The Florence Brush Factory: Artifacts from the Pro Brush Company Collection
December 6, 2014 - August 16, 2015
curated by Marie Panik
The history of a local manufacturer is on display in The Florence Brush Factory: Artifacts from the Pro Brush Company Collection, 1854-1945. This exhibition traces the early history of the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company and its predecessor companies, A.P. Critchlow & Company (1854-1858), Littlefield, Parsons & Company (1858-1866) and the Florence Manufacturing Company (1866-1924).
Incorporated in 1854, A.P. Critchlow and Company manufactured buttons and daguerreotype cases made from the Florence Compound, a natural plastic based on shellac. In 1858, Alfred Critchlow sold his share of the company to his business partners who renamed the company Littlefield, Parsons and Company. The company expanded its number of case designs to become the most prolific producers of daguerreotype cases in the United States. As daguerreotypes became an obsolete form of photography in the early 1860s, the company needed to find new uses for the thermoplastic composition. In 1866, it reorganized as the Florence Manufacturing Company to manufacture hair brushes and hand mirrors made of the Florence Compound. In 1885, the company introduced the Prophylactic tooth brush, based on a patent for an improved toothbrush designed by New York dentist, Meyer L. Rhein. By 1915, this toothbrush was the company's best-selling product and in 1924, the company changed its name to the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company.