Does John Glossinger ring any bells?


Chances are great that the name John Glossinger does not instantly ring a bell. He was born in Xenia in 1868. His father bought a farm when John was 12 years old, so he quit attending the city schools and went to work on the farm.

When he and his father disagreed, he left the farm for good at the age of 16, not knowing where he wanted to go. With less than $1 in his pocket he managed to take the train to Cincinnati by sneaking on and riding right behind the engine. He secured a job as a bar tender for a short time, but went back home to see his mother. That didn’t last long, so back to Cincinnati and the bar tending job from which he was later fired.

At the age of 19, he was convinced that he could make a considerable amount of money if he applied himself so he left Ohio and went to New York City during the era when skyscrapers there were four stories high.

He secured a position as an office boy for the magnificent sum of $5 per week at the Waterbury Watch Company. In time, he got a raise to $6 a week, but knew that the salesmen received considerably more.

The boss said an office boy could never be a salesman, but he managed to gather a few samples of the products and he began to visit local stores. At first the manager was upset, but the orders kept coming but John was still not considered a full-time salesman.

He put an ad in the paper that an energetic young man was seeking employment as a salesman and he secured a position with a pipe tobacco company. His first assignment was in Boston, then later Philadelphia. After seven years, he was assigned to the Chicago office which included St. Louis in the territory.

He became so successful that the American Tobacco Company offered him a job which he accepted and in just a few years, he became president of the firm. Unfortunately the company split and he found himself without a job after 24 years in the tobacco business.

He accepted the position of sales manager for a Philadelphia chocolate and cocoa manufacturing business. Things were fine for a while, but though he was earning bonuses and good commissions, the company refused to pay him the money he earned, and so he went off to seek another position.

This time, he was in contact with the Williamson Candy Company of Chicago. He found that the company was making a candy bar, something that had not been done before. Hersey was in existence, but their products were not called candy bars. John thought that this new product called “Oh Henry” had possibilities, but it had only been marketed locally. He wanted to make it into a nationally known product.

He decided to try to sell the bar first in Cleveland, and so hired boys to post cardboard signs wherever they could. The sits were small, a red card with white lettering reading “Oh Henry.”

He was holding the signs which the boys were tacking up when a car was standing at the curb. He slipped the card on the radiator and it fit. He put one on the next car and the next. A man driving a truck called out “Say, mister, come and put one on me, too,” which he did. Then the driver said “Give me one for my buddy.”

Soon he realized that tacking up the signs took too much time so they began to put the signs on the front of automobiles. What great advertising. All over town, cars had “Oh Henry” showing on their radiators, and curiosity began to take over. People saw the signs, but had no idea what it meant.

The sales force was instructed to say they did not know about “Oh Henry.” Soon they ran out of signs and so paid a local printer to publish 2,000 more cards by the next day. Soon Cleveland had thousands of red signs reading “Oh Henry”. Hundreds of people were asking what this meant.

John sent the salesmen out to get orders from the local merchants. The salesmen would carry the box of “Oh Henry” bars into the store, open the box, take out a bar and slice it so that anyone nearby could taste it. “This is a fine piece of dollar candy for a dime” was the slogan, since each bar sold for 10 cents.

The salesmen were instructed to tell the merchant that only that one box could be sold at that time, but more could be ordered.

In John’s own words “Well, Cleveland went over with a bang. We had a car-load of Oh Henry! On the railroad track worth $8,000 and before we were through, we didn’t have a bar left.”

Soon, other candy bars including Babe Ruth appeared, which sold for five cents. When John suggested lowering the price of OH Henry to five cents, the company refused, and John quit.

At the age of 66, he decided he still wanted to work but could not be hired. He took over the management of a surgical instrument company at no salary, simply for the challenge. The company began to thrive once again. After this, John resigned from the firm though he still held stock in the company.

His next venture was to write instructions for salesmen. Soon this series became “Fellow Thinker” which he wrote until he was well into his 90s.

This is one of his writings: “Let fear not weaken you, you have strength to meet any crisis that comes to you. You are equipped to meet any emergency. Have faith in yourself.”

By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and long-time historical columnist.

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