Biography of Charles Luckman
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Charles Luckman papers
Collection number: CSLA-34
96 archival document boxes; 16 oversize boxes; 2 unboxed scrapbooks, 2 flat files
Loyola Marymount University. Library. Department of Archives and Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90045-2659
Abstract: This collection consists of the personal papers of the architect and business leader Charles Luckman (1909-1999). Luckman
was president of Pepsodent and Lever Brothers in the 1940s. In the 1950s, with William Pereira, he resumed his architectural
career and eventually developed a nationally-known firm responsible for such buildings as the Boston Prudential Center, the
Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles, and New York's Madison Square Garden.
Languages represented in the collection:
Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise,
Loyola Marymount University does not claim ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. The user or publisher
must secure permission to publish from the copyright owner. Loyola Marymount University does not assume any responsibility
for infringement of copyright or of publication rights held by the original author or artists or his/her heirs, assigns, or
[Identification of item], Series number, Box and Folder number, Charles Luckman Papers, CSLA-34, Department of Archives and
Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
Donated by Charles Luckman, Jr., and James Luckman to
Loyola Marymount University in 2006. Accession number: 2006.65
Biography of Charles Luckman
The boy wonder of American business in the late 1930s and the 1940s, and then a leader in the field of architecture, Charles
Luckman—an only child—was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1909. Following graduation from Kansas City's Northeast High School
in 1925, and a stint in a Kansas City junior college, he took a job as a draftsman in an architect's office in Chicago. He
then enrolled in the University of Illinois in 1927, where he graduated with a degree in architecture in 1931. There he met
his future architectural partner William Pereira, a great architect in his own right.
Lacking professional opportunities in architecture because of the Great Depression, Luckman entered the business world, joining
Colgate-Palmolive-Peet as a draftsman in the advertising department in 1931. That same year that he married Harriet McElroy
(1908-2003). (The couple's three children were Charles, Jr.; James; and Steven.) Luckman then transferred to sales. He achieved
impressive gains in the sales of his company's soap on Chicago's South Side, which earned him a reputation as a superb salesman
and set the stage for a remarkable rise in the business world.
His progress at Colgate led to an offer from Pepsodent, which he joined as sales manager in 1935. Among his initial accomplishments
was an agreement with retail druggists, who had been threatening a boycott over pricing of Pepsodent toothpaste, which served
as a price-loss leader for some discount chains, thereby undercutting prices at independent drug stores. To prevent a boycott,
at a National Association of Retail Druggists convention, Luckman, with the blessing of his company, offered a $25,000 contribution
for the passage of a fair trade act, which would allow the wholesaler to set prices for products, thus eliminating the use
of some products as price-loss leaders. In 1937 Congress passed the Miller-Tydings Fair Trade Act.
Luckman's continued to promote successfully Pepsodent to customers throughout the United States. He claimed to know over 35,000
druggists in the United States by their first names. Such effective salesmanship resulted in Luckman's rapid rise through
the Pepsodent hierarchy, becoming vice-president in charge of sales in 1936 a year later his picture was on the cover of the
magazine Time as the "boy wonder" of American business. In 1941, Luckman was promoted to executive vice-president, and in
1943 came the crowning achievement of the presidency. By that year Pepsodent had the largest sales of dentrifice in the United
States. His salary was the remarkable sum for that time of $100,000 per year, and he also held ten percent of Pepsodent's
Luckman, if nothing else, had a keen understanding of advertising and worked closely with advertising agency of Lord and Thomas,
under leadership of the man considered the father of advertising in the United States, Albert Lasker. Perhaps the best example
of this is how the name and person of comedian Bob Hope became irrevocably linked with Pepsodent, which, in 1938, became the
sole sponsor of his radio show on NBC. Luckman's role in Hope's association with Pepsodent was to have Hope plug "irium" (really
only a foaming agent) as the ingredient that set Pepsodent apart from other toothpastes.
The next major step in Charles Luckman's career occurred in 1944, when Lever Brothers acquired Pepsodent for ten million dollars.
Luckman continued as president of Pepsodent and became a vice-president of Lever Brothers, which was the United States branch
of the international corporation Unilever. In 1946 he was named president of Lever Brothers in the United States, replacing
its long-time president, Francis Countway. He was now the head executive of one the country's largest corporations, and one
of the country's the youngest head executives as well. This feat again earned him a place on the cover of
Time (1946). Among his accomplishments there, many of them controversial, was the transfer of company headquarters from Cambridge,
Massachusetts, to New York City.
Luckman was also involved in significant public service. He served on President Harry Truman's "President's Committee on Civil
Rights," which evaluated the state of human rights in the United States (1947). Luckman chaired Truman's "Citizens' Food Committee,"
charged with conserving American grain supplies, so that the savings could be used to feed desolate post-war Europe.
Charles Luckman became a well-known commentator, through numerous public speeches and articles in such magazines as Collier's,
on important issues in American life. Most notable was his plea for peace between labor and management, and the need for the
latter to adjust to a changing world. A key figure behind this public outreach of Luckman was undoubtedly Benjamin Sonnenberg,
a noted press agent in New York City. Within Lever Brothers, Thomas Gonser served as Luckman's public relations official.
In a move that was headline news, Luckman resigned from Lever Brothers in 1950 after a meeting with the directors of Unilvever,
the parent company. The exact reason or reasons for his departure remain unclear, but Lever had failed to equal its rival
Proctor and Gamble in such areas the marketing of synthetic detergents, and by 1949 Lever Brothers was in the red.
Luckman would return to his old profession, architecture, after his resignation, answering the invitation of William Pereira,
his fellow architecture student at Illinois, to join his Los Angeles based firm. Luckman's renewed interest in architecture
was stimulated in part by his instigating the building of the Lever House, the corporate headquarters in New York City. The
ground floor of the twenty-six story tall skyscraper was open, with landscaping and fountains, an unusual design for its time.
That it was one of the first steel and glass skyscrapers added to its novelty and perhaps stands as Luckman's greatest contribution
to American architecture.
The Luckman and Pereira firm was highly successful, and among its many accomplishments were the CBS Television City in Hollywood,
the Hilton Hotel in Berlin, the Disneyland Hotel, the "Theme Building" at Los Angeles International Airport, and United States
military bases in Spain.
In a disagreement over approaches regarding architectural and marketing practices, Pereira and Luckman split in 1958. Luckman
then formed Charles Luckman Associates (CLA), which proved to be hugely successful. By 1968 the firm was one of the country's
five largest, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Its architectural accomplishments included the Madison Square
Garden in New York, Boston's Prudential Center, NASA's manned flight center in Houston, and countless projects in Los Angeles,
including the Los Angeles Zoo and what is now Macy's Plaza. In 1968, Charles Luckman's second son, James, became president
of the firm, while he became chair of the board. That same year CLA merged with Ogden Corporation, a union that lasted until
Luckman had his architectural critics. Reflecting his strong business background, he marketed his firm as one that would design
projects to suit the client's tastes and needs, rather than create designs based only on the vision of the architect. In honor
of this unusual approach to architecture, American Management Association awarded him its highest honor in 1982, the Henry
Laurence Gantt Medal for "distinguished achievement of management as a service to the community."
Luckman's public and private service was considerable. An active supporter of public education, he served on the California
State Board of Trustees from 1960 through 1982 and was twice chair of the board. Notable during this tenure was his strong
stand against the campus unrest of the 1960s. He also established teaching awards at different universities. Besides this
educational service, Luckman served as president of the Los Angeles Ballet and as chair of the board of UCLA's Brain Research
Charles Luckman retired from Charles Luckman Associates in 1977, although he remained an active presence there. The firm was
reorganized as the Luckman Partnership, with son James as president, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. Charles
Luckman died in 1999, in Los Angeles.
||Charles Luckman is born in Kansas City, Missouri.
||Graduates with a degree in architecture from the University of Illionis. Meets future architectural partner, William Pereira,
||Marries Harriet McElroy (1908-2003).
||Joins Colgate-Palmolive-Peet as a draftsman in the advertising department but later moves over to sales.
||Joins Pepsodent as sales manager.
||Charles Luckman becomes vice-president in charge of sales of Pepsodent.
||Appears on cover of
Time magazine as "The Boy Wonder" of the business world.
||Promoted to vice-presidencey of Pepsodent.
||Becomes president of Pepsodent
||Lever Brothers acquires Pepsodent. Luckman continues as president of Pepsodent while becoming a vice-president at Lever Brother
||Named president of Lever Brothers in the United States, replacing its long-time president, Francis Countway. Now the head
executive of one of the largest corporations in the United States, and one of the country's the youngest head executives
||Serves on President Harry S. Truman's "President's Committee on Civil Rights," which evaluates the state of human rights in
the United States.
||Forced out at Pepsodent.
||Create architectural firm with William Pereira.
||Pereira and Luckman designs Television City of CBS.
||Pereira and Luckman dissolve partnership. Luckman then forms Charles Luckman Associates (CLA).
||Luckman Associates responsible for Prudential Tower of Boston.
||Serves on the board of regents of the California State University system.
||Luckman Associates designs Kennedy Space Center
||Luckman Associates develops Madison Square Garden.
||Luckman retires from Luckman Associates, although he remains an active presence there. The firm was reorganized as the Luckman
Partnership, with son James as president,
||Charles Luckman dies.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Charles Luckman Papers consist, primarily, of subject files that Charles Luckman established for his work and activities.
documenting the activities of his companies, they were for his personal reference and recordkeeping. General company files,
Charles Luckman Associates, that do not directly concern Charles Luckman are absent. Series 1: Pepsodent and Lever Brothers
demonstrates this point well. The files found here, which were collected from 1938 through 1950, combine both company and
correspondence, and personal and company activities.
Absent are architectural plans and records for his major projects, eg, the Madison Square Garden and the Los Angeles Convention
Some architectural plans for lesser projects can be found in Series 4: Subject Files. The collection's holdings are especially
documenting Charles Luckman's time at Pepsodent and Lever Brothers, and activities of Charles Luckman Associates in the 1960s
and 1970s. A
major lacuna in the collection is material from Luckman's partnership with William Pereira from 1950 through 1958. There are
only a few
newspaper articles concerning some of their projects as well as some subject files in Series 8: Autobiography. Topics and
Luckman's life cross over from series to series. For example, Series 8 consists of the notes collected for Luckman's autobiography.
contains materials on the years at Pepsodent and Lever Brothers, as well as on the Charles Luckman Associates. Research strengths
especially pronounced in the areas of corporate business and advertising in the 1940s, architectural philosophy, and campus
unrest in the
1960s. The latter strength stems from Luckman's time on the California State University Board of Trustees, including as chair.
strongly critical of the New Left on campus, a stand articulated well in the speeches found in Series 10.
Types of materials in this collection include textual and non-textual. The latter category predominates and includes correspondence,
newspaper articles, telegrams, magazines, licenses, memoranda, budget forms, copies of speeches, and press releases. Much
correspondence is copies. Non-textual materials include photographs and videocassettes. The inclusive dates of the materials
Names of note in this collection include Harry S. Truman, I. Robert Kriendler, Sarah Melton Scaife, Hedda Hopper, Bob Hope,
Lasker, Elizabeth Arden, and Francis Countway.
Based on type of materials and the original order of materials found in its holdings, the Charles Luckman Papers have been
divided into the following series. To view the series select the following links:
- Series 1: Pepsodent and Lever Brothers Subject Files, 1938-1950
- Series 2: Correspondence
- Series 3: Project Files
- Series 4: Subject Files
- Series 5: Architect's Licenses
- Series 6: Los Angeles Public Library
- Series 7: Scrapbooks and Photograph Albums
- Series 8: Autobiography
- Series 9: University Subject Files
- Series 10: Speeches
- Series 11: Publications
- Series 12: Photographs
- Series 13: Additional Lever Brothers Files
- Series 14: Citizens Food Committee
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Luckman, Charles (1909-1999)
Chalres Luckman Associates
Architects -- United States -- Personal Papers
Architectural practice--United States--Management.
Architectural firms--California--Los Angeles
Pereira, William L. (1909-1985)