Orange County











            Arthur W. Cleaver is a prominent representative of business interests in Orange County as owner and manager of the Sanitary Laundry at Fullerton, which he established in 1920.  He was born in Cook County, Illinois, March 31, 1860, his parents being William and Sophia (Zimmerman) Cleaver.  He is descended from one of the oldest English families, tracing his ancestry back to William of the Cleavers, commander with William the Conqueror.  In the maternal line he is descended from a German family of high rank; his maternal grandfather was an educator of note.  William Cleaver, the father of Arthur W. Cleaver, was born in London, England, in 1815, and in later life was numbered among the able businessmen and influential citizens of Chicago, locating there in 1833.  A contemporary writer said:  “There are but few who have contributed more to the greatness of Chicago than the family of Cleavers.”  They were famous in the soap making industry throughout a period covering two centuries.  It was in the year 1831 that Charles Cleaver, an attorney of London and paternal grandfather of Arthur W. Cleaver, came to America with a family of sixteen children and with fifty thousand dollars in cash.  For a short time he resided in Toronto, Canada.  In 1833 his eldest son, Charles Cleaver, went to Chicago, Illinois, where he established a manufactory for the making of soap and candles, the first of that kind in Chicago.  In 1834 he was joined by his brother William, in association with whom he opened a store on what is now South Water Street in Chicago.  Soon afterwards they moved the soap works to Division Street and the river, which section of the present great metropolis was at that time considered in the extreme west.  In 1854 they moved onto property along the lake shore, purchasing the land bounded by what is now Cottage Grove Avenue on the west, Forty-third Street on the south and Thirty-fifth Street on the north.  They erected a large soap shop on the shore of Lake Michigan at the foot of Pier Street, now Thirty-eighth Street.  Lake Avenue was at that time the main highway and stage coach road between Detroit and Chicago, and on this thoroughfare was transacted the business of “Cleaverville,” which was laid out and platted within the boundaries above named.  The two Cleaver brothers erected a pier which extended out into Lake Michigan.  They conducted a general merchandise store and a post office and also carried on other interests at the corner of Lake Avenue and Pier Street.  William Cleaver built nearby the commodious residence in which his son, Arthur W., and his daughters were born.  The great financial panic of 1857 practically destroyed the business of the brothers, causing them to discontinue their soap-making operations.  William Cleaver took over the management of the general store and Charles Cleaver, Sr., turned his attention to real estate activities.  A few years later their father settled near Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois, where he became the owner of a large tract of land.  William Cleaver was reared in the faith of the Church of England and was a man of strong personality who died as he lived—true to himself and true to all men.  His love of adventure led him to join the gold rush in 1850, crossing the plains by ox-team, and after many narrow escapes from death he returned to New York by way of the Isthmus of Panama.  He passed away November 13, 1896.  He was twice married, his first wife being Mary (Barker) Cleaver, who died leaving three children, namely:  William H., who became a resident of Terre Haute, Indiana; Josephine, the widow of Thomas Swan, of Chicago; and Frank C., who became superintendent of motive power for the Vandalia Railroad at Princeton, Indiana.  The second wife of William Cleaver was in her maidenhood Sophia Zimmerman, daughter of Professor Charles Zimmerman, who was president of Basel College in Switzerland.  Miss Zimmerman was on a visit to the United States when she formed the acquaintance of William Cleaver.  She was a young lady who had enjoyed splendid educational advantages and spoke the English, French, German and Italian languages.  Her brother, Oscar Zimmerman, who succeeded his father in the presidency of Basel College, was one of Europe’s greatest scholars and linguists.  His son, Rev. Gustav A. Zimmerman, became superintendent of German in the public schools of Chicago.  At her death, which occurred January 1, 1896, Mrs. Sophia (Zimmerman) Cleaver was survived by her three children:  Arthur W., the immediate subject of this review; Charlotte, who is the wife of George H. Brown, a member of the Lawton Cutlery Company of Chicago; and Herbert, who married Miss Lenore Randall, of Chicago, and who became a partner in the laundry firm of A. W. Cleaver & Company.

            Arthur W. Cleaver acquired his early education in the public schools of Chicago and subsequently became a student at the old University of Chicago on Cottage Grove Avenue, between Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fifth streets. Keenly interested in athletic sports, he became one of the fastest bicycle riders in America.  He was also skilled in the art of music, which he loved.  He played the violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was one of the musicians in both the First and Second Regiment Bands of the Illinois National Guard.  It was in the year 1878 that he began his career as a laundryman, being one of the first to reduce to a science the cleaning of wearing apparel.  His father and uncle had erected a substantial building at the corner of Lake Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street equipped with the correct appliances of the day (1866) for use in washing, and for a nominal fee the public was allowed to come and wash clothing.  The enterprise was conducted on a cooperative plan, but it was not a success, and the structure was later fitted up and equipped as a modern laundry by Arthur W. and his father.  When eventually the building proved inadequate for the rapidly increasing business, Arthur W. Cleaver and his father built in 1888 the largest and best equipped laundry in Chicago, having numerous branches in all parts of the city.  Later, when the father retired, Herbert Cleaver became associated with his brother.  In 1894 Arthur W. Cleaver came to Los Angeles, California, where in 1900 he established Cleaver’s Laundry which he subsequently sold.  He then traveled over Europe, and in later years visited Asia, Australia and the South Sea Islands.  On his return to the United States from his first voyage he opened another laundry and formed the Los Angeles Laundry Company continuing its operation until disposing of the business in 1912.  In 1911, he had also established the Excelsior Laundry Company in San Diego.  In 1920, he established in Fullerton, California, the Sanitary Laundry, which he has since conducted very successfully and which is owned by himself and his wife.  He is also the president of the Orange County Ice Company and co-owner of the Cleaver Lease Seal Beach oil field.

            Arthur W. Cleaver has been twice married, his first union being with Miss Helene E. Shaw, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D. S. Shaw, of Long Beach, California.  She passed away leaving a son, Arthur W., Jr.  The second wife of Mr. Cleaver was in her maidenhood Kathryn M. Carls, of Montana, and they reside at 519 Fern Drive, Fullerton, theirs being one of the finest homes in Orange County.

            A veteran of the World War, Mr. Cleaver served as laundry expert in the Quartermasters Corps at Washington, D. C., and supervised the construction of laundries at training camps.  He is a member of the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club and the Hacienda Country Club.  Fraternally he is a Mason having membership in Fullerton Lodge, No. 339, F. & A. M.; Fullerton Chapter, No. 90, R. A. M.; Fullerton Commandery, No. 55, K. T.; Valley of Long Beach Consistory, Thirty-second degree Scottish Rite and Al Malaikah Temple A. A. O. N. M. S. in Los Angeles.  He belongs to the Eastern Star and White Shrine and is also affiliated with Los Angeles Lodge, No. 99, B. P. O. E.  Mrs. Cleaver has membership in the Eastern Star and the White Shrine and takes an active part in civic work and in the affairs of women’s clubs.  She and her husband are well known and highly esteemed throughout Fullerton and this part of the state, and the circle of their friends is almost coextensive with the circle of their acquaintances.




Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 65-69, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  V. Gerald Iaquinta.