In 1895, William Joseph Hagerty, a young chemist from South Bend, Ind., set out to find a better way to accomplish his weekly chore of polishing the family silver. He worked from a makeshift lab in the basement of his family home, measuring and mixing ingredients in a bathtub until he perfected a product that polished better, faster and with less mess than any polish before it. This was the birth of Hagerty Silver Foam and the dawn of a new method for simplifying the task of maintaining heirloom silver: wash, rinse and dry.
The first orders for Hagerty Silver Foam came from his mother’s friends and neighbors. However, word spread quickly, and it did not take long for maids and footmen of South Bend’s social elite to begin requesting the polish. William Joseph traveled door-to-door selling his polish by horse-drawn carriage to influential families in his hometown, such as the Studebakers (manufacturers of carriages and cars) and the Olivers (Oliver Chilled Plow Works). Soon mail orders from the Detroit and Chicago highbred began to roll in, and William Joseph expanded his travel with his horse, Prince, to upper-crust homes across the Midwest – all of them willing to pay the then astronomical price of $25 per gallon for his unparalleled polish.
That’s the family business story as shared by Dianna Hagerty Leinen, Director of Marketing for W.J. Hagerty & Sons, Ltd., Inc.
From the earliest days, Dianna says, the entire family was on deck to support the business. William’s wife, Elizabeth, a hat model for Marshall Fields & Co., and their 10 children would receive and fill the orders he mailed home from his days on the road. Often, they too would go door-to-door selling the polish. In two decades, a solid business tradition had been built to weather the Great Depression and hand down to the next generation . . . and the next, and next, and next, and next. W.J. Hagerty & Sons has been proudly owned and operated in South Bend by five generations of family.
Today, Hagerty products are sold in more than 27 countries around the world. They are found in the finest jewelry stores and specialty shops; are available at Bed Bath & Beyond, The Container Store, Target.com, Amazon.com, Ace, True Value; and are recommended by leading silversmiths, museums and curators.
“Additionally, for the past two decades, W. J. Hagerty & Sons has been led by women who continue the success of their brother, father and great-grandfather,” Dianna says. “Our current president, Deborah L. Hagerty, is a member of the fourth generation of the Hagerty family. In 2020 we will celebrate 125 years!”
Scope of Products
Hagerty products care for the treasures of the world. The contemporary American Hagerty product line includes: Silver Care, Jewelry Care, Home Care and Storage for silver, china and crystal. Hagerty proudly states they offer the most complete silver and jewelry care line in the world, with products to care for precious metals, gemstones, pearls, crystals and wearable smart technology. Products such as Silver Foam, Silversmiths’ Polish and Jewelry Polishing Cloths remove and prevent tarnish while maintaining the beautiful, brilliant patina of silver and gold. Hagerty’s Luxury Jewel Clean, Jewelry Foam and Jewelry Wipes gently and effectively remove oil and debris from hard and soft gemstones and precious metals.
“Our Crystal Care is the finest solution for maintaining crystal jewelry and wearable technology such as smart phone and smart watch screens,” Dianna says. “Additionally, we offer specialty applicators like the Horsehair Jewelry Brush to gently clean the hard-to-reach spaces of settings and intricate pattern work. Our jewelry storage bags and keepers organize jewelry while preventing tarnish to keep it ready to wear from one occasion to the next.”
Hagerty offers co-branding opportunities for retailers to customize the lids of Hagerty branded Jewel Clean, Silver Clean, Pearl Clean and Silver Foam jars. With 35 employees, the company prides itself on quality customer care and fast turnaround of imprinted orders.
“The demand for Hagerty products has remained steady over the years because of our commitment to sourcing quality ingredients, our innovative offerings, and the personal relationships we build with our customers,” Dianna says.
“During the first World War, William Joseph’s son, Mansiel, stopped production of the polish until the war’s end rather than lowering his standards because he was unable to obtain a quality substitute for one of the key ingredients that had a German-based origin. Although we have never again had to stop production, Mansiel’s philosophy that we only use the highest-grade ingredients available has remained through every generation. For this reason, Hagerty products are superior to all polishes and cleaners available in the marketplace.”
Innovation is key to the demand for products in any industry, and Hagerty has always been a leader in this way, Dianna says. The first major innovation was in 1895 with the easy wash, rinse and dry method for polishing silver. The second major innovation came in the 1950s when William Joseph’s grandsons, Pat and Bill Hagerty, created the first silver polish with a tarnish preventative. Hagerty Silversmiths’ Polish with R22 Tarnish Preventative put the Hagerty business up and over the top. Hagerty was, by then, a trusted brand by Carriage-trade homes such as Armour, Taft, Pillsbury, Marshall Field, Vanderbilt and Ford. Now, with the innovation of a tarnish preventative, Hagerty took a featured place on countertops in department stores nationwide because it reversed the “I-love-silver-but-it’s-too-hard-to-keep-clean” objection from customers. Today, Hagerty’s R22 Tarnish Preventative ingredient is found throughout its extensive line of products from polishes to storage items and locks out tarnish 10 times longer.
“Our Silver Care products remain top sellers, but today customers are also thrilled to find packaging solutions like Hagerty Jewelry Foam that allow consumers to easily carry their jewelry cleaner on an airplane and Crystal Care that not only maintains crystal jewelry but also beautifully cleans their luxury technology like smart watches and phone screens,” Dianna says.
A Trusted Product
At the turn of the century, Hagerty’s products cleaned and polished silver. In the 1950s, Hagerty was the first silver polish to become endorsed and certified Kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Today, all of the company’s products are Kosher. By the 1960s, its silver polishes also prevented tarnish, and the product line was expanded into home-care items such as Chandelier Cleaner and Vernax for the care of fine woods and leather, as well as jewelry care. Hagerty’s silver storage and jewelry care lines exploded in the 1970s and ‘80s and remain integral to the brand today.
The company’s newest products are Hagerty Jewelry Foam and Hagerty Crystal Care. “Hagerty Jewelry Foam is the best solution for deep cleaning all fine jewelry,” Dianna says. “The jewelry cleaner is fresh every time you use it, and the 2.5 oz. pump-style bottle makes this a perfect solution for travel. It includes a brush, is made in the USA, and is endorsed and certified Kosher.”
Hagerty Crystal Care is a new way to care for today’s most treasured possessions: smart watch, phone and tablet screens. This formula also cleans crystal jewelry and glass. Packaged in a travel-friendly 2.5 oz. pump, Crystal Care makes it easy to keep accessories smudge-free on the go. It is made in the USA and is endorsed and certified Kosher.
“Our customers tell us again and again that they use Hagerty because it’s the only product trusted by their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers,” Dianna says. “It is the most wonderful compliment to know that generations of families have found our formulas to be unparalleled for the care of their treasured heirlooms. This is possible because of our commitment to the highest quality ingredients and our expertise in the care of silver, gold, platinum, stainless steel, diamonds, gemstones, pearls and crystal.
“In the time spent cleaning and polishing family heirlooms before holidays, celebrations, and weddings, traditions are passed on from one generation to the next. Family history is explained. Tears are shed. Laughter is shared. Wisdom is imparted. Hagerty is honored to be a part of these intimate family moments. We are also honored to have partnered with and been a part of the history and business of so many jewelers in North America – and around the world. We look forward to moments yet to come!”