February 9, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Heinrich Steinweg

Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg was born the youngest of twelve children to a foresting family in Germany in 1797. His father and several brothers left to fight in the Napoleonic Wars and only the father came home. Worse, while seeking refuge from marauding troops, Steinweg’s mother died of exposure in a crude hut during a bitter German winter.

Several years later, in 1812, Steinweg, his father and three remaining brothers were working a hillside when a thunderstorm threatened. The family huddled inside a temporary shelter which was destroyed by a bolt of lightning. Only Heinrich Steinwag crawled out of the wreckage alive. He was the only one remaining from his family of 14. He was fifteen years old.

Struggling to support himself Steinweg joined the Army himself. He was reputedly at Waterloo in 1815, serving as a bugler, and stayed in the military until he was 22 years old. He had no musical training but built his first instrument, a zither, made with 30 strings stretched across a box, after the war. He longed to build instruments professionally but was not willing to serve the required seven-year apprenticeship and turned to cabinetmaking.

Although it is not known for sure, it is generally assumed that Steinweg built his first piano at the age of 39 as a gift for his wife, crafting it in his kitchen. In 1839 a Steinweg piano won a gold medal at the Brunswick, Germany trade fair. He sold the piano for 300 marks and was in the piano business. With the help of three of his six sons the Steinwegs were able to make ten pianos a year in Seesen, Germany.

Political upheaval was once again threatening Germany by mid-century.
On June 29, 1850 Heinrich Steinweg landed in New York City, following the lead of his son Theodore, who had emigrated a year earlier. Theodore’s letters, although clearly indicating that all things being equal he’d rather still be in Germany, convinced his family a less stressful life awaited them in America.

Father and sons worked in piano factories around New York but the family was not scraping for money after their successful German days. On March 5, 1853 Heinrich Steinweg opened his own piano factory. Aware of prejudices against Germans around New York he began business as “Henry Steinway & Sons.” Steinway was never completely won over by his adopted land; he didn’t officially change the name until 1864 and German was always the official language in the factory during his lifetime.

The Steinways started in a loft on Varick Street. Their first piano sold for $500; it is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art today. The eldest daughter, Doretta, was the company’s best salesperson and she often offered free lessons with the new piano. The firm’s success was assured when a Steinway square piano won a gold medal at the New York Industrial Exposition of the American Institute. The first Steinway grand piano was sold in 1856.

By 1859 Steinway was making more than one piano a day. A new plant, swallowing an entire city block, went up off Park Avenue in 1860. With 350 men and steam-powered tools Steinway’s production increased to 30 square pianos and five grand pianos a week. The superior resonance of a Steinway piano was attributed to its overstrung bass strings on an iron frame. It quickly became the standard concert piano in America. In 1866 William Steinway built Steinway Hall which was New York’s premier concert hall until Andrew Carnegie built his palatial hall in 1890.

Henry Steinway endured the same tragedies with his offspring that he had with his brothers. Three of his sons died of illness within a short period in the mid-1860s. Henry himself passed away at the age of 74 in 1871, having started a legacy that fate had oft times seemed determined to sabotage.


And the man behind the brand is...
Fred Stanley

Frederick Trent Stanley always had a bit of the promoter in him. When he he was making suspenders during Andrew Jackson’s presidency he sent Old Hickory a pair to show him fine Connecticut craftsmanship. Jackson penned Stanley a testimonial to his fine suspenders. which he was able to use to impress future customers.

But Stanley’s flair for selling seldom seemed to carry his manufacturing efforts very far. Born in 1803 Stanley clerked for a time as a boy on a Connecticut River steamboat and migrated to North Carolina for three years to try his hand at country peddling. He crafted his suspenders for a bit and in 1831 he teamed with his brother William to produce some of the earliest house trimmings and locks in America. This business sputtered along for a time until the Panic of 1837 mercifully crippled it fatally.

Frederick Stanley went to Mississippi at that point and out of the reach of his chroniclers. He next surfaced in 1843 back in New Britain, Connecticut in a nondescript one-story wooden structure that had once stood as an armory during the War of 1812. Here Stanley would lay the foundations for the most famous toolworks in America.

The Stanley Bolt Manufactory was one of hundreds of little manufactories struggling to make a go of it, the majority of which were one-man shops.
The only thing setting Stanley apart was a single-cylinder, high pressure steam engine shipped up from New York and carted by ox to the little wooden shop. Stanley’s was the only automated shop int he region.

Stanley peddled his bolts by horseback and wagon across the back country.
His tiny business must have impressed his neighbors because in 1852 five friends pooled the staggering sum of $30,000 to form The Stanley Works, with Frederick Stanley as president. Losses the first year totalled $361.72 but sales of wrought iron strap and hinges slowly elevated profits through the decade.

Clearly the outstanding achievement of Stanley’s presidency was his recruiting of William Hart, a 19-year old “jack-of-all-trades” when first hired in 1852.
By 1865 Stanley was making hand tools and hardware for the expanding West but faced four strongly entrenched competitors - all bigger and closer to cheap iron and easy water transportation.

But The Stanley Works alone survived. Hart expanded production, increased efficiency and cut labor costs by 25%. He packaged screws together with hinges for the first time. When retailers were hesitant to accept the pre-packaged hinges he went to stores and bought traditional hinges. Then he asked a clerk for matching screws, all the while timing the transaction with a stop-watch.
When he pointed out the magnitude of the time savings his hinge-and-screw package was an easy sell.

With Hart at the controls Stanley veered towards civic service and politics.
He served as the first mayor of New Britain. But the Depression years of the early 1870s left The Stanley Works in its worst shape since its first year two decades earlier. Just before his death Frederick Stanley underwrote employee notes for money borrowed from banks and, along with new cold-rolled steel hinges pioneered by Hart, who succeeded him as president, insured the company’s success for the next generation.


And the man behind the brand is...
Isaac Singer

Isaac Merritt Singer was born in upstate New York in 1811. He ran away from his parents at age 12 to join a group of traveling actors. Singer remained an actor until he was 24. After that he worked as a machinist and acted on the side.
For years his means were small and he despaired of ever inventing anything successful.

He patented a device for carving wood-block type and went to Boston in 1850 to sell the type to manufacturers. There enthusiasm was decidedly restrained for his wood-type but one day while in the office of a prospective client he became intrigued with a broken-down sewing machine. Singer set out to familiarize himself with all aspects of the sewing machine.

What he learned was that sewing machines were available as early as 1790 in England. But since their inception sewing machines were horribly unreliable and in need of constant repairs. Singer set to work and quickly invented a reliable machine with a straight needle that moved up and down. He was granted a patent in 1851 and formed I.M. Singer & Company.

Singer’s sewing machine was an immediate success and also attracted the attention of Elias Howe who had patented a sewing machine in 1846. Singer hired a lawyer named Edward Clark to defend him in exchange for 1/3 of the business. The arrangement eventually became 50-50 with Singer handling the manufacturing and Clark the finances.

Clark stymied the lawsuits and brought the men together to pool their patents by creating the Singer Machine Combination - the first patent pool in United States history. By arrangement Singer and Howe each received $5 from every sewing machine sold.

At first the only market for the Singer sewing machines was professional tailors and harness makers. Seeking a way to bring the machine within reach of the American family Clark introduced the first consumer installment payment plan.
For many Americans the sewing machine was their most expensive possession.

The Singer-Clark partnership came to an abrupt end in 1863 when certain unsavory details of Singer’s personal life came to light. Seems Isaac Singer had fathered 24 children by four women. Both men retained an equal share of Singer Company stock but sold the rest to their employees.

Family troubles aside the profits of the sewing machine business made Singer a wealthy man. Rather than ride out any scandals in America Singer went abroad, settling in Tourquay, a well-known watering place in England until his death in 1875.


And the man behind the brand is...
Zalmon Simmons

Zalmon Simmons was a man whose imagination ran to telegraph companies and railroads. But his name survives, not in anything so grand, but surely something more important to most Americans: a good night’s sleep.

Simmons started out in 1849 as a $200-a-year clerk in a general store in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At the time the telegraph was new and the country was dotted with little telegraph companies, most of which were making no money.
The head of one such Wisconsin company owed Simmons some money and was about to sell his business to pay his bill. Simmons decided he may as well take over the business, if that be the case, and cancelled the man’s bill and paid $200 for the telegraph line.

Simmons built up the Northwestern Telegraph Company, partly by letting the railroads use his lines free in return for allowing him to put his poles along their right-of-way. This proved particularly valuable in the rugged west where poles were frequently toppled by storms and buffaloes.

This piqued his interest in railroads and he eventually built the first cogwheel railway up Pikes Peak. The first bed business Simmons got into was the railroad bed business: he supplied clay ballast for railroads that ran across the Great Plains and frequently sunk in the mud during rainy periods. He became president of the Rock Island Railroad.

Simmons got into the bed business quite by accident. He had built himself a little factory in which he manufactured cheeseboxes for his dairy and wooden insulators for his telegraph lines. He met an inventor who showed him a woven-wire mattress, which was really a frame with strands of wire woven through it. The spring was crude but an improvement over the wooden slats or ropes used to support mattresses of the day.

Simmons bought the invention and began making woven-wire mattresses in a portion of his cheesebox factory. The business went well and Simmons put in a line of wooden beds, principally the old-fashioned folding bed, noted for trapping potential sleepers. In 1892 his factory burned down and when it resumed operations Simmons dealt primarily in metal, especially brass, beds.

When Zalmon Simmons died in 1910 at the age of 81 the metal bed was about to be supplanted by wooden bedroom furniture. But it would not matter to the Simmons company as Zalmon Simmons II was guiding the business away from beds and into mattresses. When the Beautyrest hit the market in 1925 Simmons was exclusively in the mattress business.


And the men behind the brand are...
Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams

Nobody thought you could sell ready-mixed paint. Painting one’s house was a very personal thing; the homeowner would always want to mix their own paints.
Henry Alden Sherwin thought differently.

Sherwin was born in 1842 and raised in Vermont. He quit school at the age of 13 and went to work in a store, spending his off-hours sleeping upstairs. For years Henry listened to his uncle, a lawyer in Cleveland, rave about the bustling city by Lake Erie.

Finally, in 1859 Henry saved up enough money to go to Cleveland.
Sherwin thrived in business. He worked as a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocery and was soon offered a partnership. A religious man Sherwin never reconciled himself to the fact that his firm sold liquor and he not only turned down the partnership but resigned his position.

In 1866 Sherwin invested $2000 in a partnership of Truman Dunham & Company, a manufacturer of linseed oils. For three years Sherwin agitated for the company to take an active role in developing ready-mixed paints. Finally it was agreed that Sherwin would take what little paint business the firm had and the other partners would take the linseed oil business.

In 1870 Sherwin found another partner in good-natured, fun-loving Edward Porter Williams. Williams proved to be a born salesman who spurred the company's growth while Sherwin toiled meticulously to create a superior ready-mixed paint.

It took ten years. In 1880 Sherwin-Williams introduced their first ready-mixed paint. Henry Sherwin was convinced that his paint far surpassed any of the inferior canned paints then on the market. He had created a mill that ground color pigments fine enough to remain suspended in the oils that carried them. Sherwin-Williams paint would stay as fresh as the day it was mixed in the factory.

To overcome consumer resistance Sherwin-Williams ready-mixed paint came with an ironclad warranty: "We guarantee that this paint, when properly used, will not crack, flake or chalk off, and will cover more surface, work better, wear longer, and permanently look better than other paints. We hereby agree to forfeit the value of the paint AND THE COST OF APPLYING IT if in any instance it is not found as above represented."

It didn't take much convincing for homeowners to abandon their linseed oil pots and turpentine jars in favor of a pre-mixed paint that covered their walls. Sherwin-Williams ready-mixed paints were an immediate success. The company began to sell only pre-mixed canned paints. Warehouses spread up in Newark, New Jersey and Boston to meet demand.

Sherwin quickly expanded his lines to turn homeowners into paint experts.
He introduced surface preparations, primers, brushes and clean-up materials. Meanwhile Williams concentrated on developing finishes for the powerful railroad industry which led to the company's first plant outside Cleveland. In 1888 Sherwin-Williams started a factory in Chicago, destined to be the largest paint manufacturing plant in the world.

By the end of the century Sherwin-Williams warehouses spanned the continent. The firm was taking steps to own and manufacture raw ingredients when Edward Williams died in 1903. Two years later the "Cover-the-Earth" trademark, a can of paint spilling across a globe, was adopted.

Henry Sherwin resigned the presidency in 1909 to serve as Chairman of the Board. He lived long enough to participate in his company's 50th Year Golden Jubilee before dying in 1916.


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.


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.


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

Food preservation in early America was at best a short term proposition.
Fruits and vegetables were stored in cellars, buried in pits lined with charcoal, baked sawdust, chopped straw or corn husks. Dried fruits and vegetables were the best winter fare available and fall spelled the beginning of ever-increasingly monotonous menus.

A French confectioner, Nicolas Appert, won a 12,000 franc prize in 1810 for his theories that heat would preserve fruits, meats, fish and vegetables by arresting the natural tendency of foods to spoil. For the next half-century there was virtually no advancement in the salvation of the consumer’s taste buds.

In 1858 John Landis Mason left the family farm in Vineland, New Jersey and moved to New York to work as a tinsmith on Canal Street. Holed up in a small rented room at 154 West 19th Street the 26-year old Mason worked on the problem of an airtight jar, undoubtedly spurred on by the thought of the coming winter and its dreary diet.

In the middle of November Mason took out his first patent for a mold which could turn out a glass jar with a threaded top. The threads would allow a metal cap to be screwed down, forming an airtight seal. Mason took out a second patent on his “improved Jar” on November 30, 1858, the date which glass jars carried for the next 75 years.

That winter Mason took on partners and moved his modest business to 257 Pearl Street. Mason and his partners crafted the tops on Pearl Street. The jars were ordered from glassblowers who had made the molds, generally costing less than $10, according to the specifications in Mason’s patent. From these beginnings it is estimated that over 100 billion jars have been made from Mason’s creation.

The humble Mason jar is surely one of America’s most important inventions,
for it changed the dietary habits of a nation and spawned one of the country’s great industries. Mason’s jar proved to be a blessing to housewives on farms and cities alike. The chemically inert qualities of glass preserved fresh flavors.
Clear, transparent jars permitted housewives to see contents at a glance.
Easy to clean and re-use, Mason jars could be effortlessly stored by the hundred. Individual jars were often handed down from one generation to another.

The Civil War interrupted Mason’s thriving new business. After the war, Mason re-established his factory in New York until 1873 when he moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey. Here Mason became associated with the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company, which soon acquired rights to the first two patents.
These patents expired in 1875, after seventeen years, and accordingly entered the public domain, free of protection. The next year Mason assigned his remaining rights on eight other jar patents to Consolidated.

John Mason busied himself with his new family - he had married in 1873 when he moved to New Brunswick and his new wife would present him with eight daughters - and dabbled in new inventions. He patented a folding life raft, a soap dish, a brush holder, and a sheet metal cap die but never again devised anything as perfect in its utility as the Mason jar.


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

John Michael Kohler was doing a brisk business selling products from his foundry in Sheboygan, Wisconsin to immigrants passing through the city on their way west. He sold enameled tea kettles and flat-rimmed kitchen sinks. He also made an enameled iron vessel that farmers used as a combination hog scalder and watering trough.

Sensing an emerging market for household products, Kohler designed and cast four ornamental iron feet. He welded them to his hog scalder and, in 1883, put the first Kohler bathtub on the market. That first bathtub, so the legend goes, sold to a local farmer in exchange for one cow and 14 chickens.

The Kohlers were cheesemakers and dairy farmers in the ancestral home in the Austrian Alps when the family came to America in mid-century. The Kohlers settled in rural St. Paul, Minnesota, where there is still a Kohler dairy selling Kohler milk. John, however, left the family farm to peddle goods in Chicago.

On a sales trip along Lake Michigan Kohler met a young woman named Lillie Vollrath in Sheboygan. By 1873 the 29-year old Kohler was married and buying out his father-in-law’s interest in a small foundry and machine shop. Kohler directed twenty-one employees in the manufacture of plows, road scrapers, hitching posts, cemetery crosses, garden settees and any ironwork a customer might need.

In 1880 the factory burned to the ground. Kohler rebuilt the plant, added an enamel shop and started shifting production from plowshares to plumbing fixtures. As sales increased he was able to indulge in civic interests. Kohler became part owner of the Turner Hall and the Sheboygan Opera House, two of the major cultural centers in the community. Kohler even put in one term as mayor of Sheboygan.

In 1899 Kohler moved his foundry from Sheboygan to a small village called Riverside four miles west of the city. Many hailed the move as “Kohler’s Folly.” They found if difficult to understand why a prospering foundry would locate away from its skilled work force, away from utilities and away from city services and convenient transportation.

John Kohler would not live to see his the full scope of his vision realized. He died before his new plant was in full production. Three months later fire destroyed the factory and the company was forced to move back to Sheboygan.

Kohler’s sons returned the business to Riverside to re-establish the family factory, devoted now solely to plumbing products. A small cluster of employees’ homes grew up around the Kohler factory. In 1912, by popular vote of its residents, the village of Riverside was incorporated and its name was changed to Kohler.

John Michael Kohler had always dreamed of building a model city. It was a dream he passed on to his family, and they would not let it die.


And the man behind the brand is...
Samuel Johnson

For much of his lifetime Samuel Curtis Johnson migrated from town to town in the Midwest. The eldest of 11 children born on Christmas Eve, 1833 his family moved every few years. Appropriately his first job was with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Never able to obtain a proper education in his youth Johnson decided to enroll at Oberlin College in Ohio at the age of 24.

A year later he was on the move again, working for the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Railroad in Kenosha, Wisconsin. When he married shortly thereafter he began investing half of his monthly $100 salary in the railroad. The line went bankrupt and Johnson lost his entire savings.

For the next 30 years Johnson’s career was undistinguished as he drifted in and out of a variety of jobs. In 1886 he hired on with the Racine Hardware Company selling decorative parquet floors. Johnson bought his employer’s company that year and began selling and installing parquet floors on his own.

After spending so lavishly for their special floors Johnson soon found himself fielding questions on the best way to care for the inlaid floors. He knew that fancy European parquet floors had been maintained with beeswax for centuries. Johnson began mixing his own waxes and starting in 1888 every floor his company installed came with a free can of Johnson’s Prepared Paste Wax.

Although other waxes and polishes were available it was Samuel Johnson who gained a wide reputation as a wood-finishing expert. By 1898 Johnson was selling more wax and paste than parquet floors. Although waxed floors are not the priority they were one hundred years ago when expensive wood requires extra care it is still Johnson’s wax, manufactured with the exact secret formulation that gets the job done.

Johns Manville

And the men behind the brand are...
Henry Johns and Charles Manville

Just as fire has always fascinated man so to have materials that can be set ablaze without burning. The asbestos story in America is the story of two men: Henry Ward Johns and Charles Branton Manville.

From his childhood Johns was captivated by the heat and fire resistant properties of asbestos. Fires were common tragedies in the 1800s extracting a heavy toll on human life. When he reached the age of 21 in 1858 Johns left his West Stockbridge, Massachusetts farm and came to New York to start a small business as a jobber of roofing materials.

Ten years later Johns received his first patent for an asbestos product.
He gave it the cumbersome name "Improved Compound For Roofing And Other Purposes." He developed a new pipe covering and in 1874 asbestos was discovered on nearby Staten Island. Johns' business success spread.

He hired a travelling salesman named Reed, who before getting his first commission check had secured so many orders for asbestos roofing that he had to be recalled because the factory couldn't keep pace. For all his excellent work Reed's reward was a factory job.

Charles Manville worked in the grocery trade in Neenah, Wisconsin for most of his life. In 1878, at the age of 44, he set out for the South Dakota gold rush.
He returned to Milwaukee four years later, poorer for his troubles.

He began the manufacture of steam pipe and boiler covers. In 1886 he found a mixture of wool felt and blue clay that was a superior insulator and went into a successful business with his three sons. Manville bought Johns’ business west Ohio in 1897, one year before Johns’ death. In 1901 the two companies consolidated under the leadership of the respective founder's sons. Thomas Manville was the first president of the new Johns Manville.

Thomas Manville would introduce 1300 items made of asbestos, earning the title "Asbestos King". He ran the company as a one-man show. Fortune reported in 1913, "Manville took little advice, borrowed no money, dickered with no competitor." Manville boasted that he "never spent a nickel on laboratories or chemists." But he sold the heck out of asbestos, increasing sales to $40,000,000 a year when he died suddenly of heart disease in 1925. His father outlived him by two years, dying at age 93 in 1927, and his success lives on even longer. Johns Manville is still the undisputed leader in the asbestos industry.


And the man behind the brand is...
Candido Jacuzzi

Listen to the podcast http://oscarmeyerpodcast.podbus.com/Jacuzzi.mp3

It must be the name. Candido Jacuzzi did not set out to make his name synomous with laid-back California luxury. Jacuzzi did not invent the whirlpool; it was others that made his soothing-sounding name generic. His business roots were much less romantic.

Candido Jacuzzi was born in northern Italy in 1903 and emigrated with his family, fifteen strong, to the United States early in the century. The family settled in Berkeley, California, becoming machinists. Candido, the youngest of seven brothers, would never complete grammar school.

The first Jacuzzi Brothers, Inc. product was an airplane propeller known as the Jacuzzi “toothpick.” America’s first military planes sported the specialized propeller in World War I. After the war the brothers designed the Jacuzzi J-7, a cabin-style monoplane. There followed a breakthrough development of submersible pumps that opened markets worldwide to Jacuzzi. Factories sprouted in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Italy. More than 50 industrial patents are held by the Jacuzzis.

In 1943 Candido’s 15-month old son contracted rheumatoid arthritis, leaving the boy crippled and distorted with pain. The boy received regular hydrotherapy treatments at local hospitals but Candido could not stand to see his son suffering between visits. He realized that the water pumps Jacuzzi Brothers was making could be adapted to give his son whirlpool treatments at home.

In 1948 Jacuzzi designed an aerating pump that could be used in a bathtub. The unit sat right in the water and could be moved from one bathtub to another. Over the years other sufferers heard about the home relief provided by the portable whirlpool and Jacuzzi manufactured some for special orders.

In 1955 the firm decided to market the Jacuzzi whirlpool bath as a therapeutic aid, selling it in drugstores and bath supply shops. To generate a little publicity for the unknown product portable Jacuzzis were included in the gifts showered on contestants on TV’s Queen for a Day. It was pitched as relief for the worn-down housewife but when Hollywood stars like Randolph Scott and Jayne Mansfield, who were decidedly not worn-down, began offering testimonials the Jacuzzi started to acquire its legendary allure.

The Jacuzzi became a symbol of the sybaritic lifestyle. Hundreds of thousands of Jacuzzi portables were installed, both indoors and outdoors, at recreation centers and private homes. But the whirlpool bath was still mostly a sidelight at Jacuzzi Brothers. By far the bulk of their revenues came from sales of water pumps, marine jets and swimming pool equipment.

Candido Jacuzzi, who had worked his way up as sales manager and general manager, was forced to resign as president of the firm in 1969 when he was indicted on five counts of income tax invasion, triggering a series of hardships that clouded the final years of his life.

Rather than face trial, although protesting his innocence, Jacuzzi fled the country, splitting his time between Italy and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. In 1975 he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. He was able to return home to Scottsdale, Arizona but before his death in 1986 Jacuzzi was dealt the cruelest blow of all - the sale of Jacuzzi Brothers in 1979, prompted by family squabbling.


And the man behind the brand is...
William Hoover

Listen to the Podcast http://oscarmeyerpodcast.podbus.com/Hoover.mp3

In 1908 William Henry Hoover operated a harness and leather goods factory in New Berlin (now North Canton), Ohio. The infant auto business was seriously threatening the future of Hoover's horse collars and he was looking to expand his company. On a hot summer day Hoover met with James Murray Spangler on his front porch to discuss a cleaning contraption Spangler had sold his cousin, Hoover’s wife.

Vacuum cleaners were a boon to sanitation and health in the early 1900s but they were cumbersome and required two people to operate. Spangler was an aging, sometime inventor working as a janitor to clear debts. He developed a portable cleaning device to minimize dust that rose from the carpets he cleaned every night - dust that aggravated his asthma.

Spangler attached a creaking electric fan motor atop a soap box and sealed the cracks with adhesive tape. A pillow case billowing out the back served as a dust bag. Hoover and his wife were both impressed with the new machine but not many homes had electricity in 1908.

Hoover bought the patents anyway and started the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. He set aside a corner of his leather goods factory for the production of suction sweepers, turning out six cleaners a day. James Spangler, his debts now relieved, became Hoover's superintendent of production.

The first Hoover advertisement appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on December 5, 1908. The ad described the simple premise of the suction sweeper: "A rapidly revolving brush loosens the dust which is sucked back into the dirt bag." The ad went on to further state that "Repairs and adjustments are never necessary." Finally, readers were offered a free ten-day trial at home.

Hundreds of homemakers took Hoover up on his offer. He shipped the suction sweepers through local dealers who received a commission if the cleaner was purchased. If not, the dealer could keep the vacuum cleaner for in-store demonstrations. Thus began the national network of loyal Hoover dealers.

Hoover then organized an army of door-to-door demonstrators. The sales power of the skilled demonstration was Hoover's secret weapon. No one could deny that his portable vacuum cleaner, which embodied all the basic principles of today's vacuums, was effective and time-saving. Research and innovation followed. In 1926 Hoover patented an agitator bar which beat the carpet before brushing it. When he died in 1932 the horse and William Hoover’s leather fittings were long since departed from the American scene but Hoover vacuums were established as the American standard for cleaning.


And the man behind the brand is...
Francis Glidden

In 1875 a group of middle-aged men banded together to form a varnish-making business in Cleveland. Glidden, Brackett & Co. brought together the talents of Francis Harrington Glidden, Levi Brackett and Thomas Bolles. That the Glidden name survived is a testament to his outlasting his partners, becoming The Glidden Varnish Company in 1894.

In the early days the partners produced 1,000 gallons of varnish each week and delivered it to customers across Cleveland in a horse and wagon. For the first twenty years of the business only industrial varnishes were manufactured, coating furniture, pianos and carriages. In 1895, with his partners retired, Glidden took off after the growing, new consumer market for varnishes and paints. The company introduced Jap-A-Lac in 16 colors for use in the home.

Glidden was one of the first manufacturers of the consumer age to realize the influence of women, traditionally the commanders of the home, in the purchasing process. He advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal and Housekeeping Magazine, with depictions of women finishing chairs and tables and window casings. Glidden’s aggressive advertising propelled his varnish beyond Cleveland into New York and Chicago and even Canada.

Francis Glidden had built a $2 million business when he sold the company in 1917 at the age of 85. The new owners pushed Jap-A-Lac into the best-known varnish in the company and when the Glidden Company introduced the first water-based paint in 1949 the prominence of the Glidden name was assured.


And the man behind the brand is...
Alfred Fuller

The man whose name meant successful selling in the 20th century was self-described as “devoid of a salesman’s personality.” He never had a practiced line of sales patter and, hailing from Nova Scotia, his speech was peppered with “oots” and “aboots” rather than “outs” and “abouts.”

Alfred Carl Fuller came to selling brushes because no one else would hire him. After leaving the family farm in 1903 for Boston the 18-year old Fuller struggled to find his place in the world. He moved in with his sister and her husband and was a most undesirable boarder: he brought with him $75, no discernible skills and no prospects.

Fuller landed a job as a trolley conductor but after 18 months, eager to prove he could be a motorman he commandeered a trolley, failed to negotiate a switch and was fired. He tried life as a gardener and groom but was dismissed in short time. A stint as a deliveryman for his brother-in-law ended after two months. Fuller had demonstrated a knack for forgetting pick-ups and leaving packages at the wrong address.

He came to brushes because it seemed so simple. A brother had peddled household brushes before he contracted tuberculosis and died. Six days before his 20th birthday Fuller went to his brother’s former partner to ask for a chance to sell brushes. He sold $6 worth on his first day and was off.

Although brushes were constantly used nobody seemed to be paying much attention to their manufacture. Fuller’s customers made suggestions for new brushes but neither his employer or other suppliers would deviate from their traditional line of top-sellers. Fuller soon realized that these specialized brushes could “be made in fifteen minutes out of a few cents worth of materials and sold for fifty cents.”

In 1906, after only a year in the brush trade, Fuller used $375 in saved capital and pieced together a small workshop in his sister’s basement. He planned to sell from samples for future delivery, making only what he had already sold on his tiny hand-operated wire-twisting brush machine.

The formula, simplicity itself, was parlayed to success by Fuller’s indefatigable ways. To Fuller selling was merely a mathematical proposition. Ring enough doorbells and you will eventually have more orders than you can handle. Fuller possessed an honest, unsophisticated approach, a neat appearance and an unassuming attitude. But he learned early on that a quality product - and its demonstration - sold itself. His first week out he cleared $42.15 in profits.

Soon Fuller was in Hartford, Connecticut with its long avenues of big, old Victorian residences filled with dust-catching grillwork, steam radiators and elaborate woodwork. His Capitol Brush Company, soon to be renamed Fuller Brush, now featured one laborer and one salesman - and a backlog of orders.

In 1908 Fuller brought home a wife, a Nova Scotia girl he had courted over the glove counter at a Boston department store. There was no time for a honeymoon and the couple briskly expanded the business. A chance newspaper ad in 1910 for agents brought a flood of orders and soon Fuller had a national network of 260 dealers, most of whom he had never met.

Each dealer paid for his sample kit and advanced the money for his first order. When he delivered the order, he collected the amount due and sent the proceeds to Hartford less his commission of 50%. Fuller delivered nothing until he had received cash. Within ten years sales vaulted from $30,000 a year to over a million.

In 1922 the Saturday Evening Post coined the phrase “Fuller Brush Man,” and launched the army of Fuller representatives into the popular lexicon. A veritable gold mine of free publicity in editorials, cartoons and jokes followed. In 1948 Columbia Pictures released a paean to Fuller Brush with the release of The Fuller Brush Man starring Red Skeleton. Skeleton prepared for the part by taking a sample kit and making some calls. Unrecognized, the Hollywood star rang up four sales to the ten housewives he called on.

The star of Fuller Brush was always the free sample. “Without the free sample I couldn’t possibly make a living. It’s the best merchandising device ever uncovered,” said one Fuller Brush dealer. Fuller Brush men were revered for their professional ability to gain access to a home. One salesman persuaded the household staff of the presidential residence at Hyde Park to admit him inside. Franklin Roosevelt bought $13 worth of brushes.

Fuller became affectionately known as “Dad” throughout his company but his own family life was not as successful. He was divorced in 1930. Remarried two years later Fuller began to indulge in the arts and music and wound down his business activities. He retired in 1943, turning the door-to-door business over to his son Howard.

Under Howard’s aggressive leadership the company flourished in expanding suburbia, topping $100,000,000 in sales by 1960. But times were changing. When Alfred Fuller died in 1973, one month short of his 89th birthday, strangers were no longer welcome in the home, two-income houses were deserted during the day and the Fuller Brush Man, now 75% women, were Fuller Brush representatives.


And the man behind the brand is...
Emmett Culligan

For much of this century the water that flowed through America’s taps was hard - containing calcium and magnesium which formed an insoluble residue that clung to soap and created unsightly spots on clothes and dishes.

Many inventors were experimenting with ways of softening water by removing the minerals. Emmett Culligan wasn’t one of them. In his hometown of Porter, Minnesota Culligan had been tabbed “Gold Dust” for his knack at converting unwanted prairie land into profitable real estate. Before he turned 30, Culligan’s landholdings totaled over $250,000.

A severe downturn in farm prices in 1921 sent Culligan reeling into bankruptcy. He moved his family back to St. Paul. A friend showed him a “conditioning machine” using zeolite, a natural sand, that filtered calcium and magnesium from tap water.

Intrigued with the principal Culligan borrowed a bag of zeolite and began his own tests. By 1924 he was back in business with the Twin City Water Softener Company in St. Paul. His filtering machines sold for the steep price of $200 but sales were brisk. However the Depression forced Culligan out of business once again.

He accepted a position with National Aluminate Corporation in La Grange, Illinois. During this period he conceived the idea of marketing soft water on a service basis through franchised dealers. He immediately started looking for a location for his new business, and found the deserted streets of a vacant subdivision in Northbrook, Illinois. Zeolite required solar drying and the miles of empty streets accommodated this need perfectly.

In 1936 Culligan used the sole $50 in his pocket to establish credit and gradually rebuild his business. He began by buying some discarded hot water tanks from a junkyard, and cut and welded them to form new softeners. Shortly afterward, the first franchise dealership was established and others quickly followed. By the start of World War II, the company had 150 franchised dealers.

The desire for soft water was enough to keep the company growing but with the advent of a clever advertising campaign, people around the world came to know the Culligan name. “Hey Culligan Man” became synonymous with high quality water and water treatment products.

In 1961 the company’s first European distributor was named and the company celebrated its 25th anniversary. For one day all the signs leading into Northbrook read “Culliganville.”


And the man behind the brand is...
Samuel Colt

It was not unusual for boys in frontier America in the 19th century to be entranced with firearms; Samuel Colt happened to be more precocious than most. Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1814 Colt was discovered at the age of seven dismantling and assembling a gun. At 15 he was excused from Amherst Academy in Massachusetts when a Fourth of July demonstration of an underwater mine he built went awry and inundated invited guests with muck rather than destroying a raft.

Colt returned to Ware, Massachusetts to toil in his father’s silk mill but he soon talked his way onto a merchant ship, working as a hand, bound for India. By the time he returned home a year later the 16-year old Colt had fashioned a white-pine model of a multi-barreled, repeating pistol. He handed his wooden gun to a Hartford gunsmith named Anson Chase whom he hired to create a handgun capable of firing several bullets in succession - the dream of gunmakers for over 200 years.

Colt raised money for his venture by travelling the country side giving demonstrations of nitrous oxide, calling himself “the celebrated Dr. S. Coult of London and Calcutta.” The most famous six-shooter in history was financed by laughing gas. Chase was hired to build one pistol and one rifle. The first pistol exploded; the second wouldn’t fire at all. Colt fine-tuned his design and by 1836 had secured French, English and American patents. He was 22.

Colt and several investors went into business in Paterson, New Jersey as the Patent Arms Manufacturing Co. making rifles, carbines, shotguns and muskets.
As chief salesman Colt won a demonstration for a repeating musket for the U.S. Army but won no converts. Undaunted he left for Florida, the site of the only ongoing United States military action in 1837 as army troops battled the Seminole Indians. The men in the field proved more receptive to Colt’s rifles than the brass back in Washington. Although he sold several hundred weapons over the next few years Colt was never able to land a contract with the United States Army and the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company went bankrupt in 1842.

Colt drifted back into underwater mines. In 1843 he laid the first submarine cable connecting Coney Island and Manhattan. The following year the entire Congress adjourned to watch Colt blow up a 500-ton ship. But his missionary work in Florida for his repeating firearms was about to pay dividends. When General Zachary Taylor headed west to lead the United States Army against Mexico in 1846 he ordered 1,000 repeating pistols from Colt. He had become converted while serving in the Seminole wars in Florida.

Colt, no longer owning a factory, was forced to subcontract the work out.
In fact, he had no inventory left from his earlier venture and owned no models of his revolver. He redesigned a new pistol from memory, adding a sixth barrel on the suggestion of American war hero Captain Samuel Walker, a friend and believer in Colt’s revolver. The new .44 calibre revolvers were known as Walker Colts but the captain lanced in the Battle of Juamantla shortly after the start of the war and his name disappeared from the gun.

Colt supervised the manufacture of each of his pistols and eventually moved into his own sprawling factory on the banks of the Connecticut River in Hartford. The brick armory was designed in the shape of an “H” and was topped by a stunning blue dome, encrusted with gold stars. By 1851 he had supplied the United States Army with 6,000 revolvers. That year he also won a patent lawsuit that ensured no other company could make repeating firearms based on his designs. When Colt traveled to London to display his revolvers at the great Crystal Palace Exhibition he opened an armory in London, the first American manufacturer to do so.

In 1855 Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Company was incorporated with 10,000 shares of stock with a par value of $100 each. Colt owned 9,996 of the shares. He lived highly, at one time buying $5000 worth of Havana cigars to bring back with him from Cuba. He built the monarchial Armstear, one of the most spectacular private estates in America but his maniacal work pace left him little time to enjoy it.

Colt was typically up at five, checking on the farm and his brick works.
After breakfast he was in the armory overseeing every aspect of his 1500-man operation. When the Civil War began Colt was running the largest private armory in the world. Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Co. would turn out nearly 400,000 revolvers for the Union Army from 1861 to 1865 but Samuel Colt did not live to see the impact of his invention on America. He died suddenly of a massive stroke in January of 1862. He was only 48, and with a personal estate valued at $15,000,000 he was one of the wealthiest men ever to live in the United States to that time.


And the man behind the brand is...
Willis Carrier

Willis H. Carrier grew up on a farm in Angola, New York, a boy of mechanical bent. He graduated from Angola Academy in 1894 but lacked the money and entrance requirements to pursue an advanced education at nearby Cornell University. He continued studying however and in 1896 he won a scholarship contest that paid for Cornell tuition.

Carrier was still only halfway home to his dream. He now borrowed money for a tutoring school to prepare for competition exams to win a university scholarship for board, room, and books. Carrier won the necessary extra money but his years studying electrical engineering in Ithaca were fraught with money worries.

After graduation in 1901 Carrier began work with Buffalo Forge, earning $10 a week working with fans, heaters, and temperature control. He studied water content in the air and devised a system for dehumidifying the air using an ammonia compressor. On a foggy day in Pittsburgh, where he waited on a railway platform on his way to a business appointment, Carrier conceived the methods of affecting air temperature by changing its moisture content. His idea of "dewpoint control" became the basis for the air conditioning industry.

In 1904 Carrier was ready to patent his process. His "Apparatus For Treating Air", a method of dehumidifying air by adding water, was such an advanced concept that his first few sales were not for temperature reduction but for cleaning air in ventilating systems. Meanwhile Carrier was promoted to the head of engineering and research at Buffalo Forge at the age of 29.

Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America, owned by Buffalo Forge, was established in 1907 with J. Irvine Lyle as sales manager. Lyle introduced cooling systems into industry after industry. By 1914 Carrier had installed over 300 air conditioning systems in factories across the country. But with the advent of World War I Buffalo Forge decided to confine its operations to traditional manufacturing activities. Carrier Air Conditioning was shut down.

On June 26, 1915 Carrier and Lyle and five other young engineers formed the Carrier Engineering Company. Despite limited capital the new firm closed more than 40 contracts in the last six months of the year. Willis Carrier was kept busy in the field selling, advising, and supervising. He had time to file only two patents in 1915, his smallest output in years.

To grow Carrier needed to find a simple refrigerating system to run warm water through a pipe and turn it cold. By 1923 he introduced centrifugal refrigerating machines to do just that. Comfort air conditioning was at hand. Carrier's first installation of the new process was in Hudson's Department store in Detroit but his big breakthrough in comfort advertising came in movie theaters. Successful air conditioning systems were installed in Texas and spread to Broadway. No longer did entertainment emporiums had to shut down on excessively hot days.

Carrier continued to improve the efficiency of his air conditioning systems.
In 1928 he introduced the residential "Weathermaker" and sold his first individual units to small retailers. In 1930, after many aborted tries, Carrier began air conditioning railroad cars. In 1932 Carrier introduced The Atmospheric Cabinet, the world's first room air conditioner and finally in 1939 Willis Carrier cooled the last remaining hot spot in America - the skyscraper.

America's massive military output in World War II was made possible in part by Carrier Air Conditioning. Irvine Lyle died in 1942 at the age of 68 while Willis Carrier devoted himself to what he later referred to as his greatest engineering achievement - a wind tunnel simulating freezing high altitude conditions to test prototype planes.

After the war Carrier suffered a heart ailment that left him bedridden.
He remained as Chairman Emeritus and a constant consultant to Carrier
engineers until his death in 1950 at the age of 74.


And the man behind the brand is...
Max Braun

In his apartment in Frankfurt, Germany in 1921 Max Braun began turning out small electronic components which bore his name. But while all of Braun’s creations disappeared anonymously into the assemblies of bigger machines he had a dream for a consumer product - an electric foil shaver.

Braun carried a prototype shaver with him constantly, making subtle alterations for years until he had a product which met even his demanding standards. Braun put his revolutionary electric foil shaver, the world’s first, on the market in 1949. It ushered in the popularity of electric shaving around the world.

Max Braun died unexpectedly in 1951, leaving the business to his sons, Arthur and Erwin. To the founder “form always followed function” and in 1955 when Dieter Rams came on board as chief designer he elevated the credo to an art form. Today more than 40 Eurostyle Braun appliances are maintained in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Black and Decker

And the men behind the brands are...
S. Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker

The names Black and Decker are instantly recognized by any homeowner who ever built his own workshop. But consider the products that S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker set out to make when they pooled $1200 in 1910: a milk bottle cap machine, a vest-pocket adding machine, machinery for the United States Mint,
and a cotton picker.

The two partners opened a small machine shop in Baltimore in 1910 to make these specialty machines. The next year their first ads for the Black & Decker Manufacturing Company began appearing in Manufacturers Record & Horseless Age. But the course of their company was soon to change forever.

After much tinkering Black and Decker patented a pistol-grip drill with a trigger switch and universal motor and in 1916 introduced the first portable 1/2" electric drill. In 1918 the company opened product service centers in Boston and New York and added sales representatives in Russia, Japan, Europe and Australia. Sales passed one million dollars.

Black & Decker expanded their line to add other power tools with the unique pistol grip. An electric screwdriver was introduced in 1922 and an electric hammer in 1936. Black & Decker was an innovator in consumer education to teach the public about their new power tools.

They purchased two Pierce Arrow buses to use as classrooms on wheels.
In 1929 a specially outfitted 6-passenger Travel Air monoplane was used as a flying showroom. And in 1932 one of the first industrial movies, a 60-minute sound production, was used to sell Black & Decker tools.

Black served as president of the firm until 1951 and Decker succeeded him for the next five years. The two men had taught the world about power tools, selling more portable machine tools than anyone else. But why stop there? In 1971 a Black & Decker Lunar Surface Drill removed core samples from the moon on Apollo 15.


And the man behind the brand is...
Melville Bissell

Is it more improbable that the Bissell name is known at all or that it is still known today? There were carpet sweepers patented 200 years before Melville Bissell brought his first mechanical sweeper on the market in 1876 and his sweeper itself should have been swept away with the popularization of the vacuum cleaner fifty years later. But people are still “Bisselling,” just as they did a century ago.

Melville and Anna Bissell sold crockery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The fragile glass and china arrived in their shop packed tightly in sawdust stuffed in crates. Invariably the dust would spill on the floors and rugs, irritating the Bissells’ allergies. Among the many carpet sweepers available at the time Melville Bissell selected the “Welcome” to pull the allergy-inflaming dust from his rugs.

A lifelong tinkerer, Bissell found his new carpet sweeper lacking and set out to make a few improvements on his own. His model used floor wheels and angled bristles to fling debris up into a removable compartment. He was quite satisfied with his new invention and when several patrons inquired about the device, the now clear-eyed Bissell converted the second floor of the crockery store into a carpet sweeper assembly area.

The timing was right in America. New scientific research into the dangers of germs and filth spurred a new devotion to housecleaning. Still, the spread of the Bissell name from a small crockery store in Grand Rapids to every household in America was not achieved without dedicated missionary work, mostly performed by Anna Bissell. While her husband supervised the shop as its capacity grew to 30 machines a day Anna Bissell visited shopkeepers, many over and over, until she was able to win in-store demonstrations and displays for the Bissell sweeper across Michigan.

Early product information stressed the mechanical marvels of the Bissell sweeper, touting product innovations to homemakers who just wanted clean rugs. When a young company bookkeeper persuaded the Bissells to emphasize the cases constructed of “golden maple, opulent walnut and rich mahogany” sales soared. When Bissell introduced a limited edition sweeper crafted from rare vermilion wood from the jungles of India the advertising emphasized how the wood was dragged by elephants to the banks of the Ganges River. Bissell sold more sweepers in six weeks than it had the previous year.

In 1883 the Bissells moved into a new five-story brick factory which was gutted by fire almost immediately. Melville Bissell mortgaged his entire personal fortune, including a team of prized harness horses, to rebuild and meet orders. The rushed production resulted in defective sweepers which Bissell recalled at an astronomical loss of $35,000. But the revolution in American housecleaning was in full force, women were happily “Bisselling,” as carpet sweeping came to be known, and the firm withstood these reversals.

In 1889 Melville Bissell contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 45.
Anna Bissell assumed the presidency, becoming one of America’s first female corporate executives. She had been deeply involved with the company from the start and now she aggressively set out to make Bissell an international phenomenon, not just an American institution. As the Bissell carpet sweeper colonized the world it even received a product endorsement from Queen Victoria and the Bissell rolled across the rugs in Buckingham Palace.

Anna Bissell guided the company into the 1920s, leading the fight against the insurgency of the new electric vacuum cleaners. No longer was the mechanical sweeper the only convenience in the closet. But the Bissell has survived, dodging obsolescence as a quick-cleaning adjunct to its more powerful neighbor for use on small messes.


And the man behind the brand is...
Thomas Armstrong

By 1860 24-year old Thomas Armstrong had saved up $300 from his job as a clerk in a Pittsburgh glass factory. He was due to be wed that year and it seemed a fine stake upon which to start a married life. But instead Armstrong took the money and invested in a one-room shop run by John D. Glass who cut out cork bottle stoppers. He did, however, hold on to his day job, stopping by the cork shop in the evenings to cut cork by hand.

Each piece of cork sold by John D. Glass & Co. had to be cut and shaped by hand. It was tedious and slow and impossible to deliver cork of uniform quality to customers. In 1862, again with the support of his wife, Armstrong invested $1000 in an unproven machine that cut cork. He quit his clerk’s job and jumped into the cork business full-time.

Armstrong now needed to expand his market greatly to recoup such a large investment. Cork was the only way to plug the bottle of the day, more and more of which were containing the new pharmaceuticals and alcoholic beverages that were appearing everywhere on the market. But at the time cork was sold locally so buyers were able to inspect and choose the cork they wanted. It was a policy of “buyer beware.”

Armstrong knew that to ship his cork to distant markets he needed a way to insure its quality. In 1864 John Glass died and Armstrong brought his brother into the firm as partner. He pioneered brand-name recognition in the cork industry by stamping “Armstrong” on all his bags of cork. The name carried with it a money-back guarantee.

During the Civil War Armstrong made bottle stoppers for the Union Army.
He was singled out for praise for fulfilling contracts at the agreed price with top-grade corks. The favorable publicity and Armstrong’s groundwork for national distribution led to a large drug contract after which the company leapt forward.

In 1878 Armstrong stopped buying cork from importers and set up direct purchasing lines with cork suppliers in Spain and around the Mediterranean.
By 1890 Armstrong was the world’s largest cork manufacturer with 750 employees, all of whom Thomas Armstrong could address by name.

Into the 20th Century Armstrong’s only raw material was cork. But cork harvesting was a seasonal activity and the fluctuations in supply led to fluctuations in price and profit for Armstrong. More ominously there was a growing fervor in America to ban the sale of all alcohol - and the elimination of one of Armstrong’s biggest markets.

The product line in the early 1900s included insulation, cork board, gaskets and flexible coverings. But the year 1908 simultaneously saw a death and birth for the company. Thomas Armstrong died in Pittsburgh, ending the founder’s reign and the company’s ties to the city.

Meanwhile in Lancaster, Pennsylvania the Armstrong Cork Company produced its first linoleum flooring. Linoleum, made from cork flour, mineral fillers and linseed oil pressed onto a burlap backing at high temperatures, was not a new product. But Armstrong was the first to look past its utilitarian uses and add colors suitable for every room in a house. Future generations of Americans would never see an Armstrong cork.


And the man behind the brand is...
Hans Andersen

In 1870, 16-year old Hans Andersen arrived in Portland, Maine to start a new life. Bringing with him his only possessions - a set of drafting tools and a diploma from night school in Copenhagen - his goal was to get to the Midwest. Heading west, he purposely sought work from employers who did not speak his native language so he would have to learn English. Andersen learned his first three English words while helping a team of field hands clear tree stumps: “All together boys.”

He ended up in Spring Valley, Minnesota, and by his early twenties, he began operating a lumber yard. Shortly thereafter he was hired by the largest saw mill in LaCrosse, Wisconsin to dispose of a huge surplus of lumber that was the result of low demand during the Depression of the 1880s. Hans harbored retail experience that served him well in this endeavor. He was so successful that when the project was complete he was able to buy his own sawmill in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

In 1886 Andersen learned of another major lumber surplus - about one million board feet - just south of a town called Hudson, Wisconsin. He began managing the sawmill in town and brought along some of his best men from St. Cloud.
But when fall came, the mill’s owner insisted these laborers be laid off during the slow winter months. Andersen refused and resigned on the spot. He started his own retail lumber yard and hired the men to work for him.

At the time there existed no accurate window frame on the market. So, the Andersen Lumber Company began to manufacture standardized window frame units made of durable white pine. By standardizing a few basic dimensions the company gained the advantage of mass production. These window frame units were made with such precision they surpassed the quality of any frame available to home builders at the time of their introduction.

The actual manufacture of window and door frames began in earnest in 1904. By 1912, production reached 132,455 frames. Andersen developed the “two-bundle” method of packaging knocked down window frame units. Eleven sets of both horizontal and vertical members, packaged separately, cold be assembled in a variety of combinations that fit together perfectly without cutting or trimming.

In 1913 the Andersen Lumber Company moved into a new 66,362 square-foot facility in what would become Bayport, Minnesota. The next year Andersen died at the age of 60 with the family business established as the leading innovator in the window business.


And the man behind the brand is...
Orlando Scott

In 1868 the home lawn was regarded merely as ground cover, not a thing of beauty. Grass was used to keep down dust and protect children and horses from mud. Quality was no concern. Each fall stable manure laden with undigested weed seeds was spread through neighborhoods. Grass, if manicured at all, was groomed by the sharp teeth of sheep.

Orlando Mumford Scott harbored a white-hot hatred of weeds. To him weeds were the sin of neglect. He despised the weeds that grew on his Marysville, Ohio farm and set out to develop an inexpensive weed-free grass seed. But if weedy lawns weren't enough for Scott to overcome he had to change the attitudes of homeowners. Many Americans liked the look of their weedy, uncut natural lawns.

Scott, who operated the Union County elevator after his discharge from the Union Army, considered farmers too complacent. He recognized the costly toll extracted by weeds, even if the farmer didn't. Weeds represented the biggest cost in farming by far - much greater than the cost of a good seed. Weedy seed,
no matter how cheap, was expensive in terms of extra work and time.

Working in a period before state and federal regulations when mediocrity had no limitations Scott waged a one-man war against weeds. Clean, high quality seed was his battle cry. With care in selection and skillful cleaning Scott produced nearly weed-free seed. Scott's Farm Seeds were 99.91% weed free.

In the 1880s hand-pushed rotary mowers began appearing in American stores. Home owners started coming around to the white-bearded Ohio seed merchant's way of thinking with regards to manicured lawns. Slowly the lush green lawn gained stature as a luxury item.

With his sons Dwight and Hubert, Scott started a mail order business for his weed-free seeds in 1906. Beautifully produced shelter magazines like House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens began displaying luxuriant lawns.
Scott's quality seeds blended from around the world were the best way to make a new yard look like the magazines.

In 1916, without solicitation, Scott received an order for 5000 pounds of seed from Brentwood in the Pines Golf Club on Long Island, opening this market to the company. Five years later one in five golf courses used Scott seed. Then the Scotts sold grass seed to club members for their home lawns.

The Scott's complete line of lawn care products began with the introduction of Turf Builder, the first fertilizer specifically for grass in 1928. O.M. Scott had lived long enough to see the lawn gain status on par with the automobile.

John Deere

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

The life expectancy of a blacksmith shop in the early 19th century was roughly akin to that of a wagon wheel shouldering a two-ton load through a rutted mountain pass. If the cinders from the iron filings didn’t spark a fire the intense heat from the forge constantly jeopardized the wooden structure.

In 1831 the 27-year old John Deere realized a lifelong dream when he opened his own blacksmith shop in Leicester Four Corners, Vermont. Deere had begun apprenticing as a blacksmith ten years earlier for $30 a year. By 1825 he was an experienced journeyman with a reputation across the countryside for his fine-tined pitchforks.

Deere’s quality work attracted an investor, Jay Wright, who helped set him up in his own shop. But shortly after he opened for business the small shop burned to the ground. He started again and again the shop burned. Frustrated. Deere gave up and took a job repairing iron parts of stagecoaches.

When Deere again tried to start a blacksmith shop, Wright filed a writ to recover money lost in the original venture. Thus stymied in business Deere left Vermont in November 1836, leaving his family behind in Rutland.

Deere left with only a few tools and $73.73, making his way West by canal boat and stage. He headed for Grand Detour, Illinois where other Vermonters had settled by an odd bend in the Rock River. The prairie land here was rich and the water power plentiful.

It was hard to figure that in less than one year, from these unpromising beginnings, the young Vermont blacksmith would create the foundations of the largest agricultural machinery manufacturer in the world.

In Illinois Deere found his smithing skills immediately in demand and he was able to rent some land and erect a small shop. He was kept busy seven days a week hammering, welding, casting and assembling farm implements. When time allowed he peddled some of his hand-made goods to merchants.

The prairie soil was rich, certainly, but did not release its bounty willingly. Farmers using cast iron plows had to carry paddles and stop every few yards to wipe the blades clean of the black, sticky soil. Deere reckoned that a steel plow might help the situation.

In 1837 he fashioned a plow that would “scour” the soil from a discarded sawblade. Deere polished the surface with thousands of cutting strokes. It did the job perfectly. The plow literally “sang as it sliced through the black gumbo soil. The next year Deere quit general blacksmithing and started making plows exclusively. He turned out ten that first year and made enough profit to construct a house and send for his family.

After that Deere could sell all the plows he could make: forty in 1840, seventy-five in 1841 and one hundred in 1842. By 1843 Deere had settled his debts in Vermont and began buying steel directly from England. By now there were many steel plow manufacturers. Deere expanded his business with a relentless devotion to quality. “I will not put my name on a plow that does not have in it the best that is in me,” he vowed.

In 1846 Deere despaired of Grand Detour’s future with regard to transportation and shifted his factory to Moline, Illinois. He took on partners and for the first time steel was made for the specifications of his plows. Deere, Tate & Gould was manufacturing over 2,000 plows a year.

The partnership did not thrive. Tate wanted standardized plows; Deere wanted to improve constantly. The partnership dissolved in 1852. Deere did not suffer, however. The years before the Civil War were halcyon years of innovation for John Deere & Co.

After the War Deere, now in his sixties sold off most of his holdings in his company, retaining a quarter share. He farmed around Moline and served as mayor for a year in 1873, keeping order between the increasingly hostile Prohibitionists and anti-temperance factions. Deere died in 1886 at the age of 82, still renowned as the creator of the “plow that broke the prairies.”


And the man behind the brand is...
William Coleman

"What the average man needs is not a gasoline buggy or a good nickel cigar but light to read and work by." Especially a man with bad eyes like William Coffin Coleman, who spoke those words to explain the motivation behind the Coleman lantern.

Coleman was the son of schoolteachers who migrated west from New England in 1871, the year after his birth. Despite having no money Coleman entered the University of Kansas to study law. He survived on canned tomatoes, brown sugar and day-old bread but his funds ran out when Coleman was still one year short of his law degree.

He started selling typewriters and was on calls in the dusty coal town of Brockton, Alabama. As he walked down the board sidewalks he saw a brilliant light in a drugstore window, a glow so bright that even he, with his bad eyes, could read comfortably. The illumination was not from Mr. Edison's marvelous new invention but emanating from a gasoline-powered flame.

Coleman thought that this new light could replace smoky oil lights and flickering gas lights on America's farms, western towns and everywhere electricity had not yet reached. He invested all his money buying samples of the new-fangled Efficient Company lamp which burned gasoline under pressure. He took his new product line to Kingfisher, Oklahoma. It was January 1, 1900.

At the end of his first week he had sold two lamps. What was wrong? No one ever believed more vehemently in his product. Asking around he discovered that months earlier a predecessor had sold dozens of gasoline lamps in town that glowed brightly for a few days and then clogged with uncleanable carbon deposits. Coleman knew his lamp was better but how to prove it?

He would not sell lamps but light. He would become a one-man utility company. He leased his lamps for $1 a week. No light, No pay. The Kingfisher merchants couldn't refuse that deal. The lamps were reliable and sales boomed. The Hydro-Carbon Company was born.

He sold a $2000 interest in his business to two brothers-in-law and purchased the patent rights to the lamp and renamed it the Coleman Arc Lamp. He moved to Wichita where in 1905 Coleman Arc Lamps lighted the first night football game under artificial light as Fairmount College ground out a victory.

In 1909 he invented the Coleman table lamp. It was portable and could be carried anywhere. By adding bug screens the lamp could be used outside and in 1914 the first of over 30 million Coleman gasoline lanterns, usable in any weather, was built. The Coleman Lantern was named an essential product in World War I and Coleman sold one million to the government so farmers could work around the clock. The Coleman lantern went to the South Pole with Admiral Byrd.

President Roosevelt launched massive rural electrification projects during the Depression and Coleman's traditional markets disappeared. He took the company into oil heaters and gas floor furnaces, although ventures into home appliances failed. In World War II Coleman developed a compact stove for field use and after the war rode the wave of expanding interest in outdoor recreation with insulated coolers and jugs, tents, and sleeping bags.

In 1949 The Saturday Evening Post carried an article on William Coleman under the headline, "The Company That Should Have Gone Broke." But Coleman had always shown an innate ability to cope with change. At the time of his death in 1957 his company was the leading manufacturer of camping products and a major supplier to the mobile home industry.