February 9, 2007

Oster

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

The fortunes of many of America’s companies have been intertwined with the country’s wars. John Oster had built a solid business in the years before World War II but government orders during the war not only exceeded any received before but pushed the company into new directions which would make Oster a “household” name.

John Oster made his first hair clippers in 1924, working out of a basement with 15 employees. At the time hair clippers were heavy and indiscriminately used to clip animal as well as human hair. Women in the “Roaring Twenties” began bobbing their hair and Oster’s new lightweight clippers were ideal for the intricate hairstyles.

In 1928 Oster invented a postage-sized motor to power his hair clippers,
the first portable electric hair clipper. Priced far below the $100 professional models on the market Oster’s hair clippers became the standard in barber shops across the country. Oster faced four major competitors; he bought two of them and a third went out of business. With his reputation firmly established Oster searched for other uses for his pint-sized motors. In 1935 he developed an “Oster massager” which was a big success in hospitals and sanitoriums.

Millions of American heads were shorn with Oster clippers during World War II but the company also utilized its expertise in small horsepower motors to produce compact motors for mines and artillery. After the war Oster realized that there would be a great demand for new, high-tech consumer products in American homes. He purchased the Stevens Electric Company, which had been making commercial drink mixers since 1922.

With refinements by Oster engineers the first “Osterizer,” a practical food blender appeared on the market in 1946. While housewives everywhere were chopping, slicing and dicing food with their new portable blenders the Oster line was expanding to include hair dryers, knife sharpeners, humidifiers and ice crushers. By the time the Oster Company was purchased by the Sunbeam Corporation in 1960 John Oster had taken his miniature motors into every room in the house.

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