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From Factory to Family: The Creation of a Corporate Culture in the Larkin Company of Buffalo, New York

Howard R. Stanger
The Business History Review
Vol. 74, No. 3 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 407-433
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3116433
Page Count: 27
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From Factory to Family: The Creation of a Corporate Culture in the Larkin Company of Buffalo, New York
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Abstract

The Larkin Company of Buffalo, New York, was established in the 1870s as a small soap producer and grew to become a large mail-order house. Larkin's success could be attributed to a unique sales strategy created by Elbert Hubbard, called "The Larkin Idea," which had as its motto, "From Factory-to-Family: Save All Cost Which Adds No Value." The company sold its products exclusively through the mail to women in cooperative buying clubs. Employing a variety of marketing, advertising, and employee welfare practices, the Larkin Company built a unified corporate family of "Larkinites"-employees, customers, and executives. Larkin executives also hired architect Frank Lloyd Wright to construct a modern office complex, which became the physical representation of Larkin's culture. But changes in marketing, the departure and deaths of key executives, a seemingly anachronistic corporate culture, and poor business decisions combined to undermine the company in the mid-1920s, and by 1940 the company was virtually dead.

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