February 9, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Frederick Maytag

Daniel Maytag came to America in 1852 at the age of 19 as a carpenter but ended up operating a store in Cook County, Illinois. In 1866 he traded his store for open prairie land in Iowa. So it happened that 10-year old Frederick Louis Maytag tended the family farm while his father built barns, houses, and churches throughout the developing countryside.

To supplement his farm income young Maytag supplied coal to area schoolhouses. One dark night his horse stepped in a rut and snapped his foreleg. Maytag lost an entire winter's profits. He left the farm in 1880 to sell agricultural supplies for $50 a month.

Maytag entered the manufacturing business in 1893 as half-owner of the Parsons Band Cutter and Self Feeder Company. In addition to farm implements Maytag also became a leading manufacturer of buggies and dabbled in early automobile experiments.

He began looking for new products to replace the firm's increasingly obsolete line of buggies. In 1907 he began selling a power washer with a gas engine for farm use. In 1909 Maytag bought out his partners and renamed the business the Maytag Company. Maytag now devoted all his energies to his washing machines. And they needed it.

The company struggled for more than a decade. By 1922 Maytag was 65 years old and owed large sums of money when the breakthrough came.
Howard Snyder, a Maytag employee for 15 years who had started as a serviceman, invented a gyrowasher with an aluminum tub. The new machine used a gyrator to create violent water action rather than rubbing, pulling, and twisting clothes.

The Maytag Company was 8th among 60 washing machine manufacturers when Fred Maytag travelled west to try and sell his new gyrowasher. He met little success until he finally convinced one dealer to carry the Maytag Aluminum Washer with "gyrofoam washing." That was all it took. The plant was soon swamped with orders.

Maytag sent sample machines unsolicited to 100 dealers for demonstrations. Only seven returned it. On any dealer order over 12 machines a Maytag salesman would travel to the store and work for 30 days with the dealer to sell them.
Within 18 months of the introduction of the gyrofoam washer Maytag was the number one seller of washing machines in America, with more sales than the next four manufacturers combined.

Fred Maytag was now free to pursue his non-business interests. He had been nominated for the Iowa State Senate back in 1893 but scoffed at the acclamation. He didn't campaign at all and lost handily. But in 1901 he actively campaigned for the Senate seat and won easily, serving until 1912. He was mayor of his hometown of Newton Iowa and was the first director of the Iowa State budget in 1925.

He gave freely of his money, donating $250,000 to the Newton Y.M.C.A. and building a park and public swimming pool. He also gave thousands of dollars to various midwestern colleges. On his 70th birthday he distributed $132,000 to his employees. Fred Maytag retired to Beverly Hills where he died in 1937 at the age of 80.

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