A History of the Hoover Company
Hoover...Yesterday and Today
The Hoover Company is the oldest and most widely known manufacturer of vacuum cleaners in the world, and in more recent times has become known as an international manufacturer and marketer of home appliances of all kinds.
It all started in 1908 in New Berlin (now North Canton) in a corner of what was then the Hoover leather goods and harness factory.
The Hoover factory looked like this in early part of the century when the company began making its first vacuum cleaners.
(At bottom) The factory and offices at North Canton as they are today.
Today Hoover numbers more than 20,000 employees in its worldwide organization. There are factories in Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and South Africa, and there are sales offices on five continents and in most of the world's principal cities.
In addition to its famous line of vacuum cleaners, the company also manufactures and markets a wide range of other home appliances in the United States: Floor polishers and rug shampooers, spin-drying washing machines, compact dryers, automatic washers and dryers, irons of all kinds, hair dryers, blenders, fry pans, toasters, electric broilers, grills, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, heaters, air purifiers and many more.
In addition to making metal die castings for its own products, Hoover also produces custom die castings used in a wide range of applications by other manufacturers. They go into automobiles, aircraft, business and office machines, small motors, hand tools, motion picture projectors, farm and home implements, and many other products.
The company's Knapp-Monarch Division, with factories in St. Louis, Mo., and Holly Springs, Miss., also produces a wide range of electric irons, fans, heaters, rotisserie-ovens, waffle baker-grills, and similar small appliances.
The Leather Business
The company is a monument to the foresight of the late W. H. "Boss" Hoover and his son, H. W. Hoover, who were successful manufacturers of the horse-and-buggy era.
In 1907, the W. H. Hoover Company was a thriving business making saddles, harness and other leather goods, as well as leather accessories for the automobile industry. But as the shadow of the automobile fell ever stronger upon the harness business, the Hoovers began looking around for other possible enterprises.
A New Company
By one of those strange but fortunate turn of events, a local inventor and relative of the Hoovers, J. Murray Spangler, brought a model of his "electric suction sweeper" to them about this time. It was rather a crude machine, made of tin and wood, with a broom handle and a sateen dust bag, but "H. W." and his father saw an opportunity and a future in it.
There had been suction or so-called vacuum cleaners, operated by hand or foot, as far back as 1871 and perhaps farther. Vacuum cleaners powered by an electric motor began to appear after the turn of the century, but they were cumbersome and inefficient and none had any appreciable market.
This one was different. Sparked by new production and merchandising ideas, the Hoovers started to make a refined model of the Spangler cleaner in 1908. They called their new organization the Electric Suction Sweeper Company.
The small operation, occupying one department of three men, was geared to put out only five or six sweepers a day; but it promptly created the problem: How to sell them?
A bit cumbersome in appearance, first Hoover cleaners weighed over 40 pounds but they were a boon to the housewife.
It seemed best to approach the public through local merchants. Descriptive literature was printed, order blanks prepared, and prospective dealers were circularized by mail. Armed with samples, H. W. Hoover made out-of-town trips to call on possible dealers. His usual procedure was to approach a merchant with a sample machine and invite him to go along to see how easily it could be sold. Mr. Hoover would make a demonstration before a possible purchaser. If he made the sale, the merchant, impressed with the ease with which it could be done, would place an order for additional machines.
A Sales Plan Is Developed But this procedure was limited and slow. So, in October 1908, the first traveling salesman-soon followed by others-was employed to go on the road. A small advertisement was placed in "Electrical World" to solicit dealers, and the first national advertisement was run in the December 5, 1908 issue of the "Saturday Evening Post."
It offered a 10-day free trial of the electric suction sweeper in the home, and it brought inquiries from hundreds of prospective buyers.
The plan worked out for handling inquiries was simple but effective. A letter was sent to the person making the inquiry saying that a sweeper would be sent to him through a local dealer. A dealer in the prospect's home town would then be selected and advised that a sweeper was being sent to him, express prepaid, for delivery to the prospect.
If the prospect purchased the sweeper, the dealer was paid a commission. If the prospect did not buy, the dealer was urged to keep the sweeper as a sample and become a regular outlet.
A good many excellent dealers were lined up in this way, many of them still with the company.
It early became apparent to the Hoovers that if the dealer was a keystone in the success of sales, personal demonstration of the product was equally important. That principal, a major force in the company's sales program from its door-to-door days to the present, has resulted in Hoover's nationwide network of sales people, trained thoroughly and constantly in the features and advantages of all Hoover products.
A national magazine advertising campaign, forerunner of those to come, was initiated early in prominent publications like Collier's (1), extolling the many benefits of the new electric cleaner. An early production line scene (2) shows pretty girls as they dexterously wound armatures, a key process in electric motor manufacture.
If selling the product called for new ideas, so did the quality and design of the sweeper.
In the year immediately following its beginning, the fledgling sweeper company inaugurated an engineering and design development program under the leadership of Francis Mills Case. A prominent mechanical engineer, Mr. Case was quick to recognize the significance of carpet vibration in dirt removal. His original work on this principle was later developed to give Hoover cleaners an exclusive feature they still have-the gentle tapping or beating of the carpet by a patented agitator bar to loosen embedded dirt.
This, in addition to the brisk brushing action by revolving brushes, and strong suction created by a fan, produces Hoover's famous "triple action." That basic idea, continually refined and improved over the years, is still a big factor in the company's leadership in the vacuum cleaner field.
An assembly plant was established in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1911, marking the company's first step into foreign fields.
In 1916, the first unit of the modern Hoover factory in North Canton was started. It was a three-story red brick building which still occupies the southwest corner of the plant. Its scheme of architecture, blending in tastefully with the surrounding residential area, was followed until the middle '50s.
The identifying slogan, "It Beats, as It Sweeps, as It Cleans," familiar to generations, was created in 1919. In that same year a decision was made to drop the manufacture of leather goods.
Frank G. Hoover, H. W.'s brother, who had been primarily involved with the leather business, came into the growing electric cleaner organization as associate general manager.
The Hoover Suction Sweeper Co., Ltd., now Hoover Limited, was officially launched in Britain in 1919. Originally established as a sales company, the British subsidiary has since grown to giant size, employing over 10,000 people in the United Kingdom and with manufacturing plants at Perivale (near London), in Cambuslang, Scotland and Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. It markets an ever increasing range of domestic appliances with sales running into millions of products every year.
(1) Hoover salesman of the era used popular conveyance-complete with demonstrator-to make calls. (2) Testing cleaners after assembly. By 1920, when this picture was taken, sales of vacuum cleaners were outrunning production. (3) An aggressive sales educational program was begun in 1919 to thoroughly ground Hoover salesmen in features, servicing of their product. It continues to this day.
(1) Computer-prepared information about every phase of company business is a vital management tool today. (2) Samples of hundreds of latest carpet and rug types are used by engineering to reveal best cleaning methods. (3) Blister packaging of service parts on this vacuum forming machine makes them easy for customers to buy in stores. (4) Giant 94-ton machine for injection molding of washing machine tubs turns out one every 90 seconds. Plastics, used extensively by Hoover, offer great variety of colors, design shapes, and new dimension in durability.
Ground-breaking for a new factory at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada was another major step forward in that same year.
At home, an engineering department, since grown to one of the most complete of its kind, was started under H. Earl Hoover, chief engineer, and later vice president and chairman of the board of the company.
Affected-along with industry in general -by the postwar depression of 1921, the company revised its sales training program. Sales policies and procedures were strengthened and a heavy national advertising program begun.
The first of the Hoover International Sales Conventions was held. These became an annual event in the '20s, with sales delegates from the United States and many foreign countries attending. The site of the conventions was Hoover Camp, now Hoover Park, a pleasant recreational and picnic spot of 40 acres a short distance from the plant, and now used by employees and other groups for outings.
Nineteen-twenty-two saw the end of the name "The Hoover Suction Sweeper Company," which had followed the original "Electric Suction Sweeper Company" and the birth of "The Hoover
Company," under which name business is carried on today.
H. W. Hoover, vice president and general manager of the company since its beginning, became president in 1922, and W. H. Hoover, his father, chairman of the board. The elder Mr. Hoover died in 1932 and his passing was mourned by thousands of friends all over the world. A Part in World War II Virtually all normal production had to be abandoned and the factory converted quickly to military work with the entry of the United States into World War II.
Plastic molding presses were switched to making helmet liners and fuse parts. Sewing machines and other equipment, which had made dust bags for cleaners, turned out parachutes for fragmentation bombs. The motor line was converted to making propellor pitch control motors, turret motors and amplidynes for bombers.
But the company's outstanding accomplishment was the production of components for the V.T. (variable time) or proximity fuse, rated as extremely important in winning the war. This fuse was made to explode a projectile when
it was about 70 feet from the target, eliminating the necessity for direct hits. The company and its employees won every possible award-19 in all-for their wartime performance. Among these were the Army-Navy E, presented five times, and the Navy Bureau of Ordnance Production E. The latter was accompanied by a pennant with three stars, one of only nine such awards made
With the coming of peace in 1945, Hoover quickly reconverted to building vacuum cleaners and began to expand. Manufacture of fractional horsepower motors for industry was initiated with the purchase of the Kingston-Conley Company at Plainfield, N. J. Along with a new plant built in Cambridge, Ohio, the New Jersey operation became known as the Electric Motor Division of The Hoover Company.
The two plants were sold in 1955.
Motors for a variety of industrial uses and agriculture continue to be manufactured by the company's British subsidiary and are marketed all over the world. Motors for vacuum cleaners and other appliances manufactured in the U.S. are made at North Canton.
Early in 1948, Hoover began the manufacture of electric irons at a plant in Cambridge, Ohio. These operations were discontinued in 1959 and the facilities transferred to North Canton.
In December 1948, H. W. Hoover, then in ill health, relinquished the strenuous duties of president of the company, continuing as board chairman. He was succeeded as president by his brother, Frank G. Hoover, who had been vice president for many years.
F. G. Hoover served as president until 1951, when he was succeeded by J. F. Hattersley, who had been an executive in the engineering division and then executive vice president.
Following Mr. Hattersley's retirement at the end of 1953, H. W. Hoover, Jr., eldest son of H. W. Hoover, was elected president. H. W. Hoover was made honorary chairman of the board and was succeeded as board chairman by H. Earl Hoover in the spring of 1954.
In September 1954, H. W. Hoover died, and on December 3 his brother Frank also passed away.
(1) Typical of modern parts moving system throughout the plant is this complex conveyor arrangement in enameling section where raw parts are loaded to go through automatic spraying process. (2) Production models of every Hoover product are continually tested under conditions far more demanding than encountered in day-to-day use. Floor polishers are undergoing performance trials in engineering testing lab here. (3) Upright cleaners begin with simple casting at one end of this moving conveyor line and come out a finished product at the other every 29 minutes.
(1) Power Drive: Development of self-propelled cleaner was a tremendous advance in cleaning when it was introduced in 1969.
(2) Spin-drying washers are produced on this assembly line, supplied with outer shells by 3,000-foot overhead conveyor. Broad range of manufacturing techniques used is typified by light press operation (3) for component used in hair dryer assembly to 250- ton press (4) for metal-forming parts for cleaners.
Progress and Diversification at Home
Development of new products is a continuing process at Hoover. The introduction in 1959 of an electric floor washer-dryer, the first of its kind, was a step forward in the floor care field.
The following year a shampoo-polisher was introduced and in 1961, the Lark, a lightweight cleaner of the type that has since found widespread popularity. Floor wax and shampoo for use with Hoover appliances were marketed for the first time in 1961, and facilities installed for manufacturing and bottling a complete line of chemicals of this type.
A remarkable new floor care appliance, the Floor-a-Matic, was introduced in 1967. It not only permits the power scrubbing of floors, but will vacuum up scrub water. It can also be used to shampoo carpets and rugs, damp-mop, apply wax, polish and buff.
There have been many other distinct product innovations. A completely new type of canister cleaner, the Portable or "suitcase" model was developed, and following that, an upright cleaner of revolutionary design, called the Dial-A-Matic. It achieved radical changes in both appearance and operation of the
both appearance and operation of the upright cleaner, the greatest in 30 years.
An even more dramatic development was the version of the Dial-A-Matic produced in 1969, featuring Power Drive. This self-propelled cleaner operates almost like the automatic shift on an automobile, with forward and reverse speeds controlled by pressure on the handle.
During the summer of 1963, Hoover began to market its spin-drying washer in this country. The first ones were imported from the company's manufacturing complex in Wales, but facilities for making the machine at North Canton were completed and put into operation in 1964. Introduction of a variety of small electrical appliances began during this period also.
Two automatic washers and both gas and electric models of dryers were put on the market in 1967, and a compact model of dryer to match the spin-drying washing machine in the fall of 1970.
There were notable additions to products being manufactured by Hoover subsidiaries abroad also. An outstanding development, mentioned previously, was the entry of Hoover Limited into the gas appliance field in 1966. But the
company overseas also markets such major appliances as dishwashers, electric ranges, refrigerators, freezers, and most recently, a line of commercial-type refrigerators.
Manufacture of new products, as well as substantial increases in production of floor care appliances, has required a corresponding expansion of manufacturing facilities at home. Additions and improvements at North Canton in 1955 and again in 1964 increased manufacturing area by 27 per cent.
Later, as part of a multi-million-dollar building program, a 1 56,800-square-foot factory building was completed in 1968 and a 200,000-square-foot warehouse for finished products. A handsome new four-story office building, housing a major part of the general offices, was completed in September 1970. It has provisions for the future addition of a ten-story tower.
Growth in Worldwide Operations
In the mid-fifties plants were opened at Meadowbank, Australia; Helsinki, Finland and Le Havre, France. Sales operations expanded elsewhere on the Continent and a new company was organized in Norway to sell Hoover products.
One of the outstanding developments of this period was the phenomenal success of the washing machines being made at a plant in South Wales that had been opened in 1948. It soon established Hoover among the largest manufacturers of washing machines in Europe.
Hoover (America Latina) S.A., which has headquarters offices in Miami, Fla., was formed to develop sales in Latin America. A factory building, purchased on the outskirts of Mexico City, was modernized and opened in 1956. Hoover Brasileria, S.A. - Industria e Comercio, a manufacturing subsidiary in Sao Paulo, Brazil, puts its first washing machine on the South American market in 1960.
The following year, a manufacturing subsidiary was started in Bogota, Colombia.
Overseas, Hoover organized a Swiss company in 1958 to further sales in the Common Market countries. As part of this program, manufacturing facilities were established in Dijon, France, where a large, modern factory began operations in 1965.
(1) French tricolor and American flag-the latter in honor of visitor from U.S. -fly at Hoover plant in Dijon. (2) Interior view of 200,000-square-foot warehouse at North Canton, one of 18 in the country serving all major markets. (3) Beauty aid: Salon-type hair dryers, one of several made, take form on this line. (4) Building the remarkable Floor-A-Matic which shampoos carpeting, power scrubs floors, then vacuums up water, waxes and polishes.
(1) The long road of product development is marked by intensive design and engineering studies like these being made on hand-sized vacuum cleaner. (2) Variables under which irons will operate are programmed into engineering studies to make certain products operate efficiently. (3) Life testing fry pan heating elements in the laboratory, typical of continual testing program for all products.
A factory to supply the South African market was built in 1963 at Johannesburg. This was succeeded by a new plant built at East London, which was completed in the spring of 1970. Supplementing operations at the main factory in Hamilton in Canada, a new plant for the production of the popular spin-drying washer was completed in November 1966 on part of an 85-acre site being developed at Burlington. Additions to this in 1969 more than doubled its size, and it will some day probably encompass Hoover's entire Canadian operations.
New administrative quarters were completed in 1967 at the Perival factory, headquarters for Hoover Limited in England, enabling all aspects of administrative work to be concentrated there. Perivale is also the focal point for all floorcare production in Britain, as well as extensive engineering and design work. Research is carried on in every aspect of domestic appliance manufacture and there is constant testing and refinement of products, supplementing and abetting that done at North Canton.
The factory at Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, mentioned above, is the production center in Britain for washing machines.
both automatic and spin-drying types, and, more recently, gas-fired home heaters. It has been expanded regularly until now the complex is the biggest factory of its kind in Britain. Another major addition is presently under way which will increase its size by another 250,000 square feet.
The huge factory at Cambuslang, Scotland is also currently undergoing one of its periodic expansions. It was established in 1946 and has been the center of fractional horsepower motor production overseas. In addition, intricate timers, switches and heating elements for washing machines, fan heaters, electric kettles, toasters, hair dryers and a variety of steam, spray and dry irons are also made there.
An entirely new concept of marketing, put into effect in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world in the early '60s also deserves mention since it represented a major change in the company's sales program. Originated in the United States about 1954, the system, in brief, transfers the point of sale from the customer's door to the dealer's showroom. The change was due in part to continuing diversification of the product line into washing
machines, irons, blenders, hair dryers and other small appliances that do not lend themselves to home solicitation; in part to changing times in the social and economic life of consumers everywhere. The result has been an upward trend in sales and share of the market for the company.
Hoover Worldwide Corporation
To meet the responsibilities of an international organization, Hoover Worldwide Corporation was formed in 1960 to furnish management advisory services to subsidiaries throughout the world.
Offices are maintained at 660 Madison Ave. in New York City and at Hayes Gate House, London. Principal headquarters are in North Canton, providing close liaison with main engineering facilities, product planning and development, data processing equipment and other functions.
Based on its consolidated worldwide sales, Hoover stands about midway among the 500 largest U. S. corporations. The company is headed by Felix N. Mansager, a man of over 40 years' experience in various sales and administrative positions.
He was elected president and chairman of the board in the fall of 1966. He is also president and chairman of Hoover Worldwide Corporation, serving like a number of other key executives, in both their national companies and in Hoover Worldwide.
(1) Perivale plant, near London, is administrative headquarters for United Kingdom operations and focal point for floor care production, research and design work in Britain. (2) Complex at Cambuslang, Scotland is center for small motor production as well as intricate timers, switches, fan heaters, hair dryers, irons and a variety of other appliances.