The 1920's was a very prosperous time in the United States. Business was good and there were many opportunities for people to improve their lives economically.
Harry Lichten was a very successful chemical salesman during this time period in Chicago. One day he decided that he wanted to open his own business. He figured with all of his contacts that he would probably be able to succeed. Thus, a new company was formed-The Industrial Paint and Varnish Company. The year was 1928.
The Industrial Paint and Varnish Company manufactured a wide variety of products including paints, caulks, varnishes, tile cements, etc. Over a period of years the company also drifted into the automotive field and manufactured many outstanding products including Black Swan "Stop Leak" (a car radiator stop-leak). This product was extremely popular because car radiators were not manufactured as well as they are today. With all the leaking radiators this product was very successful. ( Note - this product is still in the line today and is call Powdered Boiler Stop-Leak.)
One day a customer asked Harry if he could manufacture a putty that would not stain. Harry responded positively even though he had no idea if he would be able to do it. This was during the depression and business was terrible so he was willing to try anything.
After a number of experiments, Harry developed a putty that did not stain. The secret was in the oil. After filling this one time order there were several hundred pounds of putty left. After several months Harry observed that this left over putty was still soft and the oil did not separate. He thought that there must be another use for this product.
At this time the concept of wax gaskets was not thought of to set toilet bowls. The plumbing trade was using window putty for this procedure. It was a very sloppy process and the oils always bled out of the putty and stained the floor. Harry had found his niche. Sell his new product, Stainless Plumbers Putty, to the plumbing trade to set toilet bowls. It was a superior product, easy to use, had a long shelf life, and it did not stain the floor.
The product was an immediate success and had national distribution within a few years. It was at this time that most of the other products in the line were discontinued and the company became focused on the plumbing and heating trade.
It was also at this time that the company name needed to be changed. The "Industrial Paint and Varnish" name was no longer applicable. Harry wanted his company’s name to be something unique and memorable. After looking through booklets and encyclopedias, he read about black swans-a very rare bird. Harry liked this idea and the company name was changed to Black Swan Mfg. Co.
In the mid 1950’s Harry retired and his son Howard took control of the company. During the next twenty-five years the company had some tremendous growth, the number of products increased and Black Swan’s manufacturing capacity grew. Howard did a lot of traveling over the years calling on the plumbing wholesale trade. He made many friends all over the country and people still ask about him.
In the late 1970’s the third generation took control of Black Swan. Jeffrey Lichten, Howard’s son, arrived at the company. Jeff over the last 43 years increased sales by over 700%, increased the number of employees by 700% and has increased the number of products being offered dramatically.
Then in 2012, the fourth generation arrived at Black Swan. Francine Lichten, Jeff's daughter, joined the company. Her job has been to learn the business. She has been involved in sales, marketing, planning production and learning the mechanics of running the business.
Jeff and Francine are proud of the progress the company has made and are very optimistic and excited about the future. With the many new products in the planning stages, new markets that are being entered, the technology being used to lower production costs and with all of the new computer technology to make the office staff more efficient, Black Swan is well prepared to face the future.