COLUMBUS WASHBOARD HISTORY
The history of the Columbus Washboard Company started in 1895 when Frederic Martin Sr. started building washboards in his backyard for resale. These washboards were handmade and had a limited market. While no sales information is available, it has been estimated that fewer than 1,000 washboards were produced and sold in any of the first 30 years of operations.
The next big step was in 1925 when Frederic Martin Jr. purchased the assets of the Company from his father. The assets purchased were a few saws, a metal crimping machine, the patent and trade mark for the "Bear Easy" washboard and whatever goodwill there might be. Frederic Martin Jr. and his wife, Margaret Martin were involved in the business of the Columbus Washboard Company from the date of purchase in 1925 until their deaths in late 1987 and early 1988 respectively.
During the first year of recorded sales (1926), they produced and sold 1,332 washboards. During the first five years the highest year of sales was 1931, when sales were 20,436 washboards. At this point, all the effort, sacrifice and hard work began to produce significant results. In 1941 sales volume rose to 1,287,757 washboards and remained in the range of 1,000.000 washboards a year until well after the end of the second world war. For their second 30 years of operations, 1926 to 1955, total washboards produced and sold exceeded 15,000,000. During the next 20 years, washboard sales declined to a total of 5,000,000 washboards. From their start in 1926 until their deaths, Frederic and Margaret Martin produced and sold over 23,000,000 washboards.
From the start of the Columbus Washboard Company, until 1930, the only washboard produced and sold was the "Bear Easy" washboard. The rubbing surface for this washboard had been patented and the name trademarked in 1907. From 1931 to 1938, twenty-two other washboard names were introduced to the market place. Of these only five survived into the 1980's. These brands, which are all trademarked, are Dubl Handi, Maid-Rite Silver, Maid-Rite Brass, Sunnyland, and Crystal Cascade. Fortunately most of the original dies and designs have been maintained by the Company.
The principal reason for introducing so many different named washboards was to meet competition and secure more shelf space in the many retail outlets which sold washboards. By the late 1960's, these needs had ended as the Columbus Washboard Company was the only original washboard manufacturer in the United States.
The main competition for the Columbus Washboard Company was The National Washboard Company, who had manufacturing facilities in Chicago, Memphis and Cleveland. Along with The Cleveland Washboard Company and The Superior Washboard Company, there were approximately 10 washboard companies who tried to compete for the washboard business. By the early 1970's, all washboard companies, except the Columbus Washboard Company had closed their doors. Gaining the sales volume, from the various competitors was a key factor in the continued operation of the Columbus Washboard Company.
Problems successfully faced by the Columbus Washboard Company, were wage and price controls during the second world war and not being able to secure metal for the rubbing surfaces during this war. This may have been a blessing, as the metal shortage caused the glass washboard to be born. This glass washboard became an instant "HIT". The wooden rubbing surface, which was developed because of the metal shortage, filled a minor "niche market ", but died when metal again became available.
The "Country Style" which started in the early 70's was not immediately recognized by the Columbus Washboard Company. Initially it was resisted by Frederick and Margaret Martin who did not believe that it was appropriate to produce a spice rack or an end table using washboards. In 1987 Pat Taylor inherited the business from her Uncle Frederick. Pat's husband C.G. Mike Taylor took over the helm as President. Mike and Pat recognized the need to alter their marketing strategy and to promote alternate uses for washboards. They considered the "Country Style" to be the future of the Columbus Washboard Company and together developed many craft and furniture ideas which incorporate the use of the washboard. The Columbus Washboard Company still maintains a loyal base of customers who use the washboard for their laundry, including the Amish Community. Today the single largest market for washboards in the United States is for display, crafts, laundry and musical instruments.
In 1999 when the owners of the company, Mike and Patricia Taylor, were contemplating closing the company's doors, George K. Richards, president of a Columbus based wholesale pharmaceutical company, formed a partnership with friends and family and purchased the business. (Jan Richards, George D. Richards, Linda Franklin, Karen Schwab, Pam Gartin, Bevan and Jacqui Barnett, and Larry Gerstner) To reduce costs and expedite production, the company was moved to Logan, Ohio. We are based in the former Godman Shoe Factory, which we purchased in 2001. Today the Company is entirely owned by Jacqui and Bevan Barnett, Joyce and Larry Gerstner and James Martin. James was previously manager of our UK division and does double duty as factory manager with Cindy Ervin as office manager.
Our company exists due to our wonderful staff, and our Director's approach to business. We run our company as an extension of our family. We try to be fair to all co-workers & treat everyone with the respect they deserve. We try to make a difference to, and offer quality, skilled, permanent manufacturing and administrative jobs in the local community. We source our raw materials locally wherever possible, and try to be fair to our suppliers as we would expect to be treated. This environment has proved to make us work efficiently, consistently producing high quality products with high levels of customer service. More importantly, we all love our jobs!
We have gone through many changes since 1999, but kept the same production methods and processes to ensure our product remains original. Due to our expertise in shipping, we are now distributors for several brands which have the same business ethics as us. You can buy authentic soaps, Washboard accessories and even New Zealand Butter direct from us. Our emphasis is originality; and high quality. We are not interested in poor quality reproductions. We try to support businesses that produce high quality manufactured products that are original, value for money and would be extremely unlikely to enter a supermarket.
Note : In the days before computers, accurate records of yearly sales were not kept by our company. With the hand written records we do have, we are able to tell you what year each style of Washboard was first produced. We can also give callers and guests an idea how old their Washboard may be but because the different models were never dated, this information is only an approximation.
The exception is the " V " model which featured a grooved solid wooden rub-surface in place of the metal. This model was only produced between 1941 and 1942. They were introduced to conserve valuable metal needed for the War effort and Victory.
We regret that we do not have access to records for the NATIONAL Washboard Company or any of the other Washboard manufacturers that were in business before the 1970's.
We are proud to be the last manufacturer of Genuine useable Washboards in the USA.
Thank you for visiting our site. Come and visit us at the factory for a factory tour. The washboards are still assembled by hand one at a time.