Judson Dunaway

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S. Judson Dunaway, 1890-1976, was an inventor, entrepreneur, and to the community of Dover, New Hampshire, a philanthropist.


Judson's family appears to be from Virginia: He wrote a chapter on the Dunaway coat of arms in the book "The Dunaways of Virginia",[1] by Anna Elizabeth Clendening.

Household products[edit]

Dunaway manufactured a number of household specialty chemicals, including Delete rust and stain remover, Vanish toilet bowl cleaner, Elf drain cleaner, Expello moth crystals and insecticide, and Bug-a-Boo moth crystals and aerosol.

Moth crystals[edit]

Expello was the leading brand in moth crystals. However, because the market is much bigger for toilet bowl cleaners, Vanish was his greatest success. His skills as an inventor were much less important than his skills as a marketer. The world of household cleansers is rife with me-too products.

Moth crystals aren't a complicated product, either; they're just paradichlorobenzene, possibly with perfume added. Moth crystals have largely been displaced by moth balls, which are made of naphthalene, for liability reasons: while naphthalene is highly toxic, paradiclorobenzene is more toxic still. Furthermore, the entire moth preventative product category has declined with the adoption of synthetic fibers, which moths do not eat, and the adoption of air conditioning, which makes it harder for moths to reproduce.

Drain cleaner[edit]

Elf, a me-too drain cleanser, consisted of lye crystals. This was a less effective agent than crystal Drano, which added aluminum shards to generate heat and provide a sharp edge to cut through hair, but it was equally good as any of Drano's other me-too competitors. Delete rust and stain remover consisted of oxalic acid (an anti-rust agent), citric acid (a chelating agent) and microcrystalline cellulose, a very soft abrasive. It was a good product, but not an inspired one, and it addressed a very small niche in the marketplace.

Toilet bowl cleaner[edit]

Toilet bowl cleaners aren't complicated. They are mostly sodium hydrogen sulfate and surfactants. Most household cleansers are alkaline (basic) in nature, but toilet bowl cleansers are acidic.

Dunaway is credited with inventing Vanish - except that he didn't invent it so much as wait for the patents for Sani-Flush[2] to expire in 1932, and then introduced Vanish in 1937. His marketing was good enough to distress Hygienic Products, who had been making Sani-Flush since 1911, and they sued him for trademark infringement in 1945. When the case was resolved in Dunaway's favor, it was a landmark ruling; the case [3] is still commonly cited in infringement lawsuits.

FTC actions[edit]

In 1957, the Federal Trade Commission also took note of Judson Dunaway's marketing skills,[4] although they weren't admiring them. The Judson Dunaway Corporation, General Mills, and Swanee Paper Corporation were charged with violating the Clayton Act in dealing with Grand Union Co., a large eastern supermarket chain. Grand Union agreed not to carry similar products to those of Dunaway and General Mills, and Grand Union received promotional allowances not available to Grand Union's competitors. All four companies signed consent decrees, a legal document in which one does not admit to doing anything wrong, but agrees to stop doing it.

Company history[edit]

Originally, Dunaway did business as Expello Corporation. Eventually, he did business as the Judson Dunaway Corporation. The New Hampshire Secretary of State's office online search does not show any corporation ever existing under either name.

At the end of Dunaway's career in the late 1950s or early 1960s, the company was sold to The Drackett Company. Vanish was a higher volume brand with reasonably good margins, and became one of their major brands. With no real competitors, Delete had satisfactory margins, but minimal volume. They made no real effort to market it, but simply accepted orders to replenish merchants' inventories. When ceramic cooktops first became popular in the 1970s, it enjoyed a major boom in sales, but it was still a product to be manufactured only one day a year. As manufacturers of the leading Drano brand, Drackett saw Elf as a brand they wanted to kill. Expello was a liability bomb waiting to go off, and since Drackett already had the Renuzit brand, Expello found itself in the hands of Willert Home Products.

Personal life[edit]

Dunaway and his wife, Anna E., lived on Belknap street in Dover during his early career as a manufacturer. In 1946, he purchased the house at 120 Silver Street, Dover, New Hampshire from Mary Dearborn. His daughter Helen is remembered in Dover for her large hair bows.

Personally, or through his foundation, he funded squash courts at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, the Judson Dunaway Library and Media Center at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, New Hampshire, a wing at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, a community center in Ogunquit, Maine Supported the football field at Dover High School in Dover NH.

See also[edit]

  1. ^ LC CS71.D895
  2. ^ US Patent 1,118,200 Cleaning And Disinfecting Powder for the Removal of Stains, Incrustations, &c.
  3. ^ 178 F.2d 461 (84 U.S.P.Q. 31) HYGIENIC PRODUCTS CO. v. JUDSON DUNAWAY CORPORATION, United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
  4. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/os/annualreports/ar1958.pdf