Solomon Rose (2001)

This year, the Pest Control magazine staff reached far, far back in the industry’s history in order to choose its posthumous inductee – Solomon Rose, founder of what’s known today as Rose Exterminator Co. Is Rose the first true pest management professional (PMP)?

A case could probably be made for it, though with his potions and powders, it’s hard to tell whether he would be in step with today’s industry.

Rose was born in Germany in 1808. He emigrated to the United States as a fairly young man, although the details on his personal life are sketchy at best. It seems that he became an entrepreneur in Cincinnati, Ohio, starting in the 1840s-and ended up as a “vermin exterminator” by the mid-1850s.

Legend has it that Rose sold pyrethrum powders to the Union Army during the American Civil War. In a January 1941 New Orleans, La., Times-Picayne article, Donald Jackman, manager of the newly established New Orleans branch office, was quoted as saying, “Solomon Rose quickly established a large mail order business for the poisons he suggested for pest control. He was the only known rat and vermin exterminator in the country at that time.

“During the War Between the States, Mr. Rose sold large quantities of insect powder to the (Union) government. In 1867, he patented a phosphorous rat paste, which was the only known rat embalmer of his day.”

Rose sold Rose’s Rat Embalmer, as well as a spray gun, powder duster and other products over the counter, by mail order and door to door. However, like 2000 Pest Control Hall of Famer Otto Orkin and other early industry pioneers, Rose’s sales demonstrations eventually gave way to a formal pest management business.

Although he was probably doing pest management for more than a decade, Rose officially founded the Rose Rat Exterminator Co. in 1860. According to a Pest Control article by Don Resetar (“A Historical Point,” August 1983, pages 24-36), it appears that Adolph Isaacsen and Son was established in New York, N.Y., in 1857, which allows it to lay claim to the industry’s first professional firm.

That is, in the United States, anyway, as there is Tiffin & Sons (motto: “T. Tiffin-Bugg Destroyer”) on record in London, England, around 1690. However, when the modern-day Rose Exterminator co. Co. acquired Adolph Isaacsen and Son many years later, the acquisition made Rose the “oldest continually operated firm in the country.”

A Rose is a Rose

When Rose was 61, his only child, Daniel, was born February 17, 1869, in Cincinnati. According to Dr. Robert Snetsinger’s landmark 1983 book, The Ratcatcher’s Child, Rose put his son to work in his early teens, selling pest management materials from a cart.

The elder Rose died May 29, 1888, but Daniel Rose continued the family business. In 1903, he entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law, Charles Menard, and the following year made Rose employee Edwin Marsh a third partner.

The partnership took Rose Exterminator into a direction different than any other pest management firm at the time. Rose, Menard and Marsh decided to expand the company by having one partner open an office in a new city and train a manager to run it.

If the new branch was successful, the manager became a “subpartner” in Rose Exterminator, owning 50 percent of the office. According to The Ratcatcher’s Child, the trio “trained their regional partners in the Rose methodology, provided them with pest control products, made visitations and held company conventions to discuss and plan company business.”

Robert Yeager, former president of Rose Exterminator in Cincinnati, started with the company in 1932. Rose, Menard and Marsh were technically retired the year before, but they each stayed in touch with the business. Surprisingly, none of the three main partners-each of whom were quite long-lived-had any children.

“Having no descendants was an unusual situation, but it made it relatively simple for contracts to be written, and for buys and sells to be made,” Yeager tells Pest Control.

Yeager’s rise in the Rose organization included being asked to manage the Cincinnati office “until they got a manager.” In January 1935, he was given the position permanently. Although he officially retired from Rose Exterminator in Cincinnati as president in 1980, Yeager stayed on as a consultant for another seven years.

“I worked up to president, little by little,” he explains. “We were able to purchase some of the individual offices, and around 1960, I was able to buy the final portion of it from Daniel Rose.”

Rose Today

Although at one time, there were several Rose partnerships around the country, today the name Rose Exterminator Co. belongs to a few separate, independent companies.

In Troy, Mich., a third generation of the Ives family is at the helm of Rose Exterminator Co. The late Harlem Ives began as manager of the Detroit office as a franchise in 1932, and his son Bill Ives took over in 1958. Today, the firm is run by Bill’s sons Russ and Jim Ives. It includes a total of 11 subsidiaries in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, as well as three sister offices (operating as Fisher Pest Control Co.) in Ohio.

In Northbrook, Ill., Bob and Judy Dold continue the work that Bob’s father, C. Norman Dold, began as a Rose general manager in 1931. At the time of his death in 1965, the elder Dold was both president of the Chicago company and national general manager for Rose Exterminator. Today, the firm has two subsidiaries in Illinois, as well as several affiliates.

In St. Louis, Mo., Rose Exterminator continues under the leadership of Mark Soell. What began as a partnership office more than 75 years ago, today is an independent firm. Meanwhile, what began as the Baltimore, Md., office in 1909 is now known as Rose-Ehrlich, with four branch offices in the Baltimore area.

  1. Vintage industry marketing: What can we learn? : Pest Management Professional

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