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1882 The Gilded Age and Bar Keepers Friend

January 26, 2022

The year 1882 was in the midst of the Gilded Age, an era of prosperity from 1870 – to 1900. The rise of manufacturing, industrial complexes, and railroads led to the tremendous growth of cities in America. One of those cities was Indianapolis, whose population grew from less than 10,000 to more than 150,000. Due to the demand for labor, wages increased 50% in the decade from 1880 to 1890 alone. It was also the year Chemist George William Hoffman discovered Bar Keepers Friend Powdered Cleanser.

Railroads crisscrossed Indianapolis, making it ideal for manufacturing. By the mid-1880s, more than 1,000 manufacturers called Indianapolis home. Most of these factories continued to expand and grow during this period. For example, Stokely Van Camps added pork and beans to their line of canned vegetables.

Indianapolis in 1882

For those of us who know Indy, it was quite a different time. Consider this, in 1882, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument on the circle, Indiana Statehouse, and Union Station did not exist. All three were built in 1888.

In 1877 the Northwestern Christian College located at 13th and College became Butler University. Methodist Hospital wasn’t founded until 1889, and the new suburban neighborhoods of Irvington and Woodruff place were streetcar suburbs connected to the city at first by mule-drawn streetcars and then in 1890 by electric cars.

During this period, the Morton prison camp, which housed confederate army prisoners of war during the civil war, became the fairgrounds. Oscar Wilde lectured at the English Opera Hose at 120 monument circle, and  1882 saw future president Benjamin Harrison elected to the senate.

America in 1882  

In the USA, Chester Arthur succeeded to the presidency upon the assassination of President James A Garfield in September 1881.

With the high demand to fill manufacturing jobs, millions of immigrants came to America during the Gilded Age in search of the American Dream. Many came from poor nations but found they faced poverty, discrimination, and even homelessness here.

Edison powered up the first electric power plant in Manhattan and strung the first outdoor Christmas lights in 1882. In August of 1882, Standard Oil of New Jersey emerged, and New York City held the first Labor Day parade in America on September 5th, 1882.

Yale won the National College Football title, the Chicago White Stockings beat the Cincinnati Reds for the championship, and boxer John Sullivan held the heavyweight boxing crown.

New inventions included the electric iron and the adhesive bandage.

Internationally the headline in January of 1882 was the invasion and occupation of Egypt by the British.

Births and Deaths in 1882 

The future president of the United States, Franklin D Roosevelt, entertainer Jackie Gleason, painter Edward Hopper, Rocket Scientist Robert Goddard, and Speaker of the house Sam Rayburn were all born in 1882.

Poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, and Abolitionist and one of the first African American Lawyers, Robert Morris passed. A friend shot Outlaw Jesse James in the back of the head in 1882.

140th Anniversary of Bar Keepers Friend

2022 is the 140th anniversary of Bar Keepers Friend. Chemist George William Hoffman discovered the formula almost by accident. While cleaning up after cooking rhubarb, he found its cleaning potential was due to oxalic acid found naturally in rhubarb. George originally sold the powder to bars, hence the name.

Fun Fact — The Bar Keepers Friend logo represents the swinging doors of saloon.

Throughout 2022 we’ll be sharing some tidbits about the beginnings of Bar Keepers Friend because there are not many products that have remained basically unchanged for 140 years! It’s a great story.

Randy Clark - Headshot Randy Clark is a speaker, coach, and author. He publishes a weekly blog at Randy Clark Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He’s a beer geek and on weekends (after COVID-19) he can be found fronting the Rock & Roll band Under the Radar. He’s the proud father of two educators; he has four amazing grandchildren and a wife who dedicates her time to helping others. Randy is the author of the Amazon bestseller The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management.

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