February 9, 2007

Breck

And the man behind the brand is...
John Breck

Two things happened to John Breck at an unusually early age. One, he was made fire captain of the Chicopee, Massachusetts Fire Department in 1898 at the age of 21, becoming America’s youngest fire company. Less happily he was also going bald by that time.

Distressed by his premature hair loss Breck began studying hair care and began attending chemistry classes at Amherst College in between fighting fires. At the time Americans washed their hair, if they did so at all, with multi-purpose bar soap. Shampoos were known in Europe, however.

Breck earned his doctorate and did succeed in developing a liquid shampoo.
He sold some bottles to friends and through word-of-mouth but the handsome young firefighter-doctor was more interested in arresting his hair loss. Doctors assured him there was no winning this battle but Dr. Breck quit firefighting in 1908 and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts to open a scalp-treatment center.

He continued to sell Breck Preparations, mostly his shampoo, to local hairdressers. Breck had introduced the modern shampoo to America. For twenty years Breck continued his research into hair treatment and distributed his hair-care products in Massachusetts. In 1929 Breck teamed with a Boston-based beauty supply dealer to form the John H. Breck Corporation. Sales the first year hovered around $10,000.

In 1930 Breck introduced the first pH-balanced hair shampoo. In 1933 he developed special shampoos for dry and oily hair. All three were packaged in elegant gold-foil boxes and indeed Breck products were sold exclusively in beauty salons until 1946. To help promote his products the first “Breck Girl” appeared in print in the January issue of Modern Beauty Shop. The advertising campaign was one of America’s longest and most well-known, launching the careers of Cybill Shepherd, Cheryl Tiegs, Kim Basinger and others.

John Breck turned the company over to his son Edward in the 1930s and the Breck Corporation remained in family hands until 1963. For all his work in the field of hair care John Breck never found a cure for his own baldness.

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