UNIVERSAL STATUARY CORPORATION
The Universal Statuary Corporation of Chicago was started by the Lucchesi family who began producing traditional Italian type designs out of plaster / chalkware around late 1930's to early 1940's…
Jack and Leo Luecchesi were brothers who operated this ‘family business’ that never employed more than 75-100 employees.
Jack took care of the paper end of the business, and Leo figured out how to produce items for sale.
Jack's wife was from Guatemala and he made a concerted effort to bring as many immigrants from that part of the world as possible and give them a start.
He also sponsored many Italian Immigrants to work in the family factory.
They started making inexpensive items such as piggy banks, baby laughing & crying plaques etc.... and also produced some larger items for store displays such as life sized Indian statues for western restaurants.
Ornate Italian Wall Plaques, Early American Colonial Wall Plaques and Statues were always strong products in their lines as well as various whimsical and humorous items.
Universal was also famous for the contract work performed for Sears, Wards and many big advertising firms for their unique 'Point Of Sale' displays and promotions.
UNIVERSAL FACTORY LOCATIONS
They had at least 2 different factory locations in Chicago..
The 1st location being on Chicago Ave where they made mostly plaster / chalk ware products.
In the 1950's after the production of their plaster products had pretty much gone by the way, they started fooling around with resins and other plastics and came up with a material "FiberClad InFrangible" + guaranteed it would not break or chip.
They then moved from their original multi-story Chicago Avenue address to a new second single story building located on Ogden Ave where they began working with these new experimental composites.
SALES & MARKETING PROGRAMS
A lot pf people do not know that Universal did not get involved in the marketing end of the business, and concerned themselves only with production!
Universal produced sales catalogs that were designed to be used by their independent sales reps. These were always 4 1/4" X 11" in size and numbered. In the back of the last few catalogs they ever produced was a note with the numbers of old catalogs they were looking for in order to complete their own factory collection.
Most of Universal’s Sales Business was done by self employed sales people or "Independent Jobbers" that would show up at the factory in Chicago with their own trucks and load up with factory products to distribute and sell to their own ‘jealously guarded’ customers.
Universal produced items that were not very widely distributed because of the freight charges of the day and because of their items fragile nature.
“Independent Jobbers” were used to re-sell their products ‘right off the truck’ to customers in outlying regions…
Universal was always good about their re-sale delivery packaging for these Independent Jobbers… The boxes the factory workers loaded onto the trucks for shipping were huge with a lot of packing material to insure safe transit.
They had some areas of the country that were controlled by manufacturer’s representatives Universal shipped and invoiced reps on commission in an exclusive geographical area.
To these Traveling Sales People Universal Products were a real commodity that put bread on their tables and paid the bills for these people and their families.
THE UNIVERSAL STATUARY CORPORATIONS'
STABLE OF ARTISTS
Most of the artists who were employed (stabled) by Universal were immigrants brought here to create pieces solely for the company.
None of the artists really had a name outside of Universal…
There was "Boni" who did several of the 50's-60's items including "Roman Grape Girls" figurines, "Last Supper" wall plaque and others. Many of the things “Boni” did sold for 20-30 years.
Another artist was Vaughn Kendrick
He was a Chicago native and worked for the Universal Statuary Corporation in the 1960s and 70s.
Best known for his indians and cowboys he was also responsible for creating other figures, like the 1961 Cat, The brother/sister pair and many others.
There are artist signatures on some of the pieces Universal produced and none on others as I think Universal tried to keep their artist’s names out of the spotlight for proprietary reasons.
Universal was never known for promoting any of its artists'.
Universal made a concerted effort to copyright all of their designs and actively enforced them. The dates found on their pieces are copyright dates not dates of production.
Their production volume was not large in the overall picture of things in those days...
Universal knew exactly what their place was in the market and would produce items demanded by their Jobber Customer's for their own resale needs.