Digger Odell Publications ©2008

The success of the advertising strategy was phenomenal. Soap was literally flying off the shelves of the warehouse as the orders poured in for the Chautauqua Desk and Piano Lamp.  The Larkin Idea became the Larkin plan. A plan which would furnish every American Home by selling soap. And his plan was working. The 'solid oak hand-rubbed finished Chautauqua Desk was a most popular item and by the end of 1895, Larkin had them placed them in half a million homes.

It was only natural then to follow the Lamp and the desk offer with the Chautauqua chair which appeared in 1894. The chair was of oak construction with three ply veneer back, an antique polished finish with the seat, head and foot rests upholstered with silk plush in your choice of crimson, old red, tobacco brown, old gold, blue or olive - fully guaranteed of course.

The Larkin idea of selling direct from the manufacturer to the consumer allowed them to compete in ways other businesses could not. the Larkin idea was to offer "premiums" that would keep the customer coming back again and again. Their success must have surprised even them but once they found the winning formula they simply expanded it.

In 1895 the Chautauqua Chair became the Chautauqua  chairs. Both a recliner and a rocker were offered. The public responses ensured the winning formula would not only continue but would be expanded ten-fold.

It can be adjusted to any Position, and changed at will by the occupant while reclining. A synonym of luxurious ease and comfort. It is built of oak, polished antique finish, with beautifully grained three-ply veneer back. The seat, head and foot rests are upholstered with silk plush in crimson, old red, tobacco brown, old gold, blue or olive, as desired. It is very strong and perfectly simple in construction. It is fully guaranteed.

1895 saw the introduction of not only the Larkin chairs but also the Larkin Chautauqua Oil Heater. "Heats a large room in coldest weather, will quickly boll a kettle or fry a steak. Very Large Central Draft, Bound Wick, Brass Burner, heavy embossed Brass Oil Fount richly nickel•plated. Holds one gallon, which bunts 12 hours. Handsome Russia Iron Drum. Removable Top, Unites every good quality approved to date."

With all that money, he continued to enlarge his manufacturing capability.  Larkin built a six story brick soap-factory at Hancock and Seneca Streets in Buffalo in 1896. In 1897 Larkin's ads were claiming, nearly five acres of land and capable of producing thirty million pounds of soap annually.

The notion of "premiums' to be given away with the sale of soap became the plan.  In 1895 he had a booklet of other premiums customers could request. The Seth Thomas Larkin Clock was offered as a premium beginning in 1896. Larkin had teamed up with the highly respected Seth Thomas firm to make this offer. Larkin was smart enough to know that his business was soap and selling soap so his 'premiums' were not manufactured by his firm. The Larkin bed made its appearance the same year as the clock.

By 1898 he was imploring "Many Youths and maidens easily earn a Chautauqua Desk or Bed or other premium free by dividing the contents of a Combination Box among a few neighbors who readily pay the listed retail prices."  About the same time, advertising was cut back to smaller ads for booklets explaining the Larkin Idea and offering to send the booklet with a free sample of soap. The last full page ads in major magazines  were run in 1898-1899 mostly advertising the Larkin Bed.

1900 for selling $10.00 worth of the Larkin soaps, choice of Writing desk, Morris Chair, Bookcase, Brass and steel bed, silver tea set, oil heater, watch, etc. By 1904 they were offering over 600 premiums. By 1906 the company had expanded their line of products to include not only soap, but laundry detergent, coffee, teas, spices, backing powder, extracts and other household products. 1908 the erection of a 10 story fire-proof building at Carroll and Van Rensselaer St. at a cost of $240,000. the Larkin company remained in business even after John D. Larkin's death in 1926.  It finally fell into bankruptcy shortly after the depression.