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

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Who would have ever thought that an overgrown and awkward country bumpkin, unsophisticated and uneducated, would grow up to revolutionize the global brush industry? But Alfred Fuller made it possible at the age of 21. His incredible product knowledge, ability to listen and understand customers’ needs, marketing strategies, all contributed to his success as an entrepreneur in the 1900s. Alfred Carl Fuller founded the Fuller Brush Company in 1906 with three basic rules: make it work, make it last, and guarantee it. It started with a $375 investment and has since grown to become one of the market’s pioneers with a variety of innovative products and ideas.

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.

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

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

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Here are a few amazing yet known facts about Alfred Carl Fuller and his heroic tale from ashes to glory’:

  • Childhood: Alfred Fuller, the eleventh of twelve children of Leander and Phebe (Collins) Fuller, was born in Welsford, Kings County, Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1903 at the age of 18, he moved to Sommerville, Massachusetts to live with his sister, encouraged by his parents to pursue a career. He worked a few odd jobs there, including one as a salesman for the Somerville Brush and Mop Company.
  • First Job: This Brush salesman job fit him like a glove. His door-to-door selling technique and his humble attitude helped him to identify people’s needs. “I washed babies with a back brush, swept stairs, cleaned radiators, milk bottles, dusted floors – anything that would prove the worth of what I had to sell,” Alfred Fuller said in an article published in American Heritage in 1986. He also discovered a few flaws in those brushes, such as brushes back then were purposefully designed to fall apart fast, and even when brushes were brand new, they didn’t work properly. After identifying all the problems, he came up with a bucket of ideas for well-made brushes.
  • The Birth of Fuller Brush: Alfred Fuller began manufacturing and selling his own household brushes in 1906 with a $375 investment. His first brush was sold to a lady who used it to clean a radiator. This expanded the possibilities of his mind and he began manufacturing brushes for every single need, such as brushes for cleaning silk hats, spittoons, Victorian furniture, floors, and so on. Every brush was designed to meet a specific need he would listen to and understand while doing his door-to-door rounds. Alfred Fuller soon relocated his shop to Hartford, Connecticut, and named it the Capitol Brush Company.
  • In 1913, the Capitol Brush Company was renamed the Fuller Brush Company. Alfred was president of the company until 1943, then chairman of the board of directors.
  • The expansion: Alfred was never one to sit back and relax. In 1915, he invented the Handy Brush, a useful little vegetable cleaning brush that was given away for FREE to any household visited by a Fuller Brush man. Interestingly, his sales strategy paid off. During the year, the company’s annual sales increased to $15 million, with a total of 1000 salespeople.
  • Alfred Fuller took Fuller Brush Company to the next level with the opening of their new Hartford, Connecticut factory in 1923, making it the world’s largest factory at the time. There was a separate research division at this new brush factory. Fuller’s engineering department employed dozens of inventors who were always looking for ways to make cleaning easier, such as better carpet sweepers, better floor brushes, better brooms, etc.
  • In 1960, Alfred Fuller published his autobiography ‘A Foot in the Door: The Life Appraisal of the Original Fuller Brush Man as Told to Hartzell Spence’
  • Family: In 1908, Alfred Fuller married Evelyn Ells in Somerville, Massachusetts. The couple had two sons, Howard and Avard, who became the second and third presidents of the Fuller Brush Company, respectively. In 1930, the couple got divorced. After two years, in 1932, Alfred married Mary Primrose (Pelton) in New York. His second wife was reportedly 19 years younger than him and the two remained married until Alfred’s death. In 1973, Alfred Fuller died of myeloma at the age of 88 in Hartford, Connecticut.

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 the Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or renewed leaders who moved the industry with their 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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