To tell the story of Monahan Partners, we have to start with the history of its parent company – The Thomas Monahan Company. The current management of Monahan Partners is the fifth generation of Monahan’s to work in the cleaning tool industry. Current President and 5th generation family member, Kevin Monahan, shares the goal of carrying on the tradition and ideals summed up in the parent company’s mission statement: “The Thomas Monahan Company is dedicated to serving the broom, brush & mop industries as the best provider on a worldwide basis.” Along the path to fulfilling that goal, all Monahan’s have enjoyed the opportunity to spend a great amount of quality time together, and have enjoyed working with people throughout the industry.
A Family Tradition
It all started a long time ago. The Monahan family has been involved in the cleaning tool business for nearly 150 years. In the late 1800’s, Patrick Henry Monahan, an immigrant from Loughrea, Ireland, was one of the first broomcorn brokers to set up shop in the State of Illinois. Patrick Monahan had traveled around the east coast for a number of years before settling in Arcola in the 1860’s. Around the same time, farmers in this small central Illinois community had begun growing a new cash crop, a type of sorghum called broomcorn, characterized by a strong, durable fiber that made it perfect for use in sweeping tools.
In 1867, Monahan started in business as a broomcorn broker. There were two aspects to the job. Each crop in each broomcorn field grows differently, so the broomcorn broker was charged with evaluating crops and then recommending to individual broom manufacturers whether or not certain crops were worth purchasing to meet their unique requirements. It was a real art to be able to judge, and then to be able to match what the customer liked as far as the percentage of the sizes of long and short corn each crop would yield. The broomcorn brokers earned their reputations in part on this ability to match a crop to a broom makers needs.
In 1871, Patrick Monahan turned his brokerage firm over to a cousin, Thomas Lyons, and by 1875 the firm became known as The Thomas Lyons Company. Patrick and his wife, Hannah had a son, the first Thomas F. Monahan. Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and went to work for the Lyons Company. Thomas purchased the business in 1922 and renamed it The Thomas Monahan Company. At that time, nearly 14,000 tons of broomcorn was raised each year within a 10-mile radius of Arcola, the town that was known as “The Broomcorn Capital of the World.” Thomas Monahan was well known around town for his dedication to the broomcorn brokerage firm, but he was perhaps even more respected for his community service, as he served as mayor of Arcola and was an instrumental part of several community projects and events during the 1920’s and 30’s.
Thomas and Lillian Monahan had two children, a daughter, Mary, and a son, Thomas Monahan, Jr. Thomas, Jr. (Tom) graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1931, where he played football for the legendary coach, Knute Rockne. After a short time in Chicago, Tom joined the family business.
Tom established a Monahan Company presence in the other broomcorn growing areas of the county; Kennedy, Beeville and Hondo, Texas, Lindsay, Oklahoma, Walsh, Colorado and San Jon, New Mexico. He also began diversifying the company, by brokering items for broom manufacturers other than broomcorn; items like wire, twine, bands, and handles.
Tom married Mary Cunningham in 1937 and became president of the Monahan Company in 1939. At the time Thomas F. Monahan, Sr. died in 1945, Tom and Mary Monahan had three boys, Tim, Pat and Joe and another, Jim, was on the way. Over the years, Tom with the help of his sister, Mary, and a hard-working staff built on the reputation of the company and established a strong financial foundation. Tom also made sure his sons were involved in the business from an early age.
“In high school, or even in late grade school, we worked in the warehouses during the summer – unloading broom corn, “Jim said. “In high school, we were sent to some of the broom corn growing fields in Colorado, Oklahoma, and South Texas. We grew up around broom corn and were into the broom and mop business ever since we were old enough to think about it.”