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Schafer’s Gold Seal Sales

On this date in 1942, Harold Schafer founded the Gold Seal Company, one of the state’s largest homegrown businesses. Schafer was born near Stanton in 1912. When his father died, the 15-year-old went to school authorities and asked to take all his classes in the mornings so he could go to work the rest of the day at clothing store and a gas station jobs.

In 1936, Schafer became a traveling salesman, but he soon used that sales experience to work for himself. In 1942, he invested in a few barrels of floor wax, packaged it in a rented store basement, and began selling Gold Seal Floor Wax to North Dakota stores. He grossed just over $900 that year.

Three years later, went to Aberdeen, seeking his first out-of-state sale. After a week, he hadn’t sold a thing. But then he hit upon on an idea. The next morning, his first prospective customer was sweeping up before opening. Harold grabbed a broom, helped the man, and walked out of the store with his first Aberdeen order. “If the owner was washing windows, I started helping him…” Schafer said. “If the storekeeper was unloading a truckload of flour, I helped him. In one lumber yard, I helped unload a couple hundred sacks of cement.”

After two days, he had orders from 41 of Aberdeen’s 44 independent retailers. Eight years later, Gold Seal was selling in 45 countries and grossing 7 million dollars a year from products like Glass Wax, Mr. Bubble and Snowy Bleach.

In 1953, the Minneapolis Tribune ran a story titled “North Dakota’s Super-Salesman,” in which Schafer said, “I’ve started a new kind of business. It opens a whole new field of opportunity for young people whose only capital is their ability to sell.”

Schafer became a master of what he called “siege-gun” advertising – bigger is better. He got one of radio’s hottest personalities, Arthur Godfrey, to carry “Glass Wax” to national prominence – a new phenomena in advertising.

One of Schafer’s most outrageous promotions was at a convention, where 423,000 silver dollars were piled in a Chicago hotel ballroom – it equaled the monthly sales of Glass Wax by a major national chain. Surrounded by Brinks guards, pretty models lounged about as people waded through the money – until the floor started buckling from the weight.

It’s interesting to note that Gold Seal didn’t invent or manufacture its own products. The head office was in Bismarck, but the products all came from out-of-state. “We tried (manufacturing) once,” Schafer said. “We didn’t like it.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

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