Sweet Home Soap
John D. Larkin established the Larkin Company in 1875, his new enterprise made soap. The large yellow bars worked well on the wooden washboards of the day. In time, he was making nine different types of soaps out of his Seneca Street factory in Buffalo, New York. Larkin Soap Company was one of the first mail order companies of its time. He commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design the Larkin Exchange Building that opened in 1914.
The company used premiums to promote its products, starting with pottery, then oak furniture. They solicited what they called secretaries who had home parties and took orders. These forerunners of Mary Kay and Avon representatives received coupons that could be redeemed for a large variety of items for the home; from a meat grinder to a neat oak chest pictured below.
I unknowingly purchased a Larkin four-drawer oak chest 30 years ago. I liked the look, it was just the right size and would look good with the ranch furniture I have. Movers knocked a piece off the bottom that needed to be fixed. The craftsman I took it to called it a Larkin Chest and excitedly told me the story of how the Larkin Soap Company got in the furniture business. He pointed out the seal attached to the back that I had many times thought of removing. The Larkin Company fell on hard times during the depression and ceased to exist by 1940, but they sure made good furniture.