The Leblanc family are often named as the first Franco-American entrepreneurs in Lewiston-Auburn. Joseph Leblanc married into the first documented Franco-American family in the Twin Cities when he wed Clarisse Carignan. Joseph purchased a major local business, the Lewiston Steam Dye House, from Henry Free in 1878. Steam cleaning clothing and household goods like pillows and bedding was a necessity in the nineteenth century. The Leblanc’s cleaning business expanded to several locations and became a fixture in the Twin Cities.
According to the 1892 article “Leading Buisness Men of Lewiston, Augusta and Vicinity,” published by Mercantile Press, Joseph Leblanc “...began operations with no flourish or trumpets whatever, confident that the merits of his work had only to become known to assure him of a large patronage and the progress of time has proved his confidence to be well founded.” This suggests that the work done at Leblanc Cleaners to clean, dye and repair clothing and household objects was highly prized in the community.
2019.2.1: “1860-1940: Depuis 80 Ans Au Service de Lewiston-Auburn ,” 1940
This newspaper article declares 1940 as Leblanc Cleaners’ 80th anniversary. In the early days the business cleaned and repaired clothes for a population that could not always buy new ones. A sign advertising this can be seen in the photo on the left of this article.
2019.2.2: “La famille Leblanc est dans les affaires depuis 70 ans,” September 10, 1954
This article describes innovations made over the 70+ years the Leblancs owned the business. But, another article in 1940 said the business had been around for 80 years. Why the discrepancy? The Lewiston Dye House and Bleachery was originally established by Henry Free in 1860, making 1940 80 years since the start of the business. However, Joseph Leblanc bought it in 1878, meaning that, in 1954, the Leblanc family had run the business for more than 70 years.
2019.2.7: Cora Leblanc at the Steam and Dye booth, date unknown
Cora Leblanc, née Grégoire, married Alfred Leblanc in 1906. They had 9 children, 5 of whom died in infancy. Cora helped out in the family business, as seen in this image.
2019.2.9: Three Generations of the Leblanc family, date unknown
Left to right: Alfred Leblanc, Jr. (1914-1999), Joseph Leblanc (1858-1938), Alfred Leblanc, Sr. (1890-1949)
The Leblanc Steam and Dye business is often considered the earliest Franco-American owned business in Lewiston-Auburn. Joseph Leblanc purchased the business from Henry Free in1878.Alfred Sr. took over the business from his father Joseph, and later Alfred Jr. did the same.
2019.2.3: “Que les temps sont changés...” September 10, 1954
Article displaying an image of an early Leblanc Steam and Dye company car, demonstrating how the times have changed in the many years the company had been in operation.
2019.2.5.2: Leblanc family and friends in car, date unknown
Driver: Alfred Leblanc Sr., passenger seat: Lolita Leblanc, Alfred’s daughter, back seat on the right: Jules Grégoire, back seat on the left: unknown.
2019.2.6: “Leblanc’s Coin-Operated Dry Cleaning Plant to Open,” Lewiston Evening Journal, date unknown
This article announces Leblanc’s Cleaners as Lewiston-Auburn’s first coin operated dry cleaner. Innovations and the embrace of technology are important to all the businesses featured in this exhibit.