The prominence of Unique Leather Goods in the New York handbag industry is indicated by the election of Morris White to the post of Treasurer and head of the trade promotion committee of the Association of Leather Goods Manufacturers in 1928. In the years before 1930, Morris White Inc. was the largest manufacturer of ladies handbags in the world. It was a very profitable business. When the Stock Market Crash sent shock waves through the economy in October, 1929, Morris White Inc. was hit hard. In response to rumors of financial setbacks, this huge 2 page ad appeared in the May, 1930 issue of Hand Bag Modes, pages 66 & 67.
In spite of this optimistic outlook, the business was not on a secure financial footing. Later in 1930, legal action was taken by the creditors that was fought in the courts for years. Quoting from the bankruptcy reorganization case that eventually made its way to the US Supreme Court in 1933, "the company became financially embarrassed, partly through cancellation of orders due to the general depression, partly through withdrawals of large sums by Morris White for investments in stocks and real estate. The bank creditors intervened; [289 U.S. 426, 428] and for nearly six months prior to April 6, 1931, the business was conducted by White under their financial supervision and control. On that day, they caused to be brought in the name of Coriell, a citizen of New Jersey, this suit through which the reorganization was effected." (See the full text of the Supreme Court Decision).
Under the reorganization plan, the company's assets were transferred to Morris' wife Lily and the company name was changed to Morris White Handbags Inc. "All creditors of the old company having claims not exceeding $100 be paid in cash; that the claims of creditors having priority by law, the fees and expenses of the receiver, the counsel fees and other expenses of the Creditors' Committee be paid or assumed by the new company; and that all other creditors should receive in payment of their claims 20 per cent. in [289 U.S. 426, 429] unsecured notes of the new company and 80 per cent. in its preferred stock. No new money was to be embarked in the enterprise by either the Whites or others. Morris White (who had created and managed the business and owned all of the stock of the old company except a minority interest held by his brother, an employee) was to agree to serve the new company for three years at a salary not exceeding $60,000 a year. He and his wife were to have all of the common stock and, through control of the board of directors, substantial control of the new corporation. Accompanying the offer was an accountants' certificate unitemized stating that the liabilities shown on the books of the company as of April 6, the date of the appointment of the temporary receiver, were $1,072,000.30.
Mr. Coriell and other creditors were not happy with the 20% payment in cash and 80% company stock in a firm that could still fail. In May, the court demanded the creditors to show cause why they would not accept the offering. The creditors pointed out "the receiver had made no inventory and had not determined the amount of the liabilities. No one had made [289 U.S. 426, 430] even an estimate of the value of the assets as of the date of the order to show cause, or, except as stated below, as of the date of the hearing. No figures were presented to indicate the course and results of the business while under the informal supervision and control of the banks, during the five months prior to the appointment of the temporary receiver; or during the seven weeks following his appointment. But that the bill had grossly overstated the assets was obvious. Instead of assets exceeding $4,000,000 as there alleged, it appeared that those available were worth, at most, a fourth of that amount. Items aggregating $2,277,714.89 consisted of obligations and securities of associated and subsidiary companies, which were probably worthless. The District Judge announced, at the close of the hearing on May 27th, that he would direct the receiver to accept the Lily White offer. An order making permanent the receivership was entered later. On June 15, 1931, pursuant to the decree, the assets were transferred to the Morris White Handbags Corporation. Five months later, the Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decree of the District Court."
The Court of Appeals held the District Court could not force creditors to accept the partial payment of what was owed them. They had the right to demand liquidation of the company and a proportional split of the assets. In the end, on April 29, 1932, the Morris White Handbags Corporation was adjudged bankrupt. On June 6, 1932, a sale for $53,850 of all its tangible assets was confirmed by the District Court.
In spite of these legal problems, the company survived. The August 1936 Luggage and Leather Goods, page 32 carries this display ad.
The same issue includes a notice of an expansion of the Morris White handbag line.
Morris White Adding $5 Line
Owing to the greater demand for higher priced merchandise, Morris White Mfg. Co. has added a line of handbags to retail at $5 to their collection this fall. The new line merits, the attention of every buyer because of its individuality and fine workmanship.
This nes story on page 30 of the February 1942 issue of Luggage & Leather Goods fills in a few blanks between 1936 and 1942.
Morris White Buys Philadelphia Leather Goods Co.
"A testimonial dinner was tendered to Morris White by the executives and employees of the M. & M. Bag & Suitcase Co., at the Hotel Plaza, Jersey City, the evening of Saturday, January 17, as a farewell to Mr. White who, after many years as partner in the M. & M., resigned to purchase the Philadelphia (Pa.) Leather Goods Co.
The principal speaker of the evening was Ateyer Brody, who remains as owner of the M. & M. He wished Mr. White every success in his new venture.
Mr. White thanked his associates in and the employees of the M. & M. for the wholehearted cooperation they had always extended and wished them every success in the continuation of the firm.
Morris White Inc. was a classic American Dream, a family business established by immigrants. This obituary was posted in the August 1942 issue of Luggage & Leather Goods, page 54.
Isaac White Dies at 83
"Isaac White, retired handbag manufacturer and real estate executive, died on July 6 in his home 630 West 173rd Street, New York, after a short illness. His age was 83. He was active in charitable enterprises. Mr. White, who was born in Russia, was formerly associated with Morris White, Inc., women's handbag manufacturer, and with the Morris White Properties.
Bags for Spring 1956 were presented on January 3, 1956 by agreement as a member of the National Authority for the Ladies Handbag Industry. 1956NationalAuthorityMembers