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|Alfred C. Fuller
brush company founder
Alfred Carl Fuller was born in Welsford, Nova Scotia, Canada, on January 13, 1885, the eleventh of twelve children born to poor farmers Leander Joseph and Phoebe Jane (Collins) Fuller. As a child he picked berries for a neighbor who lived three miles away, earning one cent per quart, and his formal education ended with grammar school.
Expected to be self-sufficient by age 18, Fuller joined five of his siblings in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1903. In 1905, after working as a gardener's assistant, train cleaner, delivery boy, and handyman (and being fired three times), he was hired by William Staples to mops, washcloths, and brushes door-to-door in Boston. Sales came easy for him, but it was his willingness to listen to customers that made him even more successful. He paid attention when would-be customers told him that the sample brushes in his case were poorly assembled and wrongly shaped for the tasks at hand. When Fuller relayed this feedback to Staples he was told to stop listening and sell more brushes. Instead, Fuller spent his life savings of $375 to buy brush-making tools, and went into business for himself.
For the next few years Fuller assembled brushes every evening in the basement of his sister's home in Somerville, and every morning he carried his case of samples all across the area, marking off neighborhoods on a map after talking to someone at every address. His efforts paid off, as he made $8,500 in his first year. His sales continued to grow, and by 1909 he was ready to hire more salesmen. An ad in a national magazine that year resulted in 270 door-to-door salesmen being hired nationwide. His sales staff (always men, until the late 1940s) were never employees, however, but always private contractors who bought brushes and other products at a 30% discount off the retail price.
By 1919 Fuller Brush Company had annual sales of over a million dollars, and by the time Alfred Fuller retired in 1968 that figure was over $100 million. Fuller died in West Hartford, Connecticut, on December 4, 1973, and was buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Somerset, Nova Scotia.
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