A marketing and PR lesson from the 1920s

Aug. 9, 2011
By Kevin Henry
Editor, Proofs
I recently received an email from Andrew Wright, the great-great-grandson of Edwin L. Edwards, the founder of Edwards X-Ray Corporation. He was doing some research on his ancestor for a book and came across a fascinating lesson in marketing and public relations.As you can read below, Edwards faced dire circumstances in his business in the 1920s and tackled them head on. I thought the story (and approach to selling) was very interesting, and I thought you would find it fascinating as well.The story below was written by Wright…The fate of Edwards X-Ray Corporation in 1920 rested on the shoulders of its founder, Edwin L. Edwards, and its lead salesman, Jack Fisher. In the summer of that year, an Edwards machine electrocuted a dentist from Seymour, Ind. Dr. Clatus Cope came in contact with the radiator on the end of the X-ray tube. Exposed terminals on both the cabinet and tube were a known and accepted danger on nearly every commercial model of dental X-ray, the first of which was invented seven years prior. Shocks were not uncommon, but these rarely resulted in death. In the unfortunate case of Dr. Cope, the point of entry was directly over his heart.

Edwards immediately began work on designing a safer X-ray. Within five months, he invented the first high voltage guard for a mobile tube unit and designed a new Safe-T-Model that fully enclosed all parts of the machine. With the reputation and continuance of his company at stake, Edwards assigned Fisher to lead the ad campaign highlighting the new features.

Fisher ran a series of ads in Proofs and Oral Hygiene (now called Dental Economics) starting in 1921. The ads appearing in Proofs generated a lot of attention. Their conversational tone was directed at salesmen rather than the dental supply houses. Fisher created the “One A Month Club,” encouraging the salesmen to set the small, attainable goal of selling one Edwards unit a month. In doing so, he had supply salesmen coming to him, rather than the reverse.

Note: To see the series of ads, please click here.

Edwards had their best sales years during this period. Fisher wrote the following to the editor of Oral Hygiene to voice his appreciation.

Last month, March 1923, was our top month for the past three years.

Of course we are all working hard, but we give
Oral Hygiene and Proofs the bulk of the credit.

We put our new Safe-T-Model on the market in December 1921 and in 1922 we sold as many Safe-T-Models as we did Over-the-Head models, using
Oral Hygiene and Proofs as our only ad medium.*

*The letter appeared on page 16 of I believe the May 1923 issue of Oral Hygiene Junior.
Editor’s Note: On June 29, 1925, the Weber Dental Manufacturing Company purchased all of the manufacturing and patent rights, tools, equipment stock, and inventory of Edwards X-Ray Corporation.