Franchising & Cross-Marketing

Before McDonald’s King Ray Kroc was born Martha Harper built an enormous franchise empire. At a time few women worked in business, much less founded and owned them, she developed two vital strategic moves.

Harper created cross-marketing, the concept where that stores with one purpose can sell related products. Specifically, she created hair salons to sell her hair care products. Additionally, she created the modern franchise and built an enormous network of franchised salons.

Initially, Harper developed a line of beauty products. The products were successful, but distribution was a challenge. In response, she decided to create a line of salons where they could be both sold and used.

Rather than own the salons herself, a capital- and labor-intensive undertaking, she developed a franchise system. Her first franchised salon opened in 1891. Eventually she had more than 500 salons.

Susan B. Anthony and Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge were all patrons of Harper Hail Salons. Anthony often cited Harper as proof that women were equal to men.

At age 60 and still single, she married a man 24 years younger than herself eventually retiring at age 78 and passing control to him. Despite the breadth of her empire, her franchises have long since disappeared.

It wasn’t until 1925 that another successful franchise was created, Howard Johnsons.


“If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I’ll do it myself!”

Josephine Cochrane

Motive oftentimes matters to inventors.

There are two origin stories about the invention of the dishwasher by self-described socialite Josephine Cochrane.

In one version she is a wealthy socialite. Tired of servants nicking her dishes she wanted to free ordinary women from housework.

In another more realistic version, she is financially overextended. Her alcoholic husband died at age 45 leaving her flat-broke.

Whichever the reason, dishwashing has never been the same since she came up with a system that sprays water on dishes that rest in a rack.

Her company, Cochrane’s Crescent Washing Machine Company, was a hit at the 1893 World’s Fair.

Successor companies added electric motors and popularized the innovation, but Cochrane’s machine was the first dishwasher to work as advertised. KitchenAid eventually acquired her company.

She did earn a living from her machine though others made the bulk of the income with improved machines. Interesting factoid: Cochrane is the great-granddaughter of steamboat inventor John Fitch. He also failed to meaningfully profit from his invention.

Early dishwashers were extremely expensive. Until the 1960s hiring a maid cost less than buying a dishwasher. During Cochrane’s time, and for decades after, they were marketed as a machine to wash dishes less likely to cause damage than hand washing.

Sit-Flat Paper Bags

Sure, sit-flat paper bags are not the condensing steam engine, the telegraph, pneumatic tools, or the dynamo generator but they represent something new: a woman entrepreneur.

After realizing the hassle of bags that would not stand Margaret Knight set out to create a machine for a bag with a flat bottom. She worked with three machinists.

The third machinist, Charles Anan, stole and patented the idea. Anan had asked to see what she was working on and outright ripped it off. During litigation the other machinists testified, Knight showed her notes, and Anan could not entirely explain his patent. Knight won and was awarded her patent in 1871.

She built a large bag business and spent her life making various other innovations, never marrying.

She worked hard: “At the age of seventy, [Knight] is working twenty hours a day on her 89th innovation,” reported the New York Times on Oct. 19, 1913. She died in 1914 with an estate worth $275.05.

Difference Engine

Babbage’s Difference Engine, funded by Lovelace, is the first modern mechanical computer. No sooner had he announced his idea than many declared it impractical or even a hoax.

Engineers eventually built a working difference engine in 2002 proving Babbage’s ideas were viable, but the engineering processes of his time were inadequate. Presently, there are working versions of Babbage’s computer.

Initially, Babbage had trouble securing employment. Cambridge eventually awarded him the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the same chair that Issac Newton held and that Stephen Hawking would eventually hold.

“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

Ada Lovelace

Presently, Babbage and Lovelace are considered parents of the modern computer age.

Circular Saw


Tabitha Babbit

In 1777, Samuel Miller patented the first circular saw. However, the wind-powered saw did not have enough power to be of practical use.

In 1813, Tabitha Babbit, a Shaker, invented the circular.

Her insight was that sawing back and forth wasted half the motion of a saw. In response, she created a circular saw. To power the circular saw, she attached a blade to a water wheel. Today’s circular saws are typically smaller, and powered by electricity, but not altogether different.

Due to her Shaker religion, she did not believe in patents, believing her innovations to be for the good of everybody.

Men far outnumber women as noted innovators, especially during this timeframe. Babbit’s background as a Shaker, a religious community that often put women in leadership, likely contributed to her idea being adopted.

Shakers are a group that split off from Quakers to form a similar religion. During worship, they do a dance, the Shaker Dance.

Image result for shaker dance
The Shaker Dance

Among other things, Shakers believed that sex was the original sin and did away with it. To prevent temptation, men and women lived separately. Marriage and sex were forbidden. Besides leadership roles, which typically went to women, jobs were assigned based on traditional sex roles. This makes it all the more amazing that Babbit would watch men sawing wood and notice the wasted energy or a straight-edge blade.

Predictably, the prohibition on sex and marriage became a long-term problem. No sex meant no offspring. Since children typically take their parent’s religion, there are very few Shakers today. As of 2019, there are only two living Shakers left in the world.

Babbit didn’t stop inventing with the saw. She also created an improvement on the spinning wheel, an improved method to manufacture wooden teeth, and — along with others — a type of nail called a “cut nail.”

Shaker Dance