Arctic Fur Company had a pair of retail stores in Seattle
as well as establishments in Tacoma, Portland, Los
Angeles, Reno, Beverly Hills and San Francisco. By 40, Simpson
had achieved his ambition to retire: officially, he ceded
control to a nephew, Melville P. Steil.
however, Simpson never retired. Instead, he became a powerful
Chairman of Arctics Board of Directors.
1939 (the firms fifteenth year), Steil oversaw a $25,000
remodel of the old Third Ave frontage. Company Vice President
Frank P. English, Treasurer B. P. McNally, and Design Manager
John Willers were lauded as local leaders in a newspaper article
bannered: "THEY DIRECT DESTINIES." By then, the Arctic had
branches in eight Western cities.
it was always J.B. Simpson who drove the business and
spent time ensuring destiny was directed his way. His favorite
conduit for this was Senator Warren G. Magnuson, with whom
he developed an extremely persistent relationship. Letter
after letter was fired off from the Arctic offices, engaging
the Senators energies with regard to upcoming contracts.
Simpson penned them himself; other times, he merely directed.
Always, however, these inquiries were pointed ones. Did Magnuson
know about this deal? Could he influence that one? Could he
not be of help to his friends back West?
It is clear from their correspondence that Simpson was an
energetic inside trader.
of Simpsons letters, from May 3, 1948, had huge repercussions
for Keeneys red brick building. In it, Arthur L. Johnson
asked on Arctic Furs behalf about a series
of unit contracts for fur items issued by the U. S. Department
of Labor, Wage and Hour and Public Contracts Division.
was, in essence, a grievance letter: Arctic Fur was shocked
that their name had not been on the bidders list. This
screed was followed on March 31, 1948, by one from Bruce Bartley,
one of Simpsons lawyers. Bartley protested that no reply
had come from the War Department or Navy. His letter also
contained this information:
the war they [the Arctic Fur Company] made various types of
cold-weather clothing including gloves, mittens, parkas, etc.
at their plant here in Seattle. The plant is now closed, but
could be opened very easily"
plant to which Bartley refers had been in the Securities Building.
January 17, Magnuson received pro-Arctic pressure from a different
source: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs,
Warehousemen & Helpers. None other than Dave Beck was
then its vice president and the letter (dated January 17,
1949), came directly from his personal office. It stressed
that, although "Mr. Beck is in Chicago
were he here,
I am sure he would be writing you personally." In Becks
terms, the letter makes extremely clear, the Arctic Fur Company
had always been a friend:
J. B. Simpson of the Arctic Fur Company telephoned here today
regarding the Army contract for fur strips which he said he
had discussed with you recently. They are meeting with very
strong opposition from the CIO fur organizations in the East,
the Seattle Fur Workers Union being the only one not under
you be in a position to use your influence in behalf of Arctics
desires for the contract, and I cant stress too strongly
what it means to them, I am positive Mr. Beck would be greatly
pleased. They have always been most cooperative when it has
been their opportunity to do anything for us collectively
or not it was due to Becks intercession, Simpson received
his War Department orders. In May of 1951, after purchasing
Keeneys building, he started operating it as a fur plant.
Simpsons new premises required little alteration, but
he did install a personal office on the top floor. From there,
he would call in to direct operations, mostly fur contracts
for the Korean War.
the mid 1950s, things were booming at the plant. Not
only did Arctic Fur profit from the military. An even stranger
windfall made it unexpected millions and brought it
national fame, thanks to television and Disney.