Fuller Brush Co., founded in 1906 and for decades known for its door-to-door salesmen, has filed for bankruptcy less than two months after saying the company had “completely rebooted itself.”
The cleaning-products maker, based in Great Bend, Kan., listed assets and debt of as much as $50 million each in Chapter 11 documents filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. CPAC Inc., Fuller Brush’s parent company, also sought court protection from creditors.
Fuller Brush didn’t disclose reasons for the bankruptcy and didn’t return a call seeking comment on the filing. It said Jan. 3 that 2012 would be a “landmark year” as the company introduced a new marketing campaign, products and distribution channels, as well as a revamped website with an interactive format, cleaning tips and links to Facebook and Twitter.
Company founder Alfred C. Fuller was born in Nova Scotia in 1885 and moved at age 18 to Boston, where he eventually sold brushes door-to-door, according to a company history on myfullerbrush.com from Investor’s Daily.
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At 21, with a $375 investment, Fuller started making brushes based on feedback from customers, and hired crews to help with sales nationwide, according to the website. For advertising, he managed to get Donald Duck and the Big Bad Wolf cast as Fuller Brush men in cartoons, and the icon appeared in the comic strips Blondie and Mutt and Jeff.
The company also was highlighted in the 1948 Columbia Pictures Corp. comedy “The Fuller Brush Man,” starring Red Skelton and Janet Blair, according to IMDB.com. Publicity shots show Skelton carrying an armful of mops, cleaners and brushes on his door-to-door rounds.
Customers across the U.S. became familiar with the greeting, “I’m your Fuller Brush Man.” Billy Graham, Dick Clark, baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and actor Dennis Quaid were among the company’s salesmen, Fuller Brush said in a 2007 statement.
Fuller Brush expanded to a $109 million business by 1960, according to myfullerbrush.com. The company’s founder died in 1973. Its factory near Great Bend, completed that same year, turns out more than 2,000 products, Fuller Brush said.