Rawleigh History Heritage Archive

For over 100 years Rawleigh have helped men and women achieve the independence, lifestyle and financial benefits that owning your own business can bring.

W.T. Rawleigh's life as an independent salesman began on April 6, 1889 when he was 18 years old. He set a goal for himself and, with only $15, a borrowed horse, a mortgaged buggy and four types of medicines, he set out from his boyhood home in Wisconsin determined to become a successful business man.

At a little Illinois farm house he made his first sale of liniment and salve. The Rawleigh corporation had started business.

"I was young and as green as a cucumber ... The only business experience I had was in making inks and selling books, and that had been short and local and confined to a few friends and neighbours", he wrote later.

Will Rawleigh’s parents had turned their kitchen into a part time factory where they produced liniment until W.T. Rawleigh could get enough money together to rent a small building. Many medicines were made, bottled and labelled in the Rawleigh family home.

In 1895 W.T. Rawleigh founded the Dr. Blair Medical Company which later became known as the W. T. Rawleigh Medical Company.

By 1914 the W.T. Rawleigh company was recognised as one of the greatest manufacturers and distributors of over 100 household products.

W.T. Rawleigh believed that scientific research was important to his business and to his customers. He reported the scientific facts that he discovered and provided aid to the people by supporting legislative action in the interest of the public.

To offer a more valuable service a Rawleigh Foundation was incorporated as a non-profit institution under the laws of the state of Illinois in 1930. This institute was designed to allow Rawleigh to keep their costs down and to keep prices lower for their customers.

The name Rawleigh was synonymous with service and quality products. W.T. Rawleigh was the forerunner in using the “direct-to-customers” method which took the Rawleigh products, bypassing the jobber and the dealer, taking the shortest distance directly to the customer. Rawleigh knew that most people were not familiar with his goods or his name and realised that leaving his products with his customers for trial would later produce good sales. He was certain that they would use the product, like it, and buy more.

The "time and trial" system was the forerunner of the Rawleigh Guarantee of Satisfaction. W.T. Rawleigh was amongst the first manufacturers to offer a free trial and guarantee that unless absolutely satisfied, there would be no sale.

The Rawleigh products were made from the raw materials in the Rawleigh factory so they knew the consistency and quality were correct. In 1922 over twenty million customers admitted the Rawleigh man into their homes. The Rawleigh man was seen throughout the country visiting the homes of farmers and in the cities as well. He became a “Friend of the Family” to many people, sometimes bringing sweets for the children and being an important visitor to their home.

W.T. Rawleigh realised early in his sales experience that most people could be sold a product once, but to hold that customer for years, even a lifetime, the products needed to be scientifically made, reliable and of a higher than usual quality. This philosophy was what the Rawleigh company was founded on and still applies to today.

It wasn't long before Rawleigh realised how much in demand his products were. His customers appreciated the product's quality and became interested in buying and selling them themselves.

No special training was required to be a retailer, and only a small amount of money was needed to start a profitable business. It wasn't long until the famous Rawleigh canary yellow wagons were combing the rural communities. Then, the Rawleigh Dealer was dedicated to filling the needs of the homemaker. The Rawleigh man who delivered the Rawleigh products driectly from the Rawleigh factories to the home owner was not an agent but were the sole owner and operator of their business. For him to be successful he needed to be honest, industrious dependable and attentive to his business. He was required to be courteous, honest in all of his dealings with his customers and the Rawleigh company, correct in his habits and to give careful attention to all of the details of his business.

All Rawleigh Dealers became to understand that their success depended on their industry and regular, frequent, dependable service to every home.

To meet the need of scientific advancement, W.T. Rawleigh built Company’s first Analytical Laboratory in 1898. To cope with the growth of the Company, this Laboratory was enlarged numerous times.

As the company expanded, building which had been purchased only a few years previously quickly became in adequate to house the evergrowing business.

In 1906 the floor space of Rawleigh buildings was measured by acres, their workforce was numbered in the thousands. By 1908 the factory floor space was sixty times larger than nine years previously.

W.T. Rawleigh not only built his business, but he was involved in community service as well by acting as mayor of Freeport, Illinois from 1909 to 1911.

Within just 12 years from the beginning of W.T. Rawleigh setting out with his borrowed buggy the company had grown 75 times larger and the capital stock was increased by 40 times.

Large factory buildings were constructed at the Head Office in Freeport, Illinois and later branches were opened in Memphis, Chester, California, Minneapolis and Richmond. The company began its international expansion in 1912 when it opened its first Canadian factory in Winnipeg. Branches were later added in Toronto, Ontario and Montreal.

The Rawleigh Good Health Service was one of the first companies in the world which printed over seven million “Good Health Guides” and bulletins at an expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the benefit of their customers. Rawleigh’s Good Health Service advocated a good diet, and promoted healthy living, exercise, fresh air and the value of eating the right food. They promoted good hygiene for the family.

In 1915 it was estimated that the 2,000 Rawleigh men who distributed the Rawleigh products visited approximately 20,000 customers daily. The Rawleigh company did not do expensive advertising or newspaper ads instead it relied on the products and their benefits, and the Rawleigh dealers going to the homes to sell their products.

By 1921 seventy million pieces of printed material were produced in the Rawleigh printing department, which by that time required over 20,000 feet of floor space and employed between 30 and 50 people.

As the Rawleigh business grew the demands grew for raw materials and W.T. Rawleigh sent buyers into countries such as Japan for Camphor and menthol, essential oils from Sicily, perfume materials and vanilla beans from France and Mexico. Actually the largest importation in 1921 of vanilla beans ever made by an American manufacturer was acquired by the Rawleigh corporation.

The next step in international expansion for Rawleigh took place in 1928 when the Company opened a factory in Melbourne, Australia and began manufacturing and distribution.

In 1931 John Lennon and Floyd Rawleigh were sent to New Zealand to establish manufacturing and distribution in Wellington.

Since 1889 many things have changed, but Will Rawleigh's adage that being 'good' or 'adequate' was not good enough, still guides the company today along with our two basic principles.
1. To sell quality products direct to consumers.
2. To provide a profitable independent business. Today, as in W.T. Rawleigh’s time, Rawleigh as a company still take their products to the consumer via Rawleigh Distributors. There is an opportunity for both men and women to start their Rawleigh business. The market potential is enormous and contines to grow in the areas of home medicines, specialty foods, household products, personal care products and animal products. As a Rawleigh Distributor you can help fill the needs of the thousands of customers who are users of Rawleigh products and develop a satisfying income.

Rawleigh History
Rawleigh Mouthwash(1942)
AntiPain Oil(1916)