Full Circle: Blushin’ brushin’ Dale

Published 8:31 am Friday, July 7, 2017

How about that! I write a column about Fuller brushes and guess what? A Fuller Brush Man appears! Who knew? Didn’t we think they were extinct?

Apparently not. Dale Peterson of Albert Lea has been selling Fuller brushes for nearly 50 years. Actually, at a spunky 80, he’s just finding his groove. And why would he stop when he’s still contentedly executing door-to-door house calls, peddling his endless inventory of household helpmates? Have a cleaning problem? Dale has a solution.

Before knocking on his first door in 1970, Dale had to take the 200 word Fuller pledge which ends with: “I will be courteous, I will be kind, I will be sincere, I will be helpful.” I can vouch for Dale. He oozes that commitment. Furthermore, his dedication over the years has seen him through his customers’ marriages, births, divorces, deaths … and the occasional heartfelt confession.


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Selling six days a week has been good to Dale for you’d be hard pressed to find a worry line anywhere on his friendly face. He will admit, though, that years ago things were different. Then he was invited indoors. Now, in this age of distrust, many women shop on their front steps. But then, does it matter as long as they buy?

I was treated to a peek inside Dale’s van. There I found stacks of cardboard boxes used so regularly over the decades that their edges look and feel like polar fleece. Each box contains products which promise to whisk away drudgery and give back to the housewife many golden hours. Gosh, if Fuller only cooked supper, we’d be set!

The company began on a crispy New Year’s Day in 1906 as 21-year-old Alfred C. Fuller sat in his sister’s basement on a bench sandwiched between a furnace and a coal bin. There he counted his worldly assets ($375) and made a vow to produce

“… the best products of their kind in the world.” Many of us can attest to this pledge having Fuller brushes older than our marriages; passed down from our grandmothers to our mothers to us.

My Mom brushed her hair with an ivory handled, black, hog bristle brush. The secret was that the soft brushes distributed her own natural oils giving her hair a healthy sheen. Who wouldn’t want that? And the good news is that Dale still sells them!

The first Fuller advertisement, designed by Alexander Graham Bell, was published in the American Magazine in 1909. Six years later, with burgeoning sales bolstering his confidence, Fuller bought a new pair of work overalls to replace the tattered ones he had always worn … the ones with only one full pant leg. The first time he wore them an employee exclaimed, “Look, boys! At last the business is standing on its own two legs!”

In 1922, the Saturday Evening Post coined the phrase “Fuller Brush Man” after Alfred was portrayed in the comic strips Mickey Mouse, Dagwood and Blondie, Mutt and Jeff, Donald Duck, as well as in the movie, “The Three Little Pigs.” Later during WWII, Fuller products accompanied the military into battle by supplying 40 million brushes which were used to clean their weapons.

Red Skelton and Lucille Ball starred in the smash hits, The Fuller Brush Man and The Fuller Brush Girl in 1948 and 1950. Also Johnnie Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Paul Harvey were all at one time Fuller Brush Men? And now you know the beginning of their stories.

“Fuller Brush” means little to folks nowadays, but the company moniker can send those of us who grew up in the 1940s and 50s into nostalgic paroxysms. To prove my point, I couldn’t let Dale out the door without writing up an order of my own. Afterward it made me wonder how incomplete my life has been without that Fuller tile and grout brush.

Want to clean up your act? Contact Dale Peterson: 507-373-6176 or drpeters@charter.net
Peggy Keener of Austin is the author of two books: “Potato In A Rice Bowl” and “Wondahful Mammaries.” Peggy Keener invites readers to share their memories with her by emailing maggiemamm16@gmail.com. Memories shared with Keener may be shared or referenced in subsequent editions of “Full Circle.”