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The Osborne Art Calendar Co

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Wait for the Osborne Man

From Crossroads of Commerce The Pennsylvania Railroad Calendar Art of Grif Teller, Dan Cupper, pp 48-52, Stackpol Books, First Thus Edition, 2003


“…[T]he Osborne company was a world leader in the field of color calendar printing and other forms of advertising specialties. Osborne at its peak manufactured more than 300 kinds of calendars. The style of wall calendar…traces its roots to the appearance of the 19th century American offices and working class middle class households. Edmund Burke Osborne…saw vacant wall spaces in homes and offices as an unused advertising medium. Before anyone worried about interior decorating in the home or business, or even knew what it was, the art calendar served to brighten the living room or office. It was both useful and decorative, and performed a year round advertising function for its sponsor. By 1910 when Osborne was calling its bigger calendars “indoor billboards” the company had produced its largest ever calendar.”


“Among the firms that booked the Osborne business-the bread and butter of its trade-were thousands of banks, insurance agents, real estate brokers, manufacturers, industrial farms, auto dealers, trucking firms, dairies, lumberyards, feed mills, appliance stores, jewelers, funeral homes, churches, grocers, florists, gas stations, drugstores…and labor unions. In addition to calendars, other advertising specialties included pens, pencils, key chains, dictionaries, blotters banks, baby record books Christmas greeting cards and carol books, graduation books, reprints of the Declaration of Independence, and hand fans.”


“Osborne published a weekly newsletter for its sales force. It was filled with long, tedious lists of who had sold what product to what kinds of businesses and how much revenue each sale had brought to the company. To avoid tipping off its competitors, names of clients were rarely disclosed.” [These newsletters are referenced in John Brigg’s letters to his wife, Sue throughout his years of correspondence]


“Each salesman was known as an ‘Osborne man' who sold Friendly Advertising. Prospects were urged to resist other sales pitches and to ‘wait for the Osborne man."

 "Salesman wives were considered important to the Osborne ‘family’ but, in those sexist times, were confined to being what the company called ‘Fire-builders’ who kept their husbands happy at home (and productive on the job). [This information explains some of the references on John’s letters to Sue in which it appears she is in regular contact with and admired by John’s co-workers and bosses at the main Osborne Company office.]


“The army of salesman promoted Osborne products to thousands of small businesses. Energetic sellers could turn in $1500 worth of orders in a week but the experienced representative with long standing relationships and repeat customers occasionally sold four or five or even six times that volume. Salesman earned a 20% commission on set calendar sales.”

“Each year the strategy was the same: call on repeat customers for the next year's calendar starting the day after Christmas (salesman often worked on New Year's Day)-- -and if possible be on their doorstep at daybreak; then make callbacks and solicit new business in February and thereafter. Getting out early in the year was a time proven technique: the rule the rule of thumb was that what an Osborne salesman sold in January constituted 1/4 of his sales for the year.” [This explains John’s letters that were often written the day after Christmas or New Years Day, from the road.]

“In 1898…Osborne produced its first full color calendar reproduction with an art print titled quote ‘the Florentine Girl’ and in 1899… the company and 75 employees moved to a building at 759 summer Ave Newark NJ… By 1901 the company employed 270 persons; by 1906, 300 and by 1909, 356.” [John was hired in 1905.]


In 1953 the Osborne Company was sold to a competitor.

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