UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 23, 2009

PASSINGS: JOHN S. BARRY, WHO BROUGHT YOU YOUR WD-40

NY Times - John S. Barry, an executive who masterminded the spread of WD-40, the petroleum-based lubricant and protectant created for the space program, into millions of American households, died on July 3 in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. He was 84.

The company says surveys show that WD-40, the slippery stuff in the blue and yellow aerosol can, can be found in as many as 80 percent of American homes and that it has at least 2,000 uses, most discovered by users themselves. These include silencing squeaky hinges, removing road tar from automobiles and protecting tools from rust.

Mr. Barry was not part of the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953, when its staff of three set out to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry in a small lab in San Diego. It took them 40 attempts to work out the water displacement formula. The name WD-40 stands for "water displacement, formulation successful in 40th attempt.". . .

WD-40 hit store shelves in San Diego in 1958. In 1961, employees came in on a Saturday to produce the first truckload shipment to meet disaster needs of victims of Hurricane Carla on the Gulf Coast. WD-40 was used to recondition flood-damaged vehicles.

Sales continued to increase, but it was the arrival of Mr. Barry as president and chief executive in 1969 that jolted the company to dominance in its unusual niche market. He immediately changed the name of Rocket Chemical to the WD-40 Company, on the indisputable theory that it did not make rockets.

Mr. Barry was fiercely dedicated to protecting the secret formula of WD-40, not to mention its trademarks and distinctive container. The company never patented WD-40, in order to avoid having to disclose the ingredients publicly. Its name became synonymous with the product, like Kleenex.

. . . He emphasized free samples, including the 10,000 the company sent every month to soldiers in the Vietnam War to keep their weapons dry. Within a little more than a decade, Mr. Barry was selling to 14,000 wholesalers, up from 1,200 when he started.

. . . People's enthusiasm for sending in ideas for using WD-40 mushroomed under Mr. Barry. The uses included preventing squirrels from climbing into a birdhouse; lubricating tuba valves; cleaning ostrich eggs for craft purposes; and freeing a tongue stuck to cold metal. A bus driver in Asia used WD-40 to remove a python that had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus.

1 Comments:

Blogger robbie said...

don't forget spraying a little WD-40 into a small pool of standing water to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs

July 26, 2009 6:59 PM  

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