Legacy Industry: The Fuller Brush Co. started in Hartford
Hartford Courant Editorial
March 08, 2012
The famed Fuller Brush Co., which has filed for bankruptcy protection, got its start in Hartford more than a century ago. Its troubles notwithstanding, it is still a good example of why manufacturing is important to a community.
Alfred C. Fuller began making brushes in his sister's basement in Massachusetts and then started his company in a shed on Park Street in Hartford in 1906. His vision of selling quality products door-to-door proved spectacularly successful; the "Fuller Brush Man" was celebrated in movies, cartoons and songs. The company became synonymous with door-to-door sales.
The company moved to a stately brick factory on Main Street, then in the 1960s to East Hartford. It was sold in 1968 and in 1972 moved to Great Bend, Kan.
The first and most obvious benefit of such a company is jobs. Fuller Brush employed as many as 1,000 people here. Its former factory building on Main Street now houses employment and social service agencies that might not be as necessary were the jobs still there. And many a college kid over the years made a few bucks carrying a Fuller sales kit door-to-door.
The other benefit of a company headquarters is philanthropy. Mr. Fuller's particular passion was The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. He shared his wealth with the school for decades, and when his widow, Mary Primrose Fuller, died in 1997, she left $19 million to the school. Not only is the Hartt building on campus called the Alfred C. Fuller Music Center, the school's contemporary music ensemble is called "A Foot In The Door," the title of Mr. Fuller's autobiography.
We hope his company lives to see another era, and that the next Alfred Fullers are setting up small manufacturing businesses in or around the city.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at