An 'Odd Couple'

An 'Odd Couple' and Twenty Mules

The Fortune of the Sterling Borax Company in California's Santa Clarita Valley

By Edward Keebler  

Now, all of 26, the younger Mather’s marketing genius paid immediate benefits to Pacific Coast Borax. Mather approached company owner, Francis M. Smith, with the idea of advertising borax by using the term, “20-Mule Team Borax” as the company slogan, while continuing to display a picture of such on their product. Smith initially refused because he thought it more important to have his name on the box. Eventually Mather’s persistence paid off and Smith finally consented to the change. Although long-line mule teams had been around decades by this time, and in some places actually consisted of two draft horses and eighteen mules, the general public hadn’t much exposure to this fact. Instinctively knowing that “Two horses and eighteen mule” Borax was not the easiest expression for the tongue, Mather created the slogan that would be used for the next 100 years, “20-Mule Team Borax.” Borax sales quadrupled and the following year Mather was invited to work as the advertising manager for Pacific Coast Borax at their main office in Chicago.

Pacific Coast Borax Company

Mather understood the dynamic that the American public desired a dependable product that was strong and powerful, like a 20-Mule Team, that would work for them. Given the choice of another brand and the one portraying the strength and tenacity of twenty mule teams hauling ore out of the inferno of Death Valley, who could resist? Mather’s employer, Francis Smith, however, didn’t understand the value of advertising and left young Mather with a huge task and very little funding. It was Mather who was largely responsible for educating the American public as to the benefits and uses of borax. He created an image in the American mindset that every home needed to have a box of 20-Mule Team Borax in their home. Without much of a budget, he enlisted the talent of fellow New York Sun reporter, J.R. Spears, who was later to write a book, Illustrated Sketches of Death Valley And Other Borax Deserts of the Pacific Coast. The purpose was to expose the public to, and generate interest in Death Valley and borax.Next Page

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The Mather Family | More Mather Family | Pacific Coast Borax | Thomas Thorkildsen | Mathers and Thorkildsen | More Mathers and Thorkildsen | Mather's Marketing Savy | Mather and National Parks | National Parks | Conclusion
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