“New” Rigdon Laundry

I always wondered why the building with 1917 on it was called the “New Rigdon Laundry,” when the building next to it was dated 1931.

There was a logical explanation for it. The original Rigdon Laundry was on South West End Blvd. When it moved to South Sprigg Street in 1917, it became the “New” Rigdon Laundry. (The “Old” Rigdon Laundry was turned into a canning center in 1934.)

The New Rigdon Laundry might have done dry cleaning, but its history was anything BUT dry. If you don’t believe me, skip down to the bottom and read the murder mystery involving one of its drivers.

New Rigdon Laundry has long history

Here are just a few of the stories that appeared in The Missourian over the years:

  • July 11, 1916 – J.A. Rigdon says he will start constructing model laundry building on Sprigg St. between Independence and Themis streets sometime in September; Rigdon purchased lot 45 feet by 180 feet on Sprigg St. across from Negro Masonic hall; building he will erect will be about 45 by 120 feet, and wagon sheds, coal houses and storage rooms will be built behind it.
  • Dec. 4, 1919 – Coal Shortage Is Being Felt in Cape Girardeau: The city is just beginning to be really effected by the coal situation and to curtail its activities. the Centennary (sic) church which for a while quit having moving picture shows will resume this once more as they have enough wood to run them for quite a while. The New Rigdon Laundry though yesterday that it would be necessary for it to close down, but Al Salzgeber, proprietor of the Idan-Ha Hotel came to the rescue and let it have some coal, enough for two days. Mr. Rigdon then obtained some coal from the West End Fuel Company, enough to run them the rest of the week and about two days of the next.

Edna Hilpert gets toe crushed

  • Feb. 8, 1921 – Edna Hilpert had about half an inch of her big toe crushed off when her right foot was caught in a cog of one of the motors.
  • Apr. 12, 1924 – New Rigdon Laundry gets new rug cleaning machine, the first of its kind between St. Louis and Memphis. Cleaning the average rug costs less than $3.50.
  • June 26, 1926 – Completed installation of The Thermo-Vento Drying Machine. The operation of this modern laundry dryer is a marvel to watch. It handles six full family washes and the clothes literally float in the air as they go through the process of drying. It only takes 15 minutes to dry the batch of six family washes.
  • Feb. 9, 1931 – Construction will begin tomorrow on a new laundry plant at 18-22 N. Sprigg St. in Cape Girardeau, to be erected by J.A. Rigdon, owner of the New Rigdon Laundry; the new plant, to be built adjacent to the present plant on the south, will practically double the size of the laundry.

Lions color 5,000 Easter eggs

  • Mar. 23, 1932 – The Lions played Easter rabbits…and prepared about 5,000 prettily colored eggs for the Annual Easter Egg Hunt… Starting the job of boiling and coloring eggs about 7:30 Tuesday evening, they worked until 10 o’clock, at which time nearly 14 cases of eggs were finished for the big event. Less than 20 members of the club did the job, owing to the fine engineering ability of Harold Hebbeler and Charles Rigdon. The boiling and coloring was done in the basement of the Rigdon Laundry, which was tendered the club for the work by Mr. Rigdon.
  • Feb. 12, 1934 – Purchase of the Cape Laundry Co. equipment and real estate at 45 S. West End Blvd. by the New Rigdon Laundry, 22 N. Sprigg St., is announced by J.A. Rigdon; the deal involved cash and real estate, including five houses, in addition to the equipment and real estate.

New Rigdon Laundry get bigger boiler

  • Aug. 16, 1934 – A boiler room extension is being constructed at the New Rigdon Laundry, 22 N. Sprigg St.; the brick addition will be 10 feet wide and 5 feet long, and enlarges the present boiler room so that a larger boiler can be installed.
  • Nov. 22, 1932 – New Rigdon Laundry and Dry Cleaning plant, 16-22 North Sprigg St., is model of modern cleaning methods; history of plant can be traced to J.A. Rigdon, who set up laundry business in St. Genevieve in 1898; he purchased Cape Girardeau steam laundry in 1915, which was destroyed by fire a year later. In 1917, he erected New Rigdon Laundry and has since made it a model of efficiency.

Bill Tipton buys Rigdon Laundry

  • April 19, 1954 – Sale of equipment of Rigdon Laundry, 23 N. Sprigg, to Tipton’s Whiteline Laundry Inc., is announced jointly by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas O. McGee of Rigdon Laundry and Bill Tipton, president and manager of Whiteline.
  • May 6, 1958 – Another familiar sight to local residents — the smoke that has risen for some 40 years from the chimney on the Rigdon Laundry building — is gone; the old, hand-fired coal boiler, which has been in use since around 1917, has been replaced by a modern gas boiler as part of a remodeling program by owner Bill W. Tipton.
  • July 28, 1974 – Mr. and Mrs. Bill Tipton, owners and operators of Rigdon’s Laundry, and the dry cleaning and linen services which are a part of the business, have announced purchase of a building at 1415 Independence St…. The firm has been in present location for 20 years. The Tiptons purchased the business in April 1954. It was established by the Rigdon family, later acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McGee. Mrs. McGee still owns the structure.

Laundry driver found shot dead

Big news in The Missourian Aug. 14, 1926: Evidently shot from ambush, the murdered body of Robert Deevers was found Friday afternoon on Jackson Hill, on the road from Illmo to Commerce. Deevers, a truck driver for the New Rigdon Laundry, was found lying on his back, 20 feet away from his truck, an automatic pistol six feet away from his body. Two bullets, thought to be .32 or .38 caliber, had taken effect, one in his biceps of his left arm and the other in his chest, ranging from his right side down through the lower part of his heart and out of his left side.

Follow this link to read the whole story, including a sidebar about how the victim was quoted as saying, “Well, if a hold-up gets me, he’ll have to be a better man than I am. And, besides, you know I don’t put much stock in most of these robberies. I think they’re just framed up and the fellow who was robbed know just when and where it’s going to happen. Then he gets his share.”

Dead driver bought life insurance policy

A follow-up story Aug. 24, 1926, said that the driver, who had been shot to death by unknown assassins had taken out a $6,000 life insurance policy Aug. 9; he was fatally wounded Aug. 13. Follow this link to read how the authorities thought the insurance policy was an indication that the driver feared what the future might bring and desired to care for his family in the event something happened to him. Sheriff E.A. Dye characterized the case as almost “hopeless” because there were few clews at the scene of the murder.”

Driver not murdered; shot himself

After the sheriff had pretty much given up hope of solving the shooting death, an investigator from the Burns Detective Agency came up with a theory that the driver killed himself “while morose over recent gambling losses and an increasing debt owed the New Rigdon Laundry.”

It’s worth following the link the the Sept. 13, 1926, Missourian to read the whole investigation. The crime scene analysis reads like something you’d see on a TV whodunit these days. The sheriff and the prosecuting attorney closed the probe and ruled the death a suicide.

16 Replies to ““New” Rigdon Laundry”

  1. We used to play a lot in the alley behind Rigdons. I can remember what was left of the old boiler room and where they stored the coal. A good place for little boys to explore but probably not the safest.

  2. I knew Tricia Tipton since first grade and knew here dad owned the laundry…but did not know the rest of the story about the buildings and like you, I wondered why the building had the dates on them that did not make much sense to me…thanks for explaining!

  3. JA Rigdon was my grandfather. He died when I was 2 years old, so I only remember him thru family pictures. He had 8 children, of which my father was the youngest. When Bill Tipton changed the name of the laundry to “Tiptons”, he offered the old blown glass neon sign “Rigdon’s” to me. I was living in Texas, but accepted. It made the trip circuitously, but was in pieces when I got it. I carried it around for years, and then took it to General Sign Co. down by the airport. They repaired it, filled it with neon gas, and it glows beautifully today, after 75 years.

    1. I am Bill Tipton’s granddaughter and W. Tom Tipton’s daughter, who is the laundry’s current owner. I plan to take on the family business myself one day. My mother found this article and knew that I would enjoy it, and I most certainly did! I am so proud of the history associated with Tipton Linen, and I love learning new things about it. John, it was so cool to hear about the Rigdon’s sign! I partly have your grandfather to thank for the company that I have grown up around and come to cherish.

  4. Ken that front page clipping of the newspaper was most interesting for the other articles that appeared. there was one on illegal whisky stash being uncovered (modern day marajuana bust comparison)and a gang war in Herion Ill. also the bankrupt farmers. it is interesting to read and compare their articles to todays articles. a lot of parallels.

    1. Newspaper archives are black holes for me. Like you, I can start out looking for one thing and then find myself several hours later wondering what WAS that thing was that I was looking for in the first place.

      Newspapers are considered the first draft of history. In many cases, they’re the ONLY draft.

  5. Don Ridgon said “I carried it around for years, and then took it to General Sign Co. down by the airport. They repaired it, filled it with neon gas, and it glows beautifully today, after 75 years.”
    Ken did you know General Sign closed it doors the last week of June…My dad worked there and was President for years.
    General Sign was a major player in the Sign industry from the 1940’s until it’s closing in 2010. They did Harley Davidison, Payless Shoes, American General Insurance, te Big Budwieser Horse sign on the Brewery these are still up and working you can see them from I-55 and many other national and local accounts. I would bet at least half the signs in Cape where done by General Sign over the years.
    My Dad worked at the same place from 1943 until June 27, 2009… a story on Genral sign would be a good story too!

    1. Terry,

      I saw that story. I don’t know that I ever did anything on General Sign over the years. I may have shot some of their signs when they were going up and definitely in the background of some photos, but never anything on the company.

      I’ll have to figure out some angle on this.

      Believe it or not, I didn’t manage to shoot EVERYTHING in Cape.

  6. Tipton’s is one of the few Cape companies, still family owned, remaining from the ’50s. The Limbaugh Firm is another.

    The Sled referred to earlier must have been discovered by Mr. Tipton about the time of the energy change in 1957. He then offered it to his chronies with sons rather than endanger his daughters. Was it originally a Rigdon or Magee item?

  7. Tom and Molly McGee the owners of the Rigdon Building for many years, lived in the hotel my parents owned. They had an apartment rented in the hotel and stayed there most of the time although they owned a house and large farm in Illinois (Rossville, I think…close to Danville). They were dear friends of our family and used to come over to our house every Tuesday night to watch television and visit. Molly attempted to teach me to knit and play bridge. They often took my siblings and me to Sunny Hill for ice cream. I remember Tom letting my little brother sit on his lap and pretend to be driving the car…that was before seat belt laws!!

  8. I simply was shocked when I came across this article! My parents just signed a contract to buy this building about 2 weeks ago! Fascinating to see a page about it. Thank you so much for all you do to help us “weee folk” to understand the city and area we grew up in.

  9. Glad the piece caught your eye. Follow the links that are in the story and you can see a lot more detail than I put in my blog.

    That’s been a building that has fascinated me for years. I didn’t realize how much of a history it had until I did some quick research.

    What are your folks going to do with it?

  10. My grandfather Joseph founded the laundry and my dad was his oldest child -Charles. My dad Charles was the one who had the idea of coloring 5,000 Easter eggs and we did this every year while growing up in our family. I have carried on the tradition. I spent many hours playing there and have pictures of the families events there. I am in touch with JA Rigdon’s daughter-Margaret-93yrs.a Nun of Precious Blood in Dayton,OH.-She is the last living child of the 8 children. Hope to visit this year again.

    1. Hello Suzanne Rigdon VanHorn,
      My name is Ray and I currently own the Rigdon Laundry building on Sprigg st. both the 1914 and the 1931 buildings. I was wanting to locate older pictures of the building back in the early days. I’m in the process of restoring it. I’m going to open a fitness center in it in the next few months. If I had access to older pictures I would like to blow them up in size and place them in various locations of the buildings.You can reach me by calling 573-332-7992 and ask for Ray. The number is to my clinic next door. Thanks!

  11. My Grandfather was Walter Rigdon, Joseph’s brother – their great-great-grandmother was Maurgerite Valle daughter of Pawnee Gabrielle Oeussa and Commandant Francois Valle, Sr. noted of Ste. Genevieve. The Rigdons went to their own single-room school house, Rigdon School, on property donated from Francois Valle. There is still a Rigdon School Lane off Hiway B west of Ste. Genevieve near what was Staabtown and what was the Rigdon Mill on River Aux Vases near there, established in about 1802 by James Lewis Rigdon, who came from Maryland.

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