The Kern River Valley Historical Society has been in operation for over 40 years. Our mission is to preserve and communicate the rich and colorful history of this region. To achieve these goals we have established the Kern Valley Museum in downtown Kernville next to the Post Office.
Home Museum Exhibits
It’s a Larkin!

The Story of the Larkin Soap Company and Our China Cabinet By Ron Anderson....

At the museum, in the large room Home Sweet Home Exhibit stands a very nice china cabinet that has an interesting background. Hardly anyone pays much attention to it, but on the back of it is a label that has printed on it “The Larkin Company”.

What was the Larkin Company also known as the Larkin Soap Company? Founded in 1875 in Buffalo, New York, Larkin was a small soap factory that grew tremendously through a business approach called “the Larkin Idea.” The Idea transformed the company into a mail-order conglomerate by the 1900’s. It was a simple idea, but unique for its day.

They put coupons in every box of soap they sold that could be redeemed for stuff. With a catalog that went with the coupons you could redeem them for all kinds of things. To make it even better, if you wanted something more expensive than the amount of coupons you saved, you could pay the difference in cash at a greatly reduced price like a china cabinet.

This was kind of like Green Stamps or Blue Chip Stamps before the stamps were around. Larkin also sold numerous items other than soap including lamps, Morris Chairs, dining chairs and other furniture. In 1893, Larkin sent their catalog to 1.5 million customers. They later recruited housewives called “Larkin Secretaries” and children to sell their products door-to-door.

The Larkin Administrative Building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a big company, for example they made $88,000,000 in sales in 1900. That is equivalent to $342,000,000 in 2016 dollars. However, the future did not turn out rosy for the Larkin Soap Company. By 1941 they went broke and liquidated in 1942.