Alfred C. Fuller

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.


Alfred C. Fuller 1885-1973

Alfred was born into a large farming family in Welsford, Nova Scotia. At the age of 18 he decided to seek his fortune in the big city and moved in with an older sister living in Boston, Massachusetts. It was there, in a crude basement workshop next to the coal bin in his sister’s home, that Alfred began developing products specially designed to clean Victorian households. His first inventions included a sweeper made to work without scratching floors, a spittoon cleaner and a long-handled duster. Customers couldn’t get enough of his products. The merchandise was impressive, but what really sold maids and housewives was the inventor’s legendary sales pitch. He went door to door and gave an enthusiastic personal demonstration of each and every product. To keep up with demand, he began building an entire force of door-to-door salesmen – not a new concept, but an enterprise he made respectable. Impressed by the quality and reasonable prices of Fuller products, many householders actually welcomed the sales reps into their homes. Within the first 50 years of operation, the company claimed to have called on nearly nine out of ten American families. The Fuller brush man became a popular cultural icon portrayed in comic strips, cartoons and movies. Even Disney’s animated film The Three Little Pigs featured the Big Bad Wolf disguised as a Fuller brush man. By 1919 Fuller had created a company worth in excess of $1 million. By the time of his death in 1973, the value had increased more than a hundred times over.

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Janis Nostbakken