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Lens on History: Money wasn’t laundered here

May 8, 2019

William Lawler opened his dry cleaning business in 1915, when such a venture seemed to have a doubtful future. He soon found that the business was a test of honesty.

It was necessary to search the pockets of every piece of clothing that they were going to clean.

Not because his employees were snoopy or looking for valuables; rather it was done for safety purposes and self-preservation. His employees were looking for matches. As Mr. Lawler explained, “It might be possible that a single match could cause a great deal of mischief.”

Through the years, employees found and returned rings, watches, letters and deeds for property, in fact, all sorts of unimaginable things. Then there was the case of $4,200 left in a suit by an out-of-town hotel guest.

The equivalent of $62,000 today, the money was returned before the customer got back to his hotel.