Excerpt from Pages 131-132

Published May 5, 2017

If Clark’s legal efforts were not successful, his tough and farsighted management of the firm’s other affairs more than compensated. He began with the obvious step of damping out the wild oscillations between panic and euphoria caused by Singer. Clear, steady policies strengthened the credit of the firm and allowed it to avoid disruptive cash shortages like those that halted operations in the spring of 1851. Like Singer, he believed that effective marketing was crucial, and while he supported his partner’s barnstorming techniques and noisy advertising he also knew that these needed to be backed up by a system of franchised agencies to sell, demonstrate, and repair machines over an extended period. Under Clark’s direction, Singer & Co. developed the most extensive and efficient retailing network in the world. Following the example of Singer’s early promotions in the window of Smith & Conant’s, the agencies often used women to demonstrate the machines, disproving the widespread assumption that women could not work them. Meanwhile the salesmen fanned out across the country. They were notoriously competitive. In a struggle over new territory near Tacoma, Washington, a Singer salesman met a Wheeler & Wilson salesman–they reached for their guns–the Wheeler & Wilson man dropped, with two bullets in his chest. The Singer man enjoyed his triumph only until that night, when the townspeople lynched him.