The Classic Michigan Salesmen, 1900-1940s
Probably most of us – at one time or another during our lives – did some kind of selling. When we were kids it could’ve been:
Girl Scout cookies
Candy to raise money for the school band
Flower & vegetable seeds
Kool-Aid or lemonade stand in the front yard
Services to shovel snow off sidewalks during snow days
Unwanted toy, record, or comic book to a friend
As an adult, selling could include:
Getting rid of an old car
Having a yard/garage sale
Vegetable/fruit stand by the roadside, etc.
Then there are the legitimate salespeople that own their own little shops, stands, or major businesses. The point is, most of us have had SOME kind of selling experience in our lifetime, no matter how small or trivial.
One of the most uncomfortable ways of selling HAS to be going door-to-door. I remember a vacuum cleaner salesman coming to our house trying to push one of his crummy vacuums.
“Let me demonstrate” he says.
So he takes a container of Morton salt and proceeds to dump it all over our carpet. Problem was, we had a shag carpet at the time.
“There” he said, “take a look.”
So I did. There were still piles of salt hidden under the shag strands.
“Uh, look” I said, “there’s still a lot of salt there.”
So he goes over it again. And again. And once more.
Then he said goodbye and left, knowing that there was no way I was gonna buy one.
I checked the carpet again once he left. I ended up getting out our vacuum cleaner and picking up the remaining salt.
After high school I attended a gathering where potential salespeople for a new humidifier gathered to hear the spiel of the man-in-charge. Then, one-by-one, he took us to a secluded room and asked what we thought of the item.
“Great” I lied.
I didn’t get the job.
He must’ve known I thought it was a piece of……junk.
Another time in my late teens I got suckered into going to a meeting ran by one of those guys who headed a pyramid scheme. You know…you don’t get paid for any product, just by whoever else you get to come to the meeting who actually joins up. I sat listening, arms folded, through the whole scam speech. He noticed my body language and knew I was skeptical. During all this, his goons would be running up and down the aisle yelling “MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!!!” After his speech, he called up each person one-at-a-time in front of the whole crowd, put his arm around their shoulder and said, “WELL, ARE YOU GONNA FLY WITH US?”
“No” I said.
“I have other things I wanna do.”
“We have a broadcasting facility”…..(no, he didn’t).
“Nope. Sorry” and I left.
Some months later, he was arrested for fraud.
With all that said, take a look at the gallery below at some of Michigan’s old salesmen, going back over 100 years, and see how they looked and traveled!
Michigan Salesmen, 1900s-1940s
MORE VINTAGE PHOTOS OF MICHIGAN PROFESSIONS!