Fuller Brush Company Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Fuller Brush Company produced its own high-quality goods for sale, based on what the users needed, raising the level of door-to-door sales of household, cleaning, and personal products.

Like many revolutionary movements in American entrepreneurial history, the Fuller Brush Company began with a remarkably simple premise: Design a quality product that will last. In 1903, twenty-one-year-old Alfred C. Fuller, Alfred C.Fuller left the fruit farms of Welsford, Nova Scotia, where he had grown up, to try his hand at sales in the lucrative markets of the Boston area. Fuller began by selling cleaning brushes door-to-door at a time when such a sales technique lacked industry respect. He soon conceived of a radical new approach: To improve the quality of the brushes by designing them to accommodate the specific needs of their users, based on anecdotal data gathered from the housewives along his routes.Fuller Brush Company

When his employer saw little promise in such an endeavor, Fuller struck out on his own. He took orders by day and by night, in his sister’s basement, actually made the high-quality brushes (including new designs for spittoon cleaners, baby brushes, and long-handled dusters for furniture and fixtures). Response was immediate. Within three years, Fuller had expanded his operation to nearly three hundred sales representatives nationwide. To meet orders, he opened a major manufacturing plant in East Hartford, Connecticut, and within a decade, the Fuller Brush Company was a national enterprise. By 1923, it was a $15 million business.

The Fuller Brush man, a trusted and personable representative toting a suitcase stocked with samples of quality home care products, became an icon of American business. During the heyday of the Fuller Brush Company from 1930 to 1950, its sales representatives were regularly featured in cartoons, comic strips, films, and eventually television. Retail tradeDuring the Great Depression, when jobs were scarce, many people saw selling with the Fuller Brush Company as a way to succeed. The company, even as it continually expanded its line of products, pioneered innovative door-to-door sales techniques. Because Fuller’s sales force did not draw a salary but rather were paid by commission, they were encouraged to develop a strong work ethic and effective sales pitch.

In 1973, the year Fuller died, the company moved its production operations from Connecticut to a twelve-acre facility in Barton County, Kansas. The Fuller Brush Company still uses direct sales through its distributors, but has added catalog and Internet sales. More than a century after its modest start, the company maintains its commitment to developing a wide variety of durable domestic products and catering directly to consumers.

Further Reading
  • Boyer, Kenneth Karel, Markham T. Frolich, and G. Thomas M. Aukt. Extending the Supply Chain: How Cutting-Edge Companies Bridge the Critical Last Mile into Customer’s Homes. New York: AMACOM, 2004.
  • Friedman, Walter A. Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005.
  • Spence, Hartzell, with Alfred Fuller. A Foot in the Door: A Life Appraisal of the Original Fuller Brush Man. New York: McGraw, 1960.

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Great Depression

Home Shopping Network

Retail trade industry


Categories: History