Ettore Steccone And The Invention Of The Modern Squeegee
We know it, we love it, and every house should have one: The squeegee. The squeegee has revolutionised and simplified window cleaning for eighty years. Ever since its conception by Ettore Steccone, the squeegee has kept its iconic look and exact function, whether it’s for homes, offices, or even cars. The squeegee is universal, but who exactly is Ettore Steccone and how did he develop such an innovation?
Who Is Ettore Steccone?
This story begins all the way back in 1896, in a small village called Mongiardino in Northern Italy. Ettore Steccone was born, and a few years later, he served his country in World War One. It’s crazy to think that a hardened soldier could develop such a wholesome and peaceful invention, but the world is full of surprises. The squeegee idea didn’t come until Ettore left Italy for the American dream in the U.S. and started his journey humbly with window cleaning.
How Did Ettore Steccone Invent The Modern Squeegee?
Like many great inventors, Steccone was working as a window-cleaner (around Oakland, USA) when he realised that there could be a much better and more practical way of cleaning windows, and the tools he had definitely didn’t help with that.
He must have thought, “Why should I carry this big steel squeegee when I can invent something lighter, and more practical” thus, the modern T-shaped squeegee was invented with the help of his wife.
This new squeegee was less complicated, lighter (made of brass), and had a small rubbery edge to dry windows. It was a big hit when it was patented in 1936, and with tons of confidence in his new invention, Steccone called it ‘The New Deal’. Catchy!
The Humble Beginnings of The Squeegee Business
Ideas are one thing, but they would have been nothing if Steccone didn’t know how to manufacture and sell his new squeegee. Like most great inventions, it had humble beginnings in Steccone’s garage in Oakland, where he manufactured the squeegee.
Okay, now he has the squeegee, but Steccone needed it to be in the hand of every window cleaner. So, just like most manufacturers, he went straight to the wholesalers, but the wholesalers were not yet convinced, partly due to the size and weight of the new squeegee.
Steccone was not just an expert window cleaner and inventor, he also had a knack for the sport of selling. The biggest name in window cleaning supplies at the time was the J. Racenstein Company, and they rejected Steccone’s new innovation. So he bet them that, in time, they would be begging him to sell them his squeegees. It was a brave bet, but one that the J. Racenstein Company was probably a bit embarrassed about, but ultimately glad to lose. How you may ask? Well, Steccone turned out to also be a master planner.
First, Steccone used the oldest marketing trick in the book: Free samples. When he started giving out his squeegees to window cleaners for free, they were hooked and wanted more.
“So, Mr. Steccone, where could we get more of this squeegee?”
“Oh, you need to buy them from the J. Racenstein Company.” Brilliant!
The Squeegee Business Blooms
It took Steccone almost 20 years, but in 1954 he finally opened his own factory, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Steccone was met with several setbacks, including the aftermath of WWII, leading to metal shortages. He also lost his patent. However, he did not give up, and went on producing and selling his now-renamed ‘Ettore Master’ Squeegee until it became a worldwide hit and the go-to tool for most window cleaners.
What Makes Ettore’s Squeegee So Good?
While you might think that the secret to the Ettore Master’s functionality is the weight or T-shape design, it’s actually the rubber blade itself. The blade is so sharp and smooth that it cuts through all stains and smudges on the window like a sword. What goes into the magic formula of that rubber though? Your guess is as good as ours since it’s a closely-guarded secret no less than Colonel Sanders’ 11 spices.
Ultimately, this was the story of an Italian immigrant who got to live the true meaning of the American dream, from humble beginnings in a garage to worldwide success for his company. Steccone died in 1984. However, his legacy lives on through his family, who keep the company and the window-cleaning business alive with high-quality products.