John D. Larkin- Table of Contents

Larkin Company Merchandising
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Sweet Home laundry soap

Sweet Home laundry soap

Sweet Home laundry soap

Sweet Home laundry soap

"Oatmeal" toilet soap advertising

Boraxine soap powder chromo card

Boraxine soap powder chromo cards

1909-10 catalog

Premium certificate


India Seat

Quarter sawn oak pedestal

Pitcher, Deldare Ware, Fallowfield Hunt

Source: Digger Odell Bottle

Salt cellars

Meat grinder

See also: 2002 Larkin Premium Exposition

Larkin coffee

Deldare china

In 1875, Mr. Larkin e and his wife moved to Buffalo and John set up his factory: "J. D. Larkin, manufacturer of Plain and Fancy Soaps," at 196-198 Chicago Street. His only product was a yellow laundry bar named Sweet Home Soap. The business grew so quickly that in 1877 Larkin bought two lots on Seneca Street and built the first of many factories there. By 1878, the company produced nine different soap products, ranging from "Boraxine" soap powder through a variety of laundry soaps to "Jet" harness soap, "Oatmeal" toilet soap and Glycerine.

Larkin's first salesman was his wife's brother, Elbert ("Bert") G. Hubbard, who had been working as a salesman for J. Weller & Co. in Chicago. Bert decided to follow his sister and brother-in-law (eleven years older than he) to Buffalo and work for John as a salesman.

Bert pioneered the idea of mail-order merchandising. The idea was hugely successful. By offering premiums and bonuses in return for sales, the company was able to dispense with a sales force. In offering premiums to stimulate sales, the company needed a variety of premiums, and it was more profitable to produce them in-house. Buffalo Pottery, precursor to Buffalo China, was founded in this way.

Another merchandising technique was to promote "secretaries" who were organizers of clubs of ten Larkin customers. Secretaries were given $5 or $1 certificates, as well as smaller coupons as compensation for their efforts. These, of course, could be exchanged for other premiums or products. The secretaries who were sales contests winners were brought to Buffalo and given the opportunity to win more prizes.

Special thanks to Daniel I. Larkin, John Larkin's grandson and author of "John D. Larkin: A Business Pioneer," pub. by Western New York Wares, 1998, for sharing his time and knowledge in an interview.
Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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