Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Good Clean Business

From Bruce Yandle of Clemson University, a story of entrepreneurial success that really cleaned up the human race.

"Mr. Kohler’s Tub"

I can’t end this special report without putting in a word for entrepreneurs who make life so much better for all us. This one is John Michael Kohler, an Austrian immigrant who settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1873.

Had a bath lately? This was quite a luxury for most of recorded history. In fact, it is said that only one percent of U.S. homes had indoor baths with running water in 1921. The Saturday scrub, if it came that often, was in a steel tub in front of the fire, or in the back yard for men.

All this had begun to change in 1883 when John Michael Kohler decided to add a coat of enamel to one of the cast iron horse troughs he made in his foundry. He then added claw feet to make the first enameled bathtub. With that, things began to get better on the home front. Well they at least got cleaner. Never satisfied and always creative, Mr. Kohler also invented the bubbler drinking fountain.

A visit to Kohler, Wisconsin, a model city and home of the company, sounds like a promising idea. Among the sites recommended is a museum that houses a full array of Kohler’s early plumbing products. The line up along one wall is called the Great Wall of China.

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