Happy Birthday Alfred Carl Fuller: The Man who Evolved The Brush Industry


I was fired from my first three jobs, after which I went into business for myself. I guess it’s quite evident why I became self-employed, I had no choice.

Make it work, Make it last and guarantee it, were the three basic rules set up by Alfred Fuller when he founded the Fuller Brush Company in 1906. Started with a mere investment of $375, it became one of the pioneer companies in the market with a number of innovative products and ideas. Alfred never had a chance to complete his high-school and lacked business sense, but his marketing tactics and sense helped him cultivate his business and trade his products.

His father was a farmer and he was the 11th the 12 children born. In his early days, he tried his hands in a series of jobs ranging from handyman to conductor, but his job as a brush and mop salesman captivated his interest for starting his own venture.

Citing the lack of durable products in the market and harnessing the required knowledge for the manufacturing of durable brushes, The 21-year-old, Alfred fabricated the brushes with the of a wire and a crank device in his sister’s basement, in Boston Massachusetts, and went to sell them in the morning. His door-to-door technique of sales and his humble attitude facilitated him to recognize the needs of the people and started developing new types of products rendering to the need.

Born: January 13, 1885, Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, Canada

Died: December 4, 1973, West Hartford, Connecticut, USA

More precisely Fuller’s story coincided with the story of the development of the modern brush industry, let’s dig deeper into his heroic tale of ‘from ashes to glory’.

  • The struggle began at a very young age: At a younger age, Fuller used to make money by picking up berries and was paid in quarts. He incorporated the same technique into his own business by not offering a direct salary to his salesmen but granting a percentage of their sales to be retained by them.
  • After getting fired from a number of jobs Fuller’s brother, Dwight, who was working in a brush Business at Staples offered Alfred the job of selling door-to-door brushes. Here he garnered the knowledge and interest in brush business.
  • Fuller sold his first brush to a housewife who used it to clean a radiator, this opened the possibilities of his mind and he started manufacturing brushes for every single need. Brushes for cleaning everything from Victorian Furniture to silk hats.
  • In 1908 his sales documented $50 a week, later he shifted his to Connecticut in a rented office. The company was named ‘Capitol Brush Company’ but after finding out that someone else also existed with the same name he changed the name to the ‘Fuller brush Company’ in 1909.
  • The Fuller Brush Man: Fuller’s marketing strategy was door-to-door sales. Fuller made his salesman swore, “I will be courteous; I’ll be kind; I’ll be sincere; I’ll be helpful”. Their politeness and hospitality made them a household name and many movies and in 1922, a salesman coined the name ‘Fuller Brush man’ for The Saturday Evening Post.

With equal opportunity to all and due consideration for each person involved in every transaction, a business will succeed.


  • The expansion: As the profits grew, by 1910 Fuller Brush Company employed 25 salesmen and covered the regions of New York, New England, and Pennsylvania. Also, he started advertising his brand and sooner his sales rocketed. By 1918, his sales touched $500.000.
  • In 1912, Fuller hired Frank S. Beveridge to help him recruit the College students. Frank left the company in 1929 and founded Fuller’s rival company Stanley Home Products.
  • By 1923, Fuller brush was a household name and the company documented sales of over $15 million. From Mickey Mouse, Dagwood and Blondie to Donald Duck all featured as the Fuller Brush Men. Disney’s film ‘The Three pigs’ showed a big bad wolf dressed as Fuller Brush Man approaching the house of the pigs.
  • In 1924 Alfred hired Henry Cave – the inventor of ball bearings, acetylene welding equipment, internal combustion engine and the flame thrower, to develop new products for his company. Cave proved to be the trump card for Fuller and invented a Fullergrip principle along with 80 patents, revolutionized the Fuller industry.
  • Knowing the intensity of the work, Fuller arranged regular pep-talks, bonuses, commissions and clubhouse parties for the Fuller brush Men. The enthusiastic Fuller also kept his men motivated by telling them “American ends with ‘i-can’ and dough (money) begins with do.
  • Fuller remained the President until 1943, then his son Alfred Howard took over and the younger son Avard Ells took care of the sales. A new line of cosmetic products was launched and a team of female sales persons was incorporated and were named the ‘Fullerettes’.
  • In 1960, he published his autobiography ‘A Foot in the Door: The Life Appraisal of the Original Fuller Brush Man as Told to Hartzell Spence’
  • Later Consolidated Foods Corporation (Sara Lee Corporation) acquired the Fuller Brush Company in 1968. When Fuller Died on December 4, 1973, his Company’s income was $130 million annually.

American ends with ‘I-can’ and dough begins with ‘do’

The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or a renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, Sir Richard Branson, Sergey Brin by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.

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