OVERTON, ANTHONY (1865–1946), Illinois, entrepreneur, cosmetics manufacturer, insurance and bank founder, realtor, newspaper publisher.
Overton was born into slavery on March 21, 1865, in Monroe, Louisiana, to Anthony and Martha (Deberry) Overton. He attended Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas, and the University of Kansas, graduating with a bachelor of laws degree in 1888. Overton was admitted to the Kansas state bar and practiced law in Topeka. After serving a year as a judge of the municipal court in Shawnee County, he moved to Oklahoma and in 1892 was elected treasurer of Kingfisher County. Afterward, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where in 1898 Overton launched his business career, with the founding of the Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Company, which initially specialized in the production of its Hygienic Pet Baking Powder. Subsequently, that company became part of an early twentieth-century African American large, diverse conglomerate.
In 1911 Overton moved his company to Chicago, which was evolving into the hub of African American business in the North. Recognizing the potential market in cosmetics for African American women, the company soon had 52 products, including cosmetics, perfumes, shoe polish, hair preparations, baking power, toilet water, and flavoring extracts. Overton followed a policy of producing only high-quality products and avoiding demeaning products such as skin bleaches. Toilet articles, such as the High Brown Face Powder, soon became nationally known. By 1915, the company had $268,000 in capital with 32 full-time employees. In 1927, the credit rating service Bradstreet estimated the company at a value of over $1 million, and Overton’s newspaper, the Chicago