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Friday, October 15, 2010

Larkin Sales Premiums


What a beautiful morning here in New Jersey.  The sun is out after yesterday's downpours.

Yesterday I went antiquing in the rain in indoor shops in Bucks County, PA, and found a beautiful Larkin table.  The shop owner told me a little about the principal used by the Larkin Company in marketing their products in the early 1900s.  She said that housewives would sell the soaps of the Larkin Company and earn gifts, including furniture pieces like the table I found.  While it does not have the original paper label of the Larkin Company, it has been handed down and sold with the history behind it being passed down as well.

One of my favorite things about antiquing is learning what things are and how they were used - the story behind each item.  This is how I learned about my family antiques from my mother.  I still learn as I go today by talking to very experienced antiquers with knowledge in various product areas.  While I love the concept of antique malls for shopping convenience, the one thing that is lost in that environment is the chance to talk to the shop owners about how they came to acquire an item and what they know of the history of the item.

A Brief History of the Larkin Company

I did a little online research to learn more about the Larkin Company and their marketing efforts in the early 1900s.  John D. Larkin was one of America's early entrepreneurs and a great merchandiser.  After originally getting into the soap business with his sister's husband, he later started his own company.  A partnership later developed with Elbert Hubbard, who was a marketing genius.  Larkin and Hubbard were determined to attract the public to their products by using give away items.  Over the years, many different products were given away such as pictures, handkerchiefs, and towels.  Then Larkin moved toward a direct marketing strategy.  He marketed directly to consumers and used the savings on commissions for paid salespeople to cover the costs of premiums given away.  In the early years of his business Larkin purchased premiums from other companies in large quantities, but later set up his own company subsidiaries to manufacture the premiums.  At the turn of the century, Larkin added household products to their product line and recruited housewives to market their products door-to-door.  From 1892 to 1904, Larkin's business grew tremendously, with a catalog of products surpassed only by the Sears catalog.  By the 1920s, a home could be completely outfitted with Larkin goods of all kinds, including food, furniture, china, and glassware, to name just a few items.  The Larkin Company was sold in 1941 and became a mail order business.

Larkin products, especially the furniture, are now collectibles.

This is the Larkin table I found, including a picture of the carving on the legs of the table.

Please comment on this post and let me know if there are topics of special interest to you for future posts.

Have a great day!


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