Leslie-James, Inc. was a high end millinery manufacturer based in Los Angeles, CA. The name was a portmanteau of the founders’ first names: James J. Druce, President and CEO and Leslie G. Masters, Head Designer. Although they seem to have been in business as early as 1930, when both Druce and Masters were listed on the US Census as employed in the millinery business, respectively in sales and factory management, the business was incorporated in 1935 by Druce and Masters. In April of 1935, the company purchased the plant of P. H. Luther Company at 728 South Hill street. At that time, they employed 100 workers.
Leslie-James, Inc. was selling nationwide by 1939, when it was referred to as a “famous house” in a Sarasota, FL newspaper. At that time, their hats were priced from $5 – $15. Leslie-James hats were eventually sold through a variety of department stores including Gimbel’s, Marshall Field and Joseph Horne. By 1964, prices were up to $30 – $300.
James J. Druce was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1887, and worked in sales and millinery productions. He was the president of the California Millinery Society from 1936 – 1953. James retired in 1954 and left Leslie-James, Inc. to Masters. He died in 1956.
Leslie George Masters was a former film actor born in 1909 on a Utah farm. By 1930, he was residing in Los Angeles. He claimed that Gilbert Adrian encouraged him to go into millinery design. Masters was still advertising and making department store visits as late as 1970. Leslie-James Inc. was dissolved in 1983 by Masters. Leslie Masters died in April of 1991.
Written by Hollis Jenkins-Evans