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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Brush up on the classic products
Murphy Bed, Fuller Brush, Ivory Soap

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

I doubt many readers less than seventy years of age will know the term "Murphy Bed." It is simply a folding bed hidden behind beautiful cabinets. Founded in 1908 in San Francisco and later moved to Farmingdale, New York, the Murphy Bed Company, Inc. is still in business today.

Best known for being more comfortable than conventional folding beds, it also utilized less space. Murphy beds were made famous by slapstick comedians like Red Skelton who could base an entire episode on being accidently folded up inside a Murphy bed.

How about that Fuller Brush Company? In business for more than one-hundred years, the company now sells some 300 products with a "100% satisfaction guarantee attached or your money returned no questions asked." That's quite a guarantee in this day's world.

Twenty-one-year-old Alfred Fuller set up shop in his sister's basement and began making custom brushes for personal and household use. With more customers than time to deliver products he initiated a program supplying dealers calling on homes throughout the U.S.

Alfred carefully listened to customers tell of their cleaning problems then designed a product to do the job. Safety and environmental cleanliness are the watchwords of the business.

In the 1870s Proctor & Gamble was a young company located in Cincinnati, Ohio, producing bath soap somewhat brown in color and rather harsh in manner. Most bathers in the area used Ohio River water which always contained a bit of silt. When the heavy brown soap was turned loose in the tub it sunk out of sight in the murky brown bath water.

The company was experimenting making a white soap when the operator of a soap-making machine took a long lunch break leaving the mixing machine running. When he finally returned the mixed batch of soap seemed frothier than usual but was poured into the frame for hardening and cutting to size.

Soon, customers began clamoring for "more of that white soap that floats." Company owners traced the soap to the man who admitted taking a long lunch break leaving the mixing machine running. After more experimenting, the floating product was developed and ready for market but needed a catchy name.

The second "accident" came when Harley T. Proctor, a son of one of the founders went to church and heard the 45th Psalm stating, "All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad."

The name "Ivory" struck a chord and was applied to the new white floating soap. Later Harley wrote ads for the soap stating it was "99 44/100s pure" and his success allowed him to retire at 42 years of age.

Modern Ivory is made in Baltimore in a huge plant on the shores of the harbor. The company estimates they have sold more than 30 billion bars of the soap, five and a half times the weight of the Washington Monument. Their advertising programs have become models for other companies to study.

One interesting sidebar to the Ivory Soap story comes from before television when the public often sat at night carving figurines out of the bars of pure white soap.

Delbert Trew



"It's All Trew" February 14 , 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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