Collection ID: D.220

Collection context


L. Adler Brothers & Co.
3 boxes
Preferred citation:

[Item title, item date], L. Adler Brothers and Company Records, D.220, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester


Scope and Content:

This collection consists of three boxes. Box 1 contains correspondence and historical ephemera, a significant amount of which pertains to the factory opening of 1910. It also contains several style model books. Box 2 contains a scrapbook of historical newspaper clippings. Special care should be used in handling this scrapbook. In Box 3, a wide variety of business and financial information can be found, including original stock certificates and account books, as well as legal documents pertaining to the 1922 merger with Levy Bros.

Biographical / Historical:

The decade of the 1880s was one of enormous growth and prosperity for the men's clothing industry of Rochester, NY. Thirty-three new firms were formed, twenty-five of which were doing business on a national scale by the end of the decade. Rochester was to become the manufacturing rival of the industries in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Chicago. The city was recognized as the unquestionable leader in quality of all clothing manufacturing cities in the country.

One of the most reputable companies to surface during this time was the firm of L. Adler Brothers & Co., established in 1883 by brothers Levi, Simon, and Abram Adler. Levi Adler (1834-1907) and his youngest brother Abram (b. 1846) were previously senior and junior partners of the firm of Stein, Adler & Co. for thirteen years. Prior to forming Stein, Adler & Co., Levi had established a successful retail clothing business in Medina, NY, where Abram had also worked. After the dissolution of Stein, Adler & Co. in 1882, Levi and Abram were joined by their oldest brother Simon (1832-1911), who had started a retail clothing business in Albion, NY, and together the three brothers established L. Adler Bros. & Co. in Rochester in 1883. They were later joined by another brother, Solomon (b. 1843), an exceptionally skillful clothing salesman who had assumed control of Levi's business in Medina and had also formed his own firm in Rochester in 1873 called Stern, Adler & Co.

In 1895, L. Adler Bros. & Co. was incorporated, and the firm quickly prospered to become one of Rochester's most nationally known quality men's clothing manufacturers, with offices in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. The company produced high quality, high priced clothing under the name "Adler-Rochester Clothes," with its logo as a bald eagle ("Adler" means eagle in German). During the 1890s, L. Adler Bros. & Co. invested in McFarlins Clothing Co., a high quality retail-clothing store, creating a long business association between the two companies. For over fifty years, McFarlins was an extensive seller and promoter of the Adler-Rochester label. So popular was the clothing label that L. Adler Bros. & Co. was awarded contracts for U.S. Army officers' overcoats during World War I.

A long tradition of family ownership and management was characteristic of men's clothing manufacturers in Rochester at the time. In keeping with that tradition, Simon Adler succeeded the presidency of L. Adler Bros. & Co. after the death of Levi in 1907. Before his own death in 1911, Simon established a pension fund for his employees, the first known fund of its kind ever created for employees of the clothing industry. After Simon's death, Abram became president, while Levi's son Mortimer Adler became treasurer (Mortimer would later become president of the firm).

L. Adler Bros. & Co. was originally located in an area in downtown Rochester traditionally called "clothier's row," near St. Paul St. and Andrews St. All of the major clothing producers at the time were located in this area, as its closeness to the falls of the Genesee River provided water power for the operation of sewing machines. By the turn of the century, the entire clothing industry had been plagued with the notorious "sweatshop" reputation for over half a century. In 1909, in an effort to bring an end to such a reputation, L. Adler Bros. & Co. was the first clothing company in Rochester to move away from clothier's row and construct a larger factory housing all of its operations under one roof. This would allow for better control of working conditions as well as closer supervision of quality. As always, producing high quality clothing was the top priority of the firm.

In order to attract the highly skilled help needed to produce such high quality clothing, L. Adler Bros. & Co. hired industrial architect Albert Kahn, distinguished designer of the Ford Motor Company buildings in Detroit, to build a new modern factory on Rochester's northern outskirts. It was to be the largest clothing factory in the city, and the second or third largest in the country. In 1910 the factory was finished, complete with a restaurant, first aid facilities, and reading and smoking rooms. Ninety percent of the building was made of glass in order to provide plenty of daylight for the 1200 employees working there. On January 27, 1910, the new factory opened with a large celebration, attended by many of the firm's customers and business associates, as well as many executives from rival firms in Rochester.

Unfortunately, business slowed for L. Adler Bros. & Co. after World War I. Post-war conditions made it impossible for the company to produce as many suits as the large factory was designed for. In order to maintain sufficient volume to keep the new factory in operation, a merger was formed in 1922 with Levy Bros. Clothing Co., another Rochester firm which was also experiencing post-war production difficulties. Levy Bros., established circa 1900 by Jacob Levy, had previously been an aggressive manufacturer of lower priced clothing. The new firm, called Levy Bros. & Adler-Rochester, Inc., produced medium priced clothing using the reputable Adler-Rochester label and its bald eagle logo. It survived in the competitive Rochester market for another three decades, until being absorbed by Michaels Stern & Co. in 1951.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard



The L. Adler Brothers and Company Records is open for research use. Researchers are advised to contact the Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department prior to visiting. Upon arrival, researchers will also be asked to fill out a registration form and provide photo identification.


In consultation with a curator, reproductions may be made upon request. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from a curator. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.


[Item title, item date], L. Adler Brothers and Company Records, D.220, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

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