and other supplies Even a 1907 fire that destroyed the factory didn't slow them down as they rebuilt and picked up right where they left off.
As early as 1897, the company was making band uniforms and by the 1940s this product constituted the bulk of their sales. Graduation cap and gowns were introduced in the 1920s and became a major part of the company’s business until that division was sold in 1982. DeMoulin Bros. & Co. also boasted an outstanding woodworking department that crafted furniture for lodges and churches. During the 1930s, the company made costumes and other related items for circuses including the one owned by legendary cowboy, Tom Mix.
As the Great Depression of the 1930's wore on, interest in the company's lodge items gradually tapered off. In 1955 another fire destroyed the furniture department, and the company decided that the time was right to leave the lodge and furniture business.
Today DeMoulin Bros. & Co. remains one of the world leaders in band uniform manufacturing. Still operating in their 1907 factory, they make uniforms for high schools, colleges, and universities; both small and large, and other occasional clothing items. For many years the employees have taken great pride in waking up New Years morning to watch the Rose Parade and Bowl games to see their work on display.