Monday, July 27, 2009

Message to the Readers

Dear Readers,

First, let me thank you for reading Heroes of Capitalism. While I still believe that honoring true heroes who have used private property to create wealth is valuable, I have come to believe that there is something of greater value to which I must dedicate my private time and resources.

The past year has brought about risks to our liberty that cannot be ignored. The call for socialized health care, the blame of free markets for the financial crisis and the renewal of reliance on government to fix all evils is only the short list of concerns. It has weighed on my heart that Heroes of Capitalism as a blog is simply not doing enough to promote and protect liberty.

Let me assure you that as Heroes of Capitalism stops production, as an individual I will continue to promote and fight for liberty. Let me encourage you to take stock of the present and ask what future you want. The U.S. is at an important crossroads, and we as citizens can (and must) do more to defend our basic liberties. So let me leave you with a challenge. I challenge you to do more. I challenge you to take stock of what resources you have and what you are doing with them. I challenge you to hold on to your precious liberty while you still can.

In liberty,


Ann Zerkle
Concerned Citizen
Founder of

Monday, July 13, 2009

George Nissen

Like Kerry last week, I also looked at summer fun to find inspiration for today's Hero of Capitalism. I had to look no farther than my neighbor's backyard to find our hero; today, we honor George Nissen for his contribution to modern trampolines.

Nissen first developed the idea for the trampoline in 1934. While visiting a circus, he saw trapeze artists use their safety net as a type of elastic board on which to perform tricks. Nissen was a gymnast and saw the trapeze artists altered net as a way to train for tumbling.

Along with the help of his coach, Larry Griswold, Nissen experimented to develop a similar elastic board. The two men began to use their new invention to help in training with tumblers and in entertaining children at the gymnastic camps they hosted.

Nissen and Griswold began to make trampolines commercially in 1942 when they founded Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company. The trampoline began to be used to help in training with the military's pilots and navigators as well as the space program's astronauts. New games like Slamball, a game similar to basketball, and Bossaball, a game similar to volleyball became popular competitive sports.

Not only did Nissen invent the modern trampoline, but he also holds over 40 patents for the other contributions he has made to the sport and fitness world. With the success of the trampoline, Nissen and his partner continued to expand their business and began producing other gymnastic equipment. The men sold the business in the 1980s, but the work Nissen did continues today. Not only is the trampoline successful as training equipment or a fun backyard activity, but the sport of trampolining became an Olympic event in 2000.

Today we honor Nissen for recognizing a potential sport and new way of training while attending the circus, for developing that idea into a new product, and for successfully marketing that product to consumers. Not only did Nissen find a new way to train in gymnastics for himself, but he helped to transform ideas about tumbling and opened up new possibilities for aviation training, sports training, and recreation.

Wikipedia: Trampoline
Wikipedia: George Nissen
MIT Inventor of the week: George Nissen

Friday, July 10, 2009

Clayton Jacobson II

With the holiday weekend just behind us, I looked to summer fun for inspiration for today’s hero. Clayton Jacobson is credited as the inventor of the personal watercraft – best known as the JetSki. Jacobson’s inspiration came from his time as a dirt bike rider. He took his love for that activity and tried to figure out a way to transfer it to the water. His original idea worked well enough that Jacobson quit his job as a banker to pursue improvements to the design on a full-time basis. By 1968, Jacobson had a deal with the Bombardier Corporation to manufacture a version of his invention that became known as the Sea-Doo.

The Sea-Doo met with limited success and Jacobson eventually moved on to work with Kawasaki on a new version of the person watercraft. Improvements were made and the Jet Ski found its niche. Kawasaki went on to sell over a billion dollars worth of Jet Skis over the next two decades, but a dispute over ownership of the patents led to a split between Jacobson and the corporation and an eventual lawsuit in which Jacobson received a significant financial settlement, acknowledging his part in the evolution of the concept.

So for his contributions to summer fun and to the creation of a tremendous amount of wealth along the way, Clayton Jacobson is a Hero of Capitalism.

More on Clayton Jacobson

Don't try this at home....

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Peter Schiff

Today we celebrate Peter Schiff, renowned author, economist, and CEO of brokerage firm Euro Pacific Capital, Inc. (EPC).

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in finance and accounting, Schiff acquired a position at the brokerage firm Shearson Lehman Brothers. Less than a decade later, in 1996, he purchased his own brokerage firm, EPC – originally a Florida-based firm, Schiff purchased and reincorporated in California.

Euro Pacific Capital, Inc. operates in accordance with Schiff’s economic views. Schiff is well versed in Austrian Business Cycle theory and applies this logic to many of the investment recommendations provided by EPC.

Schiff began making a name for himself in the public eye in 2006 when he made claim that the U.S. economy was headed for disaster, stating: “the U.S. economy is like the Titanic and I am here with a lifeboat trying to get people to leave the ship… … I see a real financial crisis coming for the United States.” He went further to predict a crash in the U.S. housing market that same year. His ideas on the financial crisis and investment strategies to cope can be found in his book, Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse (first ed. Feb 2007, 2nd ed. , titled Crash Proof 2.0, Sept. 2009). While many commentators debated Schiff’s claims (some outright laughing at his suggestions), few can now disagree that Peter Schiff was right in his assertions.

Today Schiff continues to spread his ideas via tv appearances and his daily blog. Schiff is currently considering a challenge in the political arena, an endeavor which will put him against current Connecticut senator Christopher Dodd in the next election. Schiff most recently served as Ron Paul’s economic advisor during Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

We honor Peter Schiff as a Hero of Capitalism for his commitment to liberty and freedom, and for his entrepreneurial contributions – EPC and Crash Proof – which work well to promote his ideas.


Peter Schiff at Wikipedia (Euro Pacific website)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fusajiro Yamauchi and Hiroshi Yamauchi

Today we honor Fusajiro Yamauchi for founding Nintendo and Hiroshi Yamachi (Fusajiro's grandson) for making Nintendo an international brand. A native of Kyoto, Japan, F. Yamauchi started Nintendo playing cards in 1889. The handmade cards were so popular that the elder Yamauchi had to keep adding more and more employees and open another shop in Osaka.

However, it was Fusajiro's grandson, Hiroshi, that really made Nintendo the international force that it is today.
It was Hiroshi that realized
that the playing card market was limited and began to invest in other avenues. Hiroshi was the president of Nintendo from 1956 to 1975. Under his leadership,
Nintendo started to move into electronics, like this picture to the left.

Today Nintendo is a force in the market. Last year it had $16 Billion in sales and is considered by many to be the leader in electronic gaming. So, today we honor Fusajiro and Hiroshi Yamauchi for taking their private property and making Nintendo into the economic powerhouse it is today. I didn't have time to aggregate all the monetary wealth Nintendo has contributed, but I know Nintendo has brought me and millions of others great joy!


One of my favorite Nintendo-inspired Clips:

Friday, July 3, 2009

George M. Cohan

Known as the father of American musical comedy and as "the man who owned Broadway", today we honor the great American entertainer, songwriter, actor, dancer, singer, composer, and producer George M. Cohan.

Cohan was born on July 3 1878, though his family claimed that he was "Born on the Fourth of July!".

Throughout his lifetime, Cohan published over 1500 original songs, produced over three dozen Broadway shows, and also invented the "book musical", helping to close the gap between drama and musicals. Cohan was an actor on Broadway, a producer of multiple shows, was a composer, and also a star in film. A commanding presence, Cohan changed the landscape of American theater.

Today, I would like to highlight the contribution Cohan has made to the American community's patriotic songs. Cohan famously wrote "The Yankee Doodle Boy" in his first Broadway hit show Little Johnny Jones. Too old to join in the war effort of World War I, Cohan focused again on writing patriotic songs to help moral, composing "Over There" as well as "You're A Grand Old Flag". The movie Yankee Doodle Dandy is a biographical film about his life.

In 1936, President Roosevelt honored Cohan by presenting him with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his contributions to WWI moral.

Cohan made great contributions to the entertainment world, creating wealth not only for himself but also for the people around him. Today we honor Cohan for being a good business man, a great entertainer, and for the work he proudly did to honor his neighbors through song.

Wikipedia: George M. Cohan

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby

Today we celebrate Burt Shavitz – a beekeeper – and Roxanne Quimby – a candle maker – for their business creation, Burt’s Bees.

The story goes that Burt was a bit of a recluse, living in an old turkey coop and selling honey from a pickup truck. He first met Roxanne while she was hitchhiking along a highway in Maine in 1984. He stopped to pick her up and the two bonded immediately.

The two combined talents and began making beeswax candles to sell at craft fairs throughout New England. In 1988 Burt and Roxanne decided to expand production, as larger orders of their candles were beginning to sell – most notably to a New York boutique which ordered hundreds at a time. Around that time, according to the company website, Roxanne stumbled upon a 19th century book of homemade personal care recipes. And the rest is history.

In 1991, Burt’s Bees incorporated embarked on a campaign to bring several new products to market – including the beeswax lip balm, which is still their best-selling product – and expand their production facility. They relocated to North Carolina where the company resides today.

In 1999, Quimby bought Shavitz’s stake in the company for an estimated $4 million. In 2003, Quimby sold 80% of the company to AEA investors for roughly $146 million. In 2007, she sold the remaining portion to Clorox when they reportedly bought the entire company for $925 million.

Today Shavitz’s face is somewhat a familiar one – his is the bearded man pictured on each of the Burt’s Bees products. Burt’s Bees is available in nearly every big box department store and grocery chain – Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, etc. We celebrate Shavitz and Quimby as today’s Heroes of Capitalism for their outstanding rags-to-riches success.

LA Times

Monday, June 29, 2009

Earle Dickson

Many of the inventions, innovations, and discoveries made by the heroes to whom we pay daily tribute have folk origin stories. Whether they were truthful, fabricated for marketing purposes, or merely popular legends, the stories often resonated with buyers and readers because they told of everyday limitations that were overcome by the new idea or product. Housewife stories are common, for example, not only because of the endearing subject matter, but because many Heroes of Capitalism have, through various contributions to society, made life easier for housewives. Ultimately, theirs has become a diminished role to be shared by both partners in a household. Social changes share the credit for this with technological change, generated by the productive powers of capitalism.

I thought of this while reading about the background of Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages. Not only the Johnson & Johnson website, but every history of Band-Aids mentions the housewife Josephine with her myriad cuts and scrapes. Her dutiful husband Earle, armed with gauze and tape, would bandage her wounds but the bandages were clumsy and prone to falling off her hands. Earle was inspired at some point to cut little gauze squares onto strips of tape, which Josephine could cut and apply herself. The tape was adhered to a similar-sized strip of crinoline, allowing it to be rolled into a spiral for future use.

Earle Dickson (1892 - 1961) happened to be a cotton buyer for the popular medical supplies manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, where he advocated his invention to management in the early 1920's. The company began hand-producing a crude sticky bandage that was 18 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. There weren't many early sales, but after automating the process and creating bandages of varying sizes, J&J had a wild commercial success on their hands (pun not intended). Adding to the folklore, the sales of Band-Aids were supposedly kick-started after a free sample campaign with the Boy Scouts. Ironically, Boy Scouts are among the few children these days who still know what to do with the old gauze and tape.

Band-Aids became so successful that Johnson & Johnson's marketing label for the product is by far the most popular term used by the general public. I confess to not realizing the brand-distinction myself. Important improvements to the Band-Aid brand include sterilization in 1939 and vinyl tape in the late 1950's. Then there is, of course, the introduction of decorative Band-Aids and the Band-Aid as fashion statement (see below). While Dickson certainly had no idea what the Band-Aid would become, his early invention and entrepreneurial spirit started it all. Whether the story about his wife was true or mythical, he is a genuine Hero of Capitalism. History of the Band-Aid
Wikipedia: Band-Aid
Lemelson-MIT: Inventor of the Week: Earle Dickson Story about entrepreneurialism at Johnson & Johnson
75 Years of Band-Aid

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Today we honor Michael Jackson for entertaining so many. For those of you who haven't seen the news lately, Jackson passed away yesterday, so today we celebrate his private wealth creation. His popularity cannot be disputed; his Thriller album is the best selling album worldwide. Wikipedia reports that Thriller made more than $100M.

Jackson started entertaining as part of The Jackson 5 when he was only 11 years. However, most people associate the height of his popularity with the 1980s. While most people say that he was a singer, I emphasize that he was an entertainer. Jackson sang, danced and played several instruments.

Jackson's list of achievements is long. It includes 13 Grammies, 13 number one singles and many other music industry related awards. Despite Jackson's accomplishments, his legacy will remain mixed. Some people associate him with the strange behavior in his later years. Jackson was famous for veiling his children while they were out in public, having an ever changing appearance and being suspected of molestation.

Regardless of his personal life, Jackson created great wealth for many people. While I did not take the time to aggregate all the sales attributed to Jackson's work, I can assure it is large. I also cannot aggregate the joy he brought many above and beyond just monetary wealth. Today we honor Michael Jackson for using his private property to create wealth.


A Video of Michael Jackson Moonwalking:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

David Cerny

Too shocking. Offensive. Wonderful. Provocative. Fresh talent. Highly Original. These words have all been used to describe the work of internationally known Czech artist David Cerny. His work has been praised, banned, censored, loved, imitated, simply hated, and simply adored.

Today we honor David Cerny for using his intellectual property to produce wealth. Specifically, we honor him for his famous sculptors.

He became famous in 1991 when he painted a Soviet war memorial, a tank, pink. Rejoiced and seen as a cultural moment for the young Czech Republic, Cerny was thrown into the spot light. Much of Cerny's work today remains very political.

Some of his most famous sculptors are the "Tower Babies", a series of cast figures of crawling infants attached to Žižkov Television Tower. He was asked to do this by the city of Prague, but it is seen as a way to change the Communist era TV Tower. One of his other works is entitled "Piss" and is two men peeing onto a small pond, shaped as the Czech Republic.

Recently, his most controversial piece was "Entropa", a pieced commissioned by the European Union. In this peice, Cerny created a work that depicts all the countries in the EU, however, they are not shown in a favorable light. Romania is represented by a vampire, Italy by a soccer pitch with gay soccer players, France is shown only by the French word for strike, and the UK is missing entirely.

Cerny has created problems with his work also. The painting of the tank saw him arrested for vandilism. His Entropa work found him in trouble not only by offending multiple countries, but also for the work not being a collaboration between artists from each of the member states as promised, but rather for being a work by Cerny and his friends.

A slightly controversial choice for today's Hero of Capitalism, we honor Cerny for the joy he has brought to those who follow and like his work and for the new fans he receives from unsupecting Prague tourists who stumble upon his work.

I suggest doing a google image search to see more photos of Cerny's work, it is well worth your time!!

Sources: - "David Cerny, the Shape of Rebellion"
PragueTV - David Cerny
Wikipedia - David Cerny

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Andrew Nestle

In the 1930’s, a dietician named Ruth Wakefield made cookies to sell to road weary travelers who passed through the Toll House Inn that she and her husband owned. One day, Wakefield found herself without the Baker’s chocolate she needed to finish making her locally famous Butter Drop Do cookies. So instead she broke up a semi-sweet chocolate bar given to her by a friend. These chunks of chocolate did not melt like the Baker’s chocolate, but the result was not unappealing. The chocolate cookie was invented.

But we are not here to celebrate Ms. Wakefield’s ingenuity, but instead to pay tribute to the friend who gave her the chocolate; a man named Andrew Nestle. At the time of Wakefield’s discovery, Nestle had a chocolate company. When Betty Crocker featured Wakefield’s recipe on her national radio program, the idea took off and Nestle began selling more and more of his semi-sweet chocolate bars. In an effort to capitalize on this new-found popularity, he first began scoring his chocolate bars to make them easier to break up, and then be began packaging them with a little cutting tool to make it easier to turn the bars into chips.

But Nestle’s real stroke of genius came after he made a deal with Wakefield for the rights to her recipe. Nestle received the rights to the chocolate chip cookie recipe in exchange for chocolate for life for Wakefield, and placed that recipe on the package of his new product – the chocolate chip. To this day, the recipe remains on the packages of Nestle’s Chocolate Chips.

Today Nestle’s company is a diverse food products provider, offering everything from Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream to Hot Pockets. And they of course still sell those chocolate chips that I love soooooo much. With a market capitalization of over $130 BILLION, it is one of the largest corporations in the world. Obviously, not all of this wealth came directly from chocolate chips. But you've got to start somewhere, right?

More on Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some fun with Hot Pockets

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Josiah Wedgewood

Today we honor a prime mover of the early English Industrial Revolution. Josiah Wedgewood (1730–95) was born into a family of potters and he apprenticed into the trade at a young age. Young Josiah was a quick study and his technique and mastery of the trade soon led his innovative designs demanded by such luminaries as Catherine the Great of Russia and Queen Charlotte of England.

Through investment from family, Wedgewood was able to transform his process from craft to true factory production, vastly increasing the availability and decreasing the cost of pottery for the growing working class of Manchester, England. As a supporter of industrialization, Wedgewood was an investor in canals in England. In addition to his characteristic glazes, Wedgewood also developed new techniques in marketing and in the science of pottery. He developed one of the earliest pyrometers as a way of monitoring temperature in his kilns. He was also a member of the Lunar Society in Birmingham and a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery (the famous abolitionist image above was originally designed in his pottery works and was used by Wedgewood in cameo form to promote his ideas).

In addition to the aforementioned accomplishments, it should be noted as well that the fortune amassed by Wedgewood directly enabled the scientific pursuits of Charles Darwin, his grandson, by allowing him the leisure and wealth to pursue his indefatigable investigation of evolution.

Wikipedia entry
Ceramics Today profile
The Wedgewood Museum

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dan Wiesel and Alysa Binder

Most often at Heroes of Capitalism we celebrate “heroes” who have brought about great social wealth and prosperity as a result of one or many successful ventures. Today I’d like to present the hero(es) from a different angle – the risk-taking entrepreneur who has yet to realize the successes or faults of their endeavor. These individuals are the foundation to building the quality of every good and service we consume. By trial and error these individuals bring valuable information to the market necessary to provide, ultimately, exactly what the consumer wants – be it exactly what s/he is selling, something more or less than what is offered, or none of the good or service at all.

On that note, I introduce Dan Wiesel and Alysa Binder. Dan and Alysa are a husband and wife duo who’s personal interest and compassion for animals fostered their idea for an innovative new business, Pet Airways - an airline that transports pets exclusively. The service will officially launch July 14, 2009 and offer only a handful of weekly flights from five U.S. airports: Baltimore/Washington International, and non-commercial airports in the Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and New York City areas.

Dan and Alysa’s motivation for Pet Airways stems from their dissatisfaction with current means of transport for our closest companions. According to Dan and Alysa at the company website:

“There was simply no safe way for Zoe [ a Jack Russell Terrier] to comfortably fly with us. She's not a big dog. Just a little one. But a little too big to fit under the seat. Of course, there's one thing Zoe is certainly not, and that's cargo. As we're fond of telling our neighbor Janet, her boxer Samson isn't Samsonite, and she agreed. In fact, we met lots of neighbors, friends and even complete strangers who felt exactly the same way. So we got to thinking. Maybe Zoe was trying to tell us something. Maybe there was a travel solution that would suit her perfectly, and everyone else out there too.”

Being a pet owner, I am personally excited by this idea. I’ve always heard horror stories of mishaps and injuries to animals kept in the cargo area of passenger planes. As a result, I’ve always been hesitant to “ship” my boy Charlie – a five-year old chocolate lab – whenever I travel and often end up driving long distances instead of flying myself. As Dan and Alysa point out: on Pet Airways, the “pets aren’t packages, they’re ‘pawsengers.’” In fact, aside from the flight crew and “pet attendants”, all passengers will be four-legged.

Though not much can be said about the company's success at this point, I applaud Dan and Alysa's effort and acknowledge each of them as a Hero of Capitalism.

Articles about Pet Airways at:
LA Times

Friday, June 19, 2009

Willis Carrier

As I sit and stew in the early summer heat in my stuffy, upstairs apartment, I can't help but think about an invention that everyone can appreciate: the air conditioner. Air conditioning has existed in rudimentary forms for centuries, but the modern air conditioner made its first appearance in 1902 as the brainchild of a 26 year-old engineer in Syracuse, NY.

Willis Carrier (1875 - 1950) was hired out of college into a heat and ventilation research department for the Buffalo Forge Company. One of his early clients was a printer whose paper was deforming because of humidity fluctuations. Carrier determined the optimal moisture level and invented a machine that would cool and regulate the air to the temperature that corresponded with the proper humidity. The air conditioner, first described in Carrier's patent application as an "Apparatus for Treating Air," gained quick a popularity with manufacturers, food processors, and stores.

Carrier remained at the forefront of the burgeoning industry for years; engineering principles he explained in 1911 are still used in the industry.
After more than a decade with Buffalo Forge, he formed Carrier Corp., which focused on his air conditioners. The company developed new air conditioning technologies that helped spread their use from the commercial world to the retail and recreational world before entering homes. The first home model by Carrier was made in 1928. Those ubiquitous, window-anchored air conditioners appeared in the 1950s, making living in the south bearable to more people (as well as summer apartment living). For better or worse, we can credit air conditioning for the southern population boom of the latter 20th century.

Willis Carrier's contributions to society are impressive. The perils of temperature and moisture variability endanger perishables, wear out machinery, and make working environments inhospitable. It would be difficult to measure the impact on efficiency and productivity air conditioning has had, even before we consider the benefits of personal comfort. For making life more bearable to us all, Carrier is today's Hero of Capitalism.

American Heritage
Willis Carrier Wikipedia entry
History of Air Conditioning
Time 100 profile
A Short History of Air Conditioning

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Clifford Ashley

Today we honor Clifford Ashley (1881-1947) for chronicling over 2,000 knots in his The Ashley Book of Knots, which contains over 7,000 illustrations and almost 4,000 entries. Ashley worked for 11 years on the book. It is still widely used by knot tyers, which is actually a pretty big contingent (see link below). He also invented the Ashley Stopper Knot.

There is not all that much information about Ashley himself, but type the name of his book into Google and page after page refers to it. It seems to be the ultimate reference book for knot tyers. I saw a clip on CBS' Sunday Morning (see link below), where his daughter speaks about him as having a huge board where he worked out knots so that he could illustrate them.

So, we honor Clifford Ashley for taking his personal passion and talent for knots and creating an all-around reference book that is still relevant today. I highly suggest you watch the clip I linked below if this interests you at all.

Ashley Book of Knots on Amazon
The Ashley Book of Knots on Wikipedia
Clifford Ashley on Wikipedia
The International Guild of Knot Tyers

Here's a link to the clip that inspired this post.

Here's a clip about how to tie an Ashley Stopper Knot:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maxine Clark

Today we honor Maxine Clark, a woman who found a way to make the lovable teddy bear even more popular with children across the world. In 1997, Maxine Clark founded the wildly successful company, Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Clark is a true innovator, building on a love of the teddy bear that had already existed for 100 years. The idea for the Build-A-Bear Workshop first came to Clark when she was shopping with her 10 year old friend Katie. The two could not find the Beanie Baby Katie was searching for and when Katie suggested they make their own, Clark's idea for Build-A-Bear was born.

Already familiar with the retail world, she was President of Payless Shoe Source at the time, Clark began to take the steps to form her own empire. While other adults were skeptical of the idea, kids were excited about the fact that they would be able to build their own best friend.

Clark opened her first Build-A-Bear Workshop in 1997 at the Saint Louis Galleria in St. Louis, Missouri. Her store quickly expanded, and today there are over 400 stores worldwide, including stores now in Major League Baseball Stadiums and zoos. There are also over 70 million Build-A-Bear best friends and Clark's business idea appears to only be strengthening as they expand onto the web and into new arenas.

Maxine Clarks's idea for a new interactive shopping experience for children and her savvy business skills have created a new addiction among not only children, but also adults wanting a carefree afternoon. Clark's desire to make shopping once again a fun experience has not only made Clark richer, but has also enriched the life of all of her customers.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Website- Our Company. Our Story
BusinessWeek- Build-A-Bear Workshop, Maxine Clark

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jack Crawford Taylor

It’s past Memorial Day, schools are letting out, the wedding season is beginning…and America is on the road. I know I certainly am. For those who are able to fly to their destination, transportation once they arrive will likely be in the form of a rental car. Jack Crawford Taylor created a huge family fortune (est. value $14 billion) and a perennial spot on the Forbes 400 with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Enterprise started primarily as a provider of replacement cars for those who lost access to their cars in accidents. Insurance companies would negotiate a contract with Enterprise to provide those cars at reasonable rates, and Taylor’s business took off in the 1970’s when the courts ordered insurance companies to provide this service as a standard part of the insurance contract.

Although Enterprise is a common sight at airports around the country now, they have also retained this relationship with the insurance companies and many analysts cite this as the reason that Enterprise has not suffered as severe a downturn as many of the other major rental companies. As long as cars break down and people get into accidents, demand for Enterprise’s services remains strong.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car has frequently been cited as a top provider of customer service within the rental car industry and a one of the top places to launch a career. Today Enterprise is valued at over $9 billion, making it one of the largest privately owned companies in America. Crawford has created a great deal of wealth for himself and his family through his arrangement with the insurance companies and through his attention to strong customer service in an industry where product differentiation can be difficult. As a frequent Enterprise customer during my time as a business traveler, and as one who has benefitted from an Enterprise rental after a breakdown of my own, I can attest to the high quality of the Enterprise approach and to the value that was added to both of these circumstances. Given Enterprise’s rapid growth and strong reputation, it appears that I am not alone in seeing the value that Taylor’s company creates.

Jack Crawford Taylor on Forbes 400

Monday, June 15, 2009

James Watt

James Watt (1736–1819) is today's hero of capitalism for his invention of the modern steam engine and his improvements on previous designs.

Watt began his career as a home-schooled tool and instrument maker. At the University of Glasgow, where he had set up a shop when the local guild rejected his membership, Watt discovered a Newcomen Engine, a basic forerunner of his steam engine. After years of experimentation and tinkering, Watt perfected his engine and then spent massive sums securing a patent before teaming up with Matthew Boulton to manufacture them.

Watt had helped to unleash new forces on the world, revolutionizing the weaving, milling, grinding, and sawing industries. Between 1794 and 1824, Boulton & Watt made over 1,000 engines with a capacity of over 26,000 total horsepower. Eventually, the steam engine transformed not only the manufacturing industries, but it also sparked the Transportation Revolution with the advent first of steamboats and then railroads. A whole new approach to work spread across the globe as men suddenly could harness the power and energy of steam instead of relying on their own muscles—in effect, Watt helped unleash brain power to conquer muscle power for good.

Wikipedia entry
How Stuff Works Steam Engine profile
Full text of Andrew Carnegie's biography of Watt

Friday, June 12, 2009

John Pemberton

Today we honor John Pemberton (1831-1888), pharmacist and inventor of the world-famous beverage Coca-Cola.

Pemberton first concocted "coca-wine" in 1884 to serve as a remedy for nervousness and headaches. While his recipe proved to be a success - most druggist in Georgia sold Pemberton's wine - the product recipe would soon change to become the first version of the cola that we know today.

In 1886, Georgia enacted a prohibition law that prompted Pemberton to remove the alcohol from his recipe and, instead, add sugar and carbonated water. Thus, Coca-Cola was born (also known as Coke).

Named for one of its main ingredients - coca leaves - the "original" Coca-Cola recipe was claimed to serve as a cure for morphine and cocaine addiction and was sold as a patent medicine.

The rights to Coca-Cola were sold to Asa Candler in 1887, who would create the Coca-Cola Corporation one year later. Pemberton died the same year.

Candler would later change the name to the Coca-Cola Company before embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign. For the first quarter-century of the company, Coca-Cola would grow in popularity exclusively in the U.S. In 1924 the company began marketing its product abroad. And the rest is history.

The Coca-Cola Company still resides today in Atlanta, Georgia and continues to maintain the leading role in the soda industry.



A History of Cola Marketing

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pete Rozelle

Professional football is wildly successful and profitable, even by professional sports standards. With $20.4 BILLION in combined revenue due from their 4 television deals (3 of them run through 2011, and the 4th through 2013), sold out stadiums across the league, a successful website and a growing network dedicated solely to the sport, it’s fair to say that the NFL has never been in better shape. The popularity and financial stability of the National Football League finds its origins in the era led by former league commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Rozelle became the commissioner of the NFL in 1960, and his first major success may have been his most important contribution to the well-being of the league. In 1961, Congress passed the Sports Broadcasting Act, which allowed the league to pool its broadcast rights into a single package which would then be negotiated with the networks as a single commodity. Prior to his promotion, Rozelle was the league’s main man in Washington, lobbying for the act. The massive television deals that the NFL currently is able to negotiate are in no small part due to Rozelle’s efforts.

But Rozelle’s contributions did not stop there. When a rival league (the AFL) rose up to challenge the NFL’s superiority, Rozelle embraced the challenge and designed a championship matchup between the leagues – now known as the Super Bowl (a mildly successful venture, to say the least). With the success of the AFL and the Super Bowl, Rozelle successfully navigated a hugely successful merger of the two leagues in 1970.

After this episode, Rozelle opened the owners eyes to the power of expansion as a way of limiting competition. As the league’s popularity grew, Rozelle began a slow growth in the league’s size by adding teams. This served two functions – it limited the talent pool available for any rival leagues, and it placed teams in cities that would have made strong homes for franchises in a rival league. Since the AFL merger, the NFL has weathered two high profile challenges; the USFL in the mid 1980’s and the XFL in the early 2000’s, and has retained its place at the top of the football world.

When Rozelle took over as commissioner, the NFL had just 13 teams, no national television deals, and was arguable less popular than college football and professional basketball. By the time Rozelle retired from his position in 1989, he left the NFL with 28 teams, multi-million dollar deals with two networks, and the title of the fastest growing sport in North America. Since Rozelle’s time, media revenues for sports programs in general have skyrocketed, and the NFL has benefitted as much as any sport. Pete Rozelle brought a CEO’s mentality, a lobbyist’s influence and a fighter’s toughness to his role as the head of the NFL, and transformed the league into an international phenomenon that still generates obscene amounts of wealth for its owners and players, as well as hours of entertainment for its fans.

More on Rozelle

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Leo Moranz & Harry Axene

Today we celebrate Leo Moranz and Harry Axene, creators of the Tastee Freeze. While now known as a fast food restaurant, the Tastee Freeze started as a revolutionary new soft-serve pump and freezer.

The new soft-serve pump and freezer used the newest technology and far exceeded the other available options, allowing for a faster and higher quality product. Moranz and Axene also created a special nozzle to be used on Tastee Freeze ice cream, creating the five star point known today.

Moranz and Axene first allowed walk up stands to use the Tastee Freeze name in the 1950s in exchange for rent paid on the soft-serve pump needed to operate each freezer. Shortly after, they also franchised the company and saw Tastee Freeze expand from selling only ice cream to a whole menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner fast food. In 2003, Tastee Freeze was acquired by Galardi Group Franchise & Leasing, owners of Wienerschnitzel hot dog restaurant.

Today we honor Moranz and Axene for their contribution to America's sweet tooth and for their work in improving soft serve ice cream everywhere.

Tastee Freeze Official Website
Wikipedia: Tastee Freeze

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dolly Parton

Today we honor Dolly Parton (born 1946) for her work on the musical 9 to 5. Though Ms. Parton might be best known for her famous physique, her adaptation of movie 9 to 5 to the Broadway show is why we honor her today. I personally saw the show over Memorial Day weekend and it is flat out a good time. Parton kept true to the movie while appropriately updating portions. I honestly forgot that I was watching a musically because the entire thing was simply captivating.

Parton was born in Tennessee, the forth of twelve children. She's been performing since she was a young child. There are recordings of her singing when she was nine years old! Of course, she went on to a huge career. Parton has won Grammys, an Oscar, and world known for her performances. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about her is that she has remained likable and relevant through a long career.

Though Parton has used her personal talent to create wealth in many ways, today we honor for her work on the musical 9 to 5. I am certain you will see her name on this blog again in the future!

Dolly Parton's Wikipedia page
Dolly Parton's Offical Website
9 to 5 Offical Website

Here's a preview clip of 9 to 5:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Richard Warren Sears

Although the company he started has been experiencing a fair bit of trouble lately, Richard Warren Sears stands as a giant hero of capitalism.

Richard Sears was born in rural Minnesota, and like so many of the titans of the late nineteenth century, started his career in telegraphy (the dot-com, Silicon Valley industry of its day). As part of his job, he moved into being a freight agent, handling products ordered by rural retailers from urban wholesalers or manufacturers and delivered by rail. When a shipment of watches was refused, Sears contacted the company to return them, but they offered him a deal instead. Take the watches at a reduced price and sell them for whatever he could. He hit immediately on the facilitation that the telegraph communications network could provide. He began selling the watches to other freight agents along the rail line for a slightly higher price, inducing them to sell them to the ultimate customers in their communities.

Within months, Sears had become a part-time watch salesman, netting several thousand dollars in income. After he moved to Chicago to start a full-time business, he teamed up with Alvah Roebuck, a watch repairman, to begin a big operation. He relied upon trust—he offered money back guarantees, allowed COD to ensure customers could inspect his product before remitting payment, and he offered low prices—all of these helped reassure a public who had not yet become accustomed to buying products from distant merchants.

By the mid-1890s, Sears and Roebuck had expanded to hundreds of products. They began printing catalogues (much like competitor Montgomery Ward) and sending them through the mail to hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Sears particular genius lie in writing product descriptions in florid and detailed language. Modern readers of the old Sears catalogues are surprised to find pages filled not only with illustrations but also thousands of words of small-print text. Sears had a knack for discerning the mindset of rural customers—the same people he had known growing up in Minnesota. He was a consummate salesman, and his unbridled energy eventually helped the company expand, with the business organization help of Julius Rosenwald, into the premier mail order company in America. By the time Sears retired from the company in 1908, he had helped increase its sales from $138,000 per year in 1891 to $50 million annually when he left.

Other heroes of capitalism, to be profiled in the future, helped the company that Richard Sears start become a world leader, but it was the genius of the boy from Minnesota that started it all.

Sears company profile
Wikipedia entry
Profile by Lori Liggett

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan

Today we celebrate Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, a husband and wife duo that turned a vision into reality working from the basement of their home.

It all started in 1989 when Jeff Lebesch, electrical engineer and homebrewer, decided to take a trip to Belgium to explore some of the finest breweries in Europe. He made his rounds via a fat tire bicycle – which inspired his trademark brew, “Fat Tire Ale” when he returned to the states – sampling all of what Belgium had to offer. Upon returning to his basement brewery – constructed of old dairy equipment – he attempted to re-created his favorite brews from Belgium.

With the help of his wife, Kim Jordan, and having passed the taste test of several friends and neighbors, Jeff took his brew to the streets. New Belgium Brewing officially went commercial in 1991 and at the time offered the only Belgium-like beers in the U.S.

Today the brewery thrives in Fort Collins, Colorado. New Belgium is an employee-owned company – each employee earns their portion of the business after one year of service – and operates with an open-book management policy – i.e. complete fiscal transparency. New Belgium also sells its product on the promotion of sustainability. It is the first wind-powered brewery in the United States. A trip to the tasting room will reveal a building full of furniture constructed of recycled bicycle parts.

While New Belgium Brewing doesn’t distribute nation-wide (yet!), it does serve nearly every state in the west and mid-west. Until recently, the farthest state east on its distribution list was Tennessee – North Carolina now takes the prize, and will soon be joined by South Carolina and Georgia.

New Belgium Brewing, and the micro-brew industry in general, is an interesting study of entrepreneurial growth in light of relaxed regulation. A little over 25 years ago, laws prohibited the manufacture and sale of homebrew/microbrew. Today the microbrew industry is fierce competition for the old staples in America’s beer diet – Miller Co., Coors, etc. In fact, we have seen in recent months, buyouts and merges among many of the traditional names in American brewing – and consequently, many attempts by these “older” manufacturers at creating brews that cater to the consumers of microbrew.

Jeff and Kim are honored as heroes of capitalism for their entrepreneur ability and innovative effort. Their – and other microbreweries – have continued to promote new and innovative techniques in the world of brewing and consequently fostered a fast-growing industry. Cheers to Jeff and Kim.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Forrest Mars

Today we honor the hero of sweet-toothed consumers everywhere: Forrest Mars. Mars (1904 - 1999) was responsible for developing his father's chocolate company from a regional success into a multinational seller of candy and other food products. Besides creating Uncle Ben's rice and the Mars Bar, Mars hooked the world on one of the most famous candies of the last century: M&Ms.

Mars started his career by taking a modified version of his father's famous Milky Way bar to England. There in 1932 he set up shop and produced his new bar, named after himself, which has been produced in much the same manner at the same location ever since. Later during his travels in Europe that same decade, Mars came across candied chocolates and was inspired to create M&Ms.

When Mars returned to the US, he had chocolate candies on the mind but not the resources to operate a plant. He went in to business with the son of a Hershey executive to produce the M&Ms (named after the proprietors Mars and Murrie). Since Hershey had a contract with the government during the war and chocolate was being rationed, M&Ms were made exclusively for the troops.

Forrest Mars is a great example of the entrepreneur as transmitter of ideas. No, he didn't invent sugar-covered chocolate candies. They may have been common in some region of Spain or wherever it was he found them. But without him, how long would it have been before the masses enjoyed such a treat? Five years, 30 years? Heroes of Capitalism don't have to offer profound insights - or originality. We celebrate them because they made notable contributions to societal well-being. Luckily Forrest Mars knew a good idea when he saw it, and his efforts make people like me happy every time we rip open a bag of those milk chocolate goodies.

MIT Inventor of the Week
NYT Obit
Mars, Inc Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gustav Holst

Today we honor Gustav Holst (1874-1934) for creating his orchestral suite The Planets. I think anyone who has played a brass instrument has played or at least heard the "Mars" piece of this suite, but the whole thing is lovely.

Holst spent most of his life in England. His family had a history of composition and musical talent; both his father and grandfather were paid musicians and composers. Holst started to learn the piano as a young child, but due to a nerve condition, he gave it up for the trombone.

Holst seems like he was quite unusual for his time. As an adult, he became interested in Socialism and Hinduism. He was a vegetarian and passionately translated works from their original language to English. If he did not know a language, Holst learned the language by attending college classes. For instance, he translated four Sanskrit works to English and at least one Greek piece to English too.

So, today we honor Gustav Holst for making us all richer with his orchestral suite The Planets. Though I cannot aggregate the monetary wealth he's brought with his music, when I typed his name into Amazon, four pages of items came up. That's some serious value. Not only has the joy of good music made us richer, but the ongoing commercial use (see below) has made some of us richer on a monetary level as well!

Gustav Holst on Wikipedia
Holst's music on Amazon
Gustav Holst

This Reese Cups commercial features the "Jupiter" portion of The Planets. Personally, I cannot argue with the combination of candy and good music!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Arthur Nielsen

Today we honor one of the pioneers of market research whose name has become synonymous with the idea of tabulating what people want—the controversial but hugely influential Nielsen rating.

Arthur C. Nielsen (1897–1980) founded the ACNielsen company in 1923 to conduct marketing research. Prior to the advent of modern market research, firms had to gauge consumer interest in products only after they had manufactured and attempted to sell them, relying on inventory numbers and sales figures to estimate product popularity. Nielsen helped pioneer the system whereby businesses could "test market" their products to selected groups before putting them into mass assembly, distribution, and marketing. He also helped create the idea that you could use random statistical sampling at selected stores to determine a product's market share. All of this information created a revolution in marketing, allowing businesses to understand their markets more accurately and, in the end, to save huge amounts of money that might have been wasted on failed products.

Nielsen's most noted accomplishment was the developed of radio and television audience measurements, the so-called Nielsen Ratings. Though these have been criticized from various angles (potential for response bias, emerging media is more difficult to measure, executives being too quick to cancel shows based on ratings, etc.), broadcasters and advertisers nevertheless get enormously valuable information from the service and create new wealth as a result. By the time he died, twenty-nine years ago today in 1980, his company had revenue over $390 million.

Wikipedia entry
Scripophily website
Article from Journal of Marketing (July 1962)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Jack Kilby

There are many heroes of the information age. The technology that drives our lives today, making them simpler and more efficient than could have even been dreamed of a mere 50 years ago is a compilation of the best ideas of many of the best thinkers of the time. Today’s hero comes from this group. Jack Kilby was a researcher with Texas Instruments in the late 1950’s. At this time, a computer was a huge entity, filling a room in order to be capable of performing relative simple computations. And it was certainly cost-prohibitive for even the wealthiest of households.

Kilby changed this with the invention of the integrated circuit (a.k.a. the microchip) in 1959. This chip replaced the bulky vacuum-tube design that had been used as the “guts” of these mammoth computers, and allowed more processing power in significantly less space. (To be fair, Robert Noyce completed work on an integrated circuit of his own within months of Kilby and they are today recognized as co-founders of the technology.)

The integrated circuit was first used in creating affordable hand-held calculators, but as I’m sure you are all aware, such circuitry is now common in a staggering array of devises, from high-tech toys like cell-phones and laptop computers to modernized versions of older technologies like refrigerators and automobiles.

Texas Instruments became a household name on the strength of the circuit invented by Kilby, becoming a leader in calculators and an early producer of home computers as well. Kilby left Texas instruments in the 1983 to continue to work on engineering projects of his own choosing and also spent time teaching a new generation of engineers at Texas A&M University.

Kilby passed away in 2005, and many of the stories written about him at the time describe a humble man, who deflected much of the praise directed his way regarding his greatest accomplishment. But as I type this entry on my tiny laptop, listening to music on my iPod, while my microwave oven warms my coffee, I join those who wish to make a big deal about Kilby’s life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Frank McNamara and John Biggins

Because the credit card companies are currently being unfairly demonized in the media, by the President, and by Congress, I thought today we could celebrate the modern credit card as the wealth-creating and life-promoting innovation that it truly is. (For a great debate on the current issue, see here.)

Throughout the history of business, customers and merchants have depended on credit accounts to facilitate transactions. Prior to modern credit accounts, merchants would have to look up records of payments and assess credit risks on an per transaction basis with their customers. The development of the credit card facilitated an automatized means of offering a set amount of credit to the bearer of the card. Although individual stores and oil companies had issued their own company credit account cards for major clients in the early twentieth century, the first modern credit card was the Diners Club card.

Invented by Frank McNamara, who, when he was out to dinner with friends realized he had forgotten his wallet, realized how convenient it would be to have a credit account at his favorite dining spots, the Diners Club was recognized at multiple locations. Originally a cardboard wallet-sized card, the Diners Club was a charge card that required a full payment upon receipt of the monthly bill. Soon, banks entered the market and offered revolving credit lines to compete with the existing cards.

At about the same time that McNamara was developing the Diners Club, John Biggins, a banker in Brooklyn, started to offer a bank card that could be used with local merchants. The bill for the items purchased with the card would be forwarded to the bank, which would then pay the merchant and collect payment from the bank customer on agreed-upon terms.

By the 1960s, American Express, Bank of America (BankAmericard later known as Visa), and the Interbank Card Association (later MasterCard) had entered the business and the modern, general purpose credit card had taken off. Heavy Congressional regulations would follow in the 1970s, but as modern processing systems and computerized communications took off, more Americans turned to the use of credit cards and the use of personal checks and cash declined. In 1995, there were 49.5 billion checks paid in the United States and 15.6 billion credit card transactions. By 2003, that ratio had changed to 36.6 billion checks and 19 billion credit card transactions. Credit and debt cards have expanded from 33% of non-cash payments in 2000 to more than 43% in 2003, and likely even more today.

Now, as banks offer debit cards as a means of competing with credit cards, offering better rates to merchants and more limitations on spending (for those customers without impulse control), the genius of a little piece of plastic to facilitate transactions has revolutionized the customer-merchant relationship. Further, credit card companies now vigorously compete for business by offering cash back, bonus points, airline miles, and other perks for the customers.

By facilitating a quick, easy transaction model and by providing credit to those who merit it, the modern credit card, along with McNamara and Biggins, stand as giant heroes of capitalism.

Sources: article
Wikipedia entry on McNamare and Diners Club
Brief history of credit cards

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Joseph Armand Bombardier

Today we celebrate J. A. Bombardier(1907-1961), pioneer of personal recreational vehicles. Every since 1942, Bobaardier's company has made its name inventing recreational vehicles for all terrain and conditions - land, water, and snow.

Bombardier's interest in recreational vehicles stemmed from a fascination with mechanics and travel. As a native of Canada, an early goal of his was to invent a way to travel easily in the snow. In 1937, Bombardier invented the first snow mobile - a vehicle propelled by tracks (much like a tank), and guided by a pair of skis attached to a steering column.

Probably the most popular of Bombardier's products is the Sea-Doo personal watercraft (PWC). The PWC was first introduced in 1968. Due, however, to limitations on engine development, production of the watercraft was discontinued a year later and put on hold for nearly 20 years. In 1988 Bombardier began production of the PWC for the second time. Since then, the popularity of the vehicle has exploded. Engine limitations are no longer an issue. In fact, Bombardier is the leading innovator and manufacuturer of personal watercraft engines. The company maintains over half the market share for water vehicles.

Besides watercraft, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) is also the leading producer of snow mobiles - Ski-Doo and Lynx - and large competitor in the market for all terrain vehicles (ATVs), sports boats, and roadsters.

Bombardier's vision and subsequent success led to the development of an entire industry for recreational vehicles.

Wikipedia: Sea-Doo, Bombardier Recreational Products
BRP Company Website

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

John A. "Bud" Hillerich

Today we honor Bud Hillerich, founder of the Louisville Slugger. The Louisville Slugger celebrates its 125 year of production this year.

Though the origin of the first bat made by Hillerich is debated, the most popular story involves baseball great Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse, Louisville's major league team. In 1884, Bud Hillerich was watching Pete Browning play when Browning's bat broke. Hillerich invited Browning back to the woodworking shop that Hillerich's father owned. There Hillerich crafted Browning a baseball bat from a long piece of wood, and the next day Browning went 3 for 3. Shortly after orders for bats came flying in from professional baseball players across the country.

Hillerich's father, J. F. Hillerich, originally did not want to produce the bats, actually turning away some baseball players in the beginning, thinking the woodworking company would be more successful producing stair railings, porch columns, and similar items. Bud continued to be interested in producing the bats and later convinced his father that baseball bats had a large market.

In 1894, Bud registered the name "Louisville Slugger" with the U.S. Patent Office. Bud became a partner in his father's company in 1897 and the company J.F. Hillerich and Son (later changed to Hillerich & Bradsby Co.) is still a family company today.

Not only did Bud recognize the market for quality produced baseball bats, he was also a keen business man. His company was the first company to have a professional player endorse an athletic product and encouraged players to autograph the Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Hillerich & Bradsby Company also produced amateur baseball bats, a big seller since people could then use the same bat as their favorite player.

Over the years, the company has expanded the line of products they sell, but baseball bats remain a staple of the company; they have sold over 100,000,000 bats and supply over 60% of the bats for Major League Baseball players.

Today we honor Bud Hillerich for the contribution he has made to America's pastime, baseball.

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
Louisville Slugger

Monday, May 25, 2009

Walter Reed

Today we honor Walter Reed (September 13th, 1831-November 23, 1902) for spearheading the effort that confirmed that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes. This scientific discovery is sometimes credited as the reason the Panama Canal was completed and moved forward the boundaries of epidemiology and bio-medicine.

Reed grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. He graduated from the University of Virginia at age 17. In 1875, Reed earned his commission into the Army. Reed traveled to Cuba and saw first hand the terrible diseases (including yellow fever) that, much to the embarrassment of the US government killed more men than the enemy did during the Spanish-American War.

Reed led The Yellow Fever Commission. This group of men discovered that contrary to other researchers' claims, yellow fever was in face transmitted by mosquitoes, not bacteria. Reed is also credited with discovering that a mosquito has to bite an infected yellow fever patient during the three day yellow fever incubation period and can spread the disease for up to 12 days afterward. These discoveries eventually led to yellow fever becoming a non-threat throughout Cuba.

Today we honor Walter Reed for using his skill and talents to create great wealth for so many.

Walter Reed on Wikipedia
A cool little video about Walter Reed
Walter Reed biography

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rose Totino

While working in the pizza store that Rose Totino (1915-1994)owned and ran with her husband, Rose first developed the idea for making a crisp crust frozen pizza. Today we honor Rose for her ingenuity, business skills, and for inventing the crisp crust frozen pizza.

Rose was born into an Italian family in Minneapolis. She became well known in her neighborhood for the small Italian pies, pizzas, that she would make. This skill became her livelihood when she married Jim Totino and the two opened a pizza store together. Rose made a pizza and brought it into the bank to demonstrate its quality and to help secure the loan.

The couple's small pizza shop was a huge success, and was expanded from a take-out only shop to a sit down restaurant on customers wishes.

In 1962, the couple formed the business Totino's finer foods and sold frozen pizzas that could be sold at home. The new idea became a national phenomenon and the nation's love for frozen pizza was formed. While their pizza was a huge success, Rose was unhappy with the quality of the crust and continued to work to improve it.

The Totino's sold their business to Pillsbury Company for $22 million (raised from the original offer of $16 million, which Rose refused). Rose continued to work on the recipe for the pizza crust, and with Pillsbury Company discovered the pizza's quality improves if the dough is first fried and with that discovery, Totino's Crisp Crust Pizza was invented.

Rose was an innovator and an entrepreneur who introduced the world to frozen pizza and then worked to make that pizza better. She successfully realized the potential for her invention and worked to develop her idea into becoming a money making reality.

Rose is a prime example of how someone working for their own self interest can benefit multitudes of people. Not only is the world richer for having a quick late night snack or no fuss dinner, Rose and her husband were also generous philanthropists, giving away millions of dollars throughout the years to charities and educational institutions.

The New York Times Obituary
Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame
MIT Inventor the of week

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Robert Maurer, Donald Keck and Peter Schultz

While working for Corning Glass, Robert Maurer, Donald Keck and Peter Schultz invented fiber optic wire. Fiber optic wire carries up to 65,000 times as much information as copper wire and was a transformative technology in the world of communications. Without this breakthrough, the current “information age” would have been severely limited by the bandwidth limitations of the older technologies.

Corning remains one of the six major fiber optic companies operating today and nearly all of the fiber optic cable distributed across the United States is based closely to the Maurer, Keck, Schultz design. It is impossible to estimate the total wealth generated by this revolutionary technology, but over 1/3 of Corning’s $5 billion in annual revenues comes from its telecommunications division. Verizon’s plans to spend nearly $23 billion between 2004 and 2010 on installing their own nationwide fiber optic network gives another small glimpse into the incredible wealth generating capabilities of this technology.

Today, over 80 percent of the world’s long-distance communications are transmitted using fiber optic cable. The improvement in communication efficiency provided by fiber optics was a key driver of the worldwide economic expansion of the 1990’s. For their scientific achievements, Maurer, Keck and Schultz received many awards and accolades including the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor. For the enormous contribution to the growth of the worldwide economy, today they can add one more accolade: Heroes of Capitalism (I’m sure that one is almost as important to them as that National Medal of Technology)

More on Fiber Optics

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Craig Barrett

Today we honor Craig Barrett, who marks his official retirement from Intel Corp. today. Barrett served as Intel's CEO from 1998 to 2005, and as its Chairman of the Board since then. He has been at Intel since 1974, having come to the company from Stanford University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

When Barrett rose to the top of Intel, he had many legendary sets of shoes to fill, including those of former CEOs Robert Noyce (co-inventor of the integrated circuit), Gordon Moore (author of Moore's Law), and Andy Grove (who oversaw a 4,500% increase in the company's market cap as CEO).

When Barrett took over at Intel, he faced significant challenges. When the company persisted in manufacturing Pentium IV chips "too long," he witnessed rival AMD expand its market share. He immediately set the company on the task of re-gaining a leading position in the marketplace. By continuing the company's level of capital investment during the dot-com bust (a technique of spending pioneered by Andrew Carnegie in the nineteenth century), Barrett was able to bring Intel out of the hard times in a much more favorable position, allowing them to ramp up capacity when demand returned. Paul Otellini, the current CEO, has followed suit and recently announced a $7 billion projected outlay by the company in this tough economy.

As a former manufacturing manager, Barrett also knew the value of keeping manufacturing principles simple and repeatable. He implemented a "copy exactly" concept for his facilities so that everything the company did right in chip fabrication would be the same at every facility, and also so that every problem that was solved could be fixed at every location. As he told the Wall Street Journal, "I got the idea from McDonald's, "I asked myself why McDonald's french fries tasted the same wherever I went. That's what I told my guys, "We're going to be the McDonald's of semiconductors."

That level of consistency is what has helped Intel to regain the leading position in chips in the world today, so much so that the company now faces a massive (and massively unjust) $1.45 billion fine from the EU's antitrust prosecutors. Because of the great achievements he has helped Intel make, we celebrate a living hero of capitalism today, on his official retirement from the company he helped make so great.

Intel bio
Wikipedia entry
CNN/Fortune interview
Wall St. Journal Profile
"Farewell" Interview in Forbes