Campana Factory | Accidentally Wes Anderson

Campana Factory

Batavia, Illinois | C.1936

Photo Credit: Brian Lucas

Opening just two years before the start of the Great Depression, the Campana Company faced unprecedented circumstances during its first years in operation. The cosmetics manufacturer produced ‘Italian Balm’ – a popular hand lotion during the Depression Era. Thanks to innovative advertising strategies, the organization was able to not only last, but thrive during one of the worst economic crises.

To spur sales, owner Ernest Morgan Oswalt began offering free cosmetic samples in magazines and used radio advertising — two very innovative methods for the time. The radio advertising campaign would eventually grow into one of the longest-lasting and most profitable strategies for company.

Oswalt’s idea was to create a radio variety show for the sole purpose of featuring commercials for Campana. He hired a writer who created “The First Nighter Program”, a successful anthology comedy-drama series that ran for 22 years. Oswalt’s nephew would write over one hundred radio plays for the program under the name Anthony Wayne.

Elements of the Factory’s Art Deco design also contributed to its success. By the 1930s, the company needed a new factory to meet demands and Oswalt desired a building that reflected his product’s modern appeal. He commissioned the Streamline Moderne building (above) which included automated assembly lines, mechanical mixers, and was one of the first buildings to be fully air conditioned.

After WW2, Campana had to change the name of Italian Balm due to anit-Italian sentiments. In the sixties, laundry detergent brand Purex bought the factory and later closed Campana operations in 1982. Today, the building is home to All Dressed Up Costumes, a company providing costumes and makeup products for theatrical productions.

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