William Thomas Rawleigh, or W.T. as he was later known, was an American businessman who mastered the practice of door-to-door sales of medicated ointments both in the US and overseas. His career began at the age of nine selling ink to schoolmates and country storekeepers. By the age of 17 he had turned his mother’s kitchen into a part-time factory making his medications.2 He then used a horse-drawn buggy to go from farmhouse to farmhouse selling his products. He developed a “try before you buy approach” and his dependable and honest nature won him many repeat customers.3
Rawleigh products arrived in Australia in 1928 and by 1931 the “Rawleigh Man” was operating in the MidCoast region of NSW.4 In 1938, a manual was published complete with scripts and practices to follow when selling the products called “Rawleigh Methods, A Guide Book for Rawleigh Dealers.”5 Early “Rawleigh” men in our region were H W Reid, Flight Lieutenant Gooding and Roy Smith.6 These well-dressed men would load the products into their cars or vans and travel both city and country roads selling the products.
As children we were captivated by the leather suitcase full of every cure from headache to head lice, carefully secured as the case opened out like a fan. Mother would sometimes purchase menthol antiseptic cream in a tin, suitable for every use from bites to bed sores. What a wonderful memory of all our little heads peering into the suitcase with wonderment in our eyes.
Author: Marilyn Boyd
1 Photo courtesy of North Sydney Heritage Centre, Stanton Library, viewed on 30 October 2020, https://ehive.com/collections/4907/objects/507775/tin-medicated-ointment-rawleighs
2 ‘The W. T. Rawleigh Company, Freeport, IL’, viewed on 30 October 2020, https://oldmainartifacts.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/the-w-t-rawleigh-company-freeport-il/
3 Wikipedia, ‘William Thomas Rawleigh’, viewed on 30 October 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thomas_Rawleigh#cite_note-7
4 Daily Commercial News and Shipping List, 9 May 1928, 5.
5 ‘Rawleigh methods: a guide book for Rawleigh dealers’, viewed on 30 October 2020, https://www.worldcat.org/title/rawleigh-methods-a-guide-book-for-rawleigh-dealers/oclc/28229533
6 Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 20 November 1931, 2; Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 5 October 1937, 4; Northern Champion, 18 January 1947, 2.