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Few companies survive a century, and fewer still have made significant contributions as ours.
Meet the Murrays
The public didn’t know much about bleach when Clorox® liquid bleach made its debut as an institutional product in 1913. Company founders knew how to manufacture it, but not how to market it. The young venture was near collapse when William and Annie Murray came to the rescue. This canny Scots-American couple had bought shares in the start-up, originally called the Electro-Alkaline Company, and they couldn’t afford to lose their investment. More importantly, the Murrays believed in the product and couldn’t bear to see it fail.
Today we’d call Bill a turnaround artist. He streamlined operations and arranged new financing. Annie, who ran a thriving grocery store in the company’s home city of Oakland, California, had the brilliant idea to market Clorox liquid bleach to homemakers. She gave away free samples and talked up the product’s benefits as a ”bleacher, germicide, cleanser and disinfectant.“ Consumers loved Clorox and told their friends.
Diligence, innovation and social networking are in the DNA of The Clorox Company, thanks in large part to the Murrays.
On May 3, five businessmen invest $100 each to found America’s first commercial liquid bleach factory, the Electro-Alkaline Company.
- The company begins commercial production of a concentrated industrial-strength bleach with 21 percent sodium hypochlorite.
- An initial stock issue of 750 shares raises $75, 000 in start-up capital. First-year sales are $7, 996.
- The Clorox® brand name is registered and the diamond trademark is adopted. The creative mind behind both was Abel Hamblet, an engineer at the company that supplied electrolytic cells for bleach making.
- William Murray, an early investor, becomes the first general manager of the Electro-Alkaline Company. His wife, Annie Murray, prompts the creation of a less-concentrated liquid bleach for home use. She builds customer demand by giving away 15-ounce sample bottles at the family’s grocery store in downtown Oakland.
- The company selects the Kelley-Clarke Company of San Francisco as its exclusive broker for household bleach.
Clorox’s exhibit at the California State Fair introduces the household bleach product to thousands of farmers and other consumers.
Three years before Los Angeles developers erected the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, a giant CLOROX billboard greeted thousands of Bay Area ferry riders. Finally we could afford to pay real money ($75 a month!) for a bold, can’t-miss-it advertisement. We began shipping boatloads of bleach from the Port of Oakland to the East Coast via the Panama Canal, too, with the word CLOROX proudly painted on the side of the vessels.
We were still The Electro-Alkaline Company then, hardly a catchy handle. Everyone called us “Clorox.” So we renamed ourselves after our popular product. By 1928 the company was ready to go public on the San Francisco Stock Exchange. Fifteen years earlier, almost no one had heard of bleach. Now thousands of investors clamored to buy shares in Clorox. The country’s growth helped us grow. Embracing multiculturalism, we gave out pamphlets that explained the home uses of Clorox bleach in French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Yiddish.
Vendor loyalty is a Clorox trait. During the Roaring Twenties we hired our first ad agency, a small shop in Oakland. It was a predecessor company to the lead ad agency we still use today. And we still partner with food brokers in relationships that date back 90 years or more.
In its first recorded act of corporate giving, the company donates funds to the Boy Scouts of America.
The Electro-Alkaline Company reorganizes as Clorox Chemical Corporation.
The company reorganizes in Delaware as Clorox Chemical Company and goes public. It issues 200, 000 shares of common stock, traded on the San Francisco Stock Exchange.
Not even the Great Depression could stop the growth of the Clorox Chemical Company, as we were known then. An early believer in equal opportunities, we welcomed women workers not just in the office but on the manufacturing line. LouLou Johnson, a single mother hired in 1933, personified the loyalty that still characterizes our associates. She claimed that she corked bottles even in her sleep! (Our namesake product was bottled in glass containers until the early 1960s.) Long retired at age 98, LouLou declared: “I still don’t associate with people who don’t use Clorox bleach.”