It was a Danish comb maker who began it all. William Jordan was born in Copenhagen on the 22 January 1809 and grew up as the eldest of 12 children. Immediately after graduation Wilhelm was sent to Kiel, Germany to seek work, and from there moved on to Hamburg where he began to learn comb-making. Under the guidance of skilled German craftsmen Wilhelm Jordan acquired the skills that laid the basis for his life’s work, creating a legacy that is still alive and well today.
After trying his luck for several years as a travelling journeyman in Central Europe, Wilhelm Jordan returned to Copenhagen and established his own comb shop. However it failed to provide him with enough money to make a living so in 1837 he closed the shop and went with two fellow comb-makers to Christiania, as Norway´s capital, Oslo, was then known, to seek their fortunes there. The three established a modest comb-making business in the city centre on 5 August 1837, which today has evolved into one of Europe’s leading brush factories.
At the same time Wilhelm Jordan applied for Norwegian citizenship which was granted on the 19th January 1838. Having completed his oath Wilhelm Jordan was granted citizenship and the status of master comb maker in Christiania. The final formalities included having eight days to present a civil letter at the police station and paying the fee to the magistrate.
Several years on and Wilhelm was well established and prospering thanks to a strong local economy. Such was his optimism that he decided to make his first significant investment, buying a property at Skippergaten 44. This strategic geographical location in the capital city provided the ideal environment from which to continue to develop his business.
In 1845 Wilhelm Jordan, sensing a business opportunity, began to take an interest in brush making as at that time Christiania had no resident brush maker of its own. Wilhelm Jordan had no previous experience of the craft, but once again set out for Hamburg and in the city's enterprising brush making environment he made a number of friends who, together with their families, accompanied him back to Christiania. With its new focus on brush-making Wilhelm Jordan’s business continued to grow and flourish.
In 1858 Christiania was hit by a major fire, which on the 14th of April burnt large numbers of houses together with their contents across many of the city's best locations. The result was that large parts of the city had to be rebuilt and refurbished, creating significant demand among the local cabinet makers for exotic foreign woods. Once again there existed no business in the city able to meet this sudden demand, and so Wilhelm Jordan returned to Hamburg where he bought three batches of high quality timber, mainly the much sought-after mahogany. This was the start of another significant new business, this time in foreign timber and the making of fine wood veneers.
Wilhelm Jordan dies
Wilhelm Jordan died on the 19th March 1879 at the age of 70, leaving behind both a thriving business empire and successors capable of preserving and building on what he had created. He died a wealthy man and a respected citizen of Christiania city. It was his oldest son, Fredrik William Jordan, born 4 September 1841, who would develop the comb and brush making businesses further. While at this time the introduction of the steam engine was bringing in power saws and lathes as means of efficient industrial production, brush making still relied on skilled craftsman working by hand to make the entire range; from the finest luxury brushes to simple brooms and scrubbing brushes.
Piassava bristles and Carl Jeppesen
In the 1870s city streets across Europe were still swept with birch brooms. However it was around this time that the United States became the first to introduce brooms made with the piassava bristles still found in use today, and the innovation soon made its way to Europe and Norway. It was Fredrik W. Jordan who first recognized this opportunity and, thanks to his connections in Denmark, he came into contact with specialist Carl Jeppesen, who moved to Christiania with his family and started production of piassava. As well as his business interests, the talented Dane also had strong social interests, playing a central role in the development of the Norwegian Labour Party of which, in 1894-1897, he was party chairman. Carl Jeppesen was also a prominent local politician and served on the city council from 1898 to 1925. From1917 to1919 he was also the capital's first Labour mayor. He was a colourful and versatile personality who left an indelible mark on the history of both Christiania and Norway. He died in January 1930 and has a street at Sandaker in Oslo named after him.
The 1870s saw the worldwide introduction of the rubber comb. Jordan was unwilling to invest in the means of mass production needed to compete in the comb sector and manufacturing ceased in 1886.
1902 - The company was converted into a family corporation - A/S W. Jordan Børste & Penselfabrik.
1911 - Fredrik William Jordan died aged 70 years. That same year, his son, Hjalmar Jordan (born 10 April 1887), joined the business. He maintained a close eye on the developments made by his foreign competitors and investigated new methods of streamlining production. Subsequent investment in modern machinery and equipment improved corporate competitiveness and spurred further growth.
1914 - The start of World War I brought a shortage of raw materials. Through his foresight as an experienced and substantial importer Jordan ensured that the warehouses were so well stocked that they maintained production without interruption throughout the war years.
In 1916, Jordan changed its address. The premises in Skippergaten had become too small and so the business moved into Waldemar Thranesgate 75, close to the town´s river. This provided opportunities to further streamline production, as well as introducing central heating. The innovation of an internal elevator also provided a new means of efficient internal transport.
Jordan, compared to conditions elsewhere at that time, was seen as a good place to work. Staff were well looked after and co-operation between the workforce and managers was excellent. Strikes were very rare and once hired staff tended to stay for many years; 60 years of continuous service was not unknown. Jordan as a company was also something of a social pioneer. For example in 1910 it established a pension fund financed entirely by corporate profits, an unusual innovation at that time.
Between the wars
"We brush the whole country"
This was a slogan that Jordan introduced at the beginning of the 1920s, and at that time the company marketers had good reason for the claim. By then Jordan brushes could be found right across the country. Even in the remotest village it was possible to buy the company's brooms and brushes.
Production and marketing of toothbrushes from 1927
In a far-reaching move Jordan introduced toothbrushes to its already wide range of brush products in 1927. This was brought about by Hjalmar Jordan, the founder's grandson and former CEO, and brought a whole new dimension to the business. It came about as a result of his widespread travels abroad where he observed the large production of toothbrushes and realized the enormous potential that this represented. From that point Hjalmar Jordan set about transforming the company in his usual purposeful and systematic way. Technically, it was a very complicated task, and the first models were only introduced after a succession of long-term experiments and favourable test results. With the product perfected, the company secured a site at Sinsen/Løren and built the country's first toothbrush plant, with production getting underway in 1933.
Soon Jordan was supplying over half of the toothbrush market in Norway. With the production equipment purchased abroad the quality of the products was considered to be almost on a par with the foreign competition.
The first prosthesis brushes also came on the market in the early 1930s. At this time celluloid also began to make inroads and Jordan decided to resume production of combs.
Having had great success with their toothbrushes in the domestic market in 1936 the company made its first foray into exports, establishing a commission warehouse in Sweden for toothbrushes, vulcanised brushes and some fine brushes.
1937 - Centenary Year
1937 saw Jordan celebrate its 100th anniversary, and at the same time it was developing into a substantial business, producing 225,000 toothbrushes that year. Turnover in 1937 was NOK 1.3 million and the company employed 144 people.
The 17th of June 1938 saw the early death of Hjalmar Jordan aged just 51 years. He was later honoured by having a road named after him in Oslo.
War Years 1940-1945
Just before the outbreak of World War II Jordan expanded production and purchased the first moulding machinery in Norway. During the war, the machine produced combs and afterwards it was used to manufacture toothbrush handles in plastic, representing a major advance in the technical capabilities of the company’s manufacturing base.
The war left its mark on the business. New production equipment was unavailable and like everyone else the company had to do its best with obsolete machinery. It was also important to keep the workforce together, as the loss of key employees could create serious problems, particularly as Jordan was the only company of its kind in the country, which made it difficult to obtain experienced workers. The end of the war was timely with the company running low on raw materials and its machinery worn out, but the situation was far from hopeless as it still had its loyal staff and the means to invest in new plant and stock.
1946 saw a major reinvestment in new machinery, and the availability of raw materials for production steadily improved. Sales also picked up as customers queued up to buy brushes and brooms.
By the early 1950s the business had two sales representatives covering the whole of Norway and had appointed distributors in all the major cities.
It was at this time that nylon replaced the pig bristles that up until then had been used in toothbrushes.
Toothbrush "Pronto" and the slogan "Jordan knows how"
In 1954 Jordan began marketing their toothbrushes in Norway under the name "Pronto." The following year the familiar slogan "Jordan knows how" was introduced. This has been a trademark of Jordan ever since and has entered the Norwegian language as a universally-recognised catch-phrase.
In 1955, the first washing-up brush featuring a plastic handle and nylon bristles was launched.
At the end of the 1950s Jordan entered a period of increasingly strong competition from abroad and intensified its sales activities. As a result an initiative to build a strong sales organization in Norway got underway.
Jordan had at the time 32 different toothbrush models. These were packed in cardboard boxes and stocked out of sight in drawers behind the counter. It was now decided that it would concentrate on only one of these toothbrushes and this should be marketed and presented on the shelves in the new self-service stores. Production and sale of the other toothbrush models was stopped.
This represented a very deliberate change in the marketing strategy. As Jordan began to expose its goods in a shop environment there developed a growing awareness of the influence of presentation on customers’ buying decisions. Jordan was one of the first companies in Norway to market-orientate its activities, with all its usual thoroughness.
Until 1957 Jordan was still primarily focused on its domestic market. When discussions began at this time about the creation of a European Common Market, which would mean greater imports of competing products into Norway, it became necessary to explore new strategic choices. As a result it was decided that the company would start exporting more of its products. Jordan also began developing, manufacturing and selling vacuum cleaner brushes and plastic mouthpieces for products made by the major vacuum cleaner manufacturers in Europe. As a highly competitive sector the latter was subject to ever-increasing price pressures, so it became a priority to further intensify the sale of Jordan's own product ranges.
1960 - Exports of toothbrushes begin
Toothbrushes had the major advantage that they were one of the few products that could be sold across almost all countries without changing the design, and Jordan made its first successful foreign sales supplying toothbrushes into the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. A versatile toothbrush rack with round shelves and room for 12 toothbrushes on each shelf was developed and launched with great success across Western Europe in the 1960s, before subsequently going worldwide.
By 1964 total sales of toothbrushes by Jordan had reached almost 8 million and sales and exports had increased 40 percent from the previous year, so it was decided to launch "Jordan" as an international trademark. By 1967, ten years after Jordan first started its export thrust, 35 per cent of total production was exported and Jordan toothbrushes were now the market leader in five countries outside Norway; Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
1960 - Jordan has an Olympic Champion
This year saw Jordan employee Roald Aas win an Olympic gold medal in the 1500 metres speed skating at Squaw Valley, USA.
1966 - Production of dental sticks starts
In the middle of the 1960s oral health started to become a matter of serious public interest. At that time Jordan established links with a hygienist at the Department of Dentistry while the production department employed a designer for the first time. The purpose of these innovative moves was to ensure that Jordan maintained a consistent developmental lead over the competition, a task that was seen as the highest priority. In 1966, Jordan decided to work all-out on the production of dental sticks. It was one of the leading periodontists, Professor Jens Wærhaug, who suggested that Jordan should develop and produce dental sticks. The goal was to create a cleaner for dental spaces which would be both more effective and easier to use than dental floss. Although many were sceptical Jordan chose to follow this advice and the product was subsequently proven to be viable.
However, the new product required new production methods. Hand milling the plates proved to be time consuming and expensive, so the company decided to construct a fully automated machine that could produce 40 000 dental sticks per sheet.
Another specially developed product, which over the years has shown steady growth, was introduced at this time: the single-pack dental stick. From modest beginnings in the 1980s, demand for this product has grown over the years and they can now be found on most flights and restaurants throughout Europe.
1967 - A new modern wood factory is built on Flisa
With the move into dental sticks Jordan realised that it needed to relocate its wood store, then located in Oslo, to a location near to where the raw materials were produced. This would result in substantial savings in transportation costs, a reduction in inventory, and the release of valuable assets. Åsnes municipality, located in Solør, was selected as the ideal location. It was close to the supply of timber and the site was 38 acres in size with the option to purchase an additional 30 acres. Jordan’s offer was accepted and the planning of a new and modern wood factory at Flisa begun. In autumn 1967, the turf cutting ceremony took place and by the end of 1968-1969, after a brief period of trial and the commissioning of machines, regular production started on the site and the wood division completed its move from Oslo to Flisa. Over the next few years, other production capabilities were transferred from Oslo to Flisa, and by the end of 1972 the factory had 60 employees.
1970 - Jordan wins Export Prize
This year saw Jordan awarded the Norwegian Trade Council’s prize for exports, sponsored by SAS. The award was made in recognition of the company's pioneering efforts in export marketing.
Later that year, dental floss was introduced to the oral hygiene range, while mouthwash was introduced in the Norwegian market. Along with toothbrushes, dental floss and dental sticks this created a comprehensive oral care offer from Jordan.
In 1971, Jordan took over the distribution of Kleenex tissues and Brylcreem in the Norwegian market. This agreement ended in the late 1970s.
1973 - Jonatann is introduced
January 1973 saw the introduction of a new celebrity to the Norwegian people. Jonatann from Jordan became very popular among both children and adults as he went about his task of helping people to take better care of their teeth and gums. Jonatann maintained excellent awareness rates among Norwegian children for a number of years, with at one point 72 percent of Norwegian children aged 6-12 years recognising Jonatann and aware of what he stood for. The Jonatann Club, established some years later, had nearly 7000 members at its peak.
The year after the introduction of Jonatann the toothbrush T4 "Jordan's new long" was launched in the Scandinavian market and Spain. It replaced a toothbrush model that had been a success since 1960. The new T4 had a longer neck than other toothbrushes on the market. This meant that it was easier to clean teeth deep in the mouth, where cavities were likely to develop.
As the world's second largest toothbrush producer Jordan felt a great responsibility for improving dental health, and continued to invest in research and development. As well as working to enhance its marketing, production and technical capabilities, Jordan also hired a dentist with special training in periodontistry as a dental consultant.
1975 - Change of name
Up until 1975 the company operated under the name A/S W. Jordan Børste & Penselfabrik. However with the strong growth internationally this was seen as impractical and it was decided to modify the name to simply Jordan AS.
1986 - Jordan wins Company of the Year
TV news magazine Business and Aftenposten, Norway´s largest newspaper, named Jordan its Company of the Year in 1986 citing, among other things, the company's ability to win market leadership, not least in an international context, following strong growth in the preceding years. Moreover, Jordan had distinguished itself as an enlightened district developer through its successful investment in Flisa, where the company has placed great emphasis on technological development, thereby delivering valuable efficiency gains.
1987 - Peri-dent, Scotland, acquired
In 1987 Jordan bought into, and later took over, Peri-dent, a leading dental floss manufacturer, together with its production facility in Scotland. As a supplier Peri-dent had the capability to deliver consistently high-quality products, an important factor for Jordan when the quality of output from suppliers could sometimes vary markedly.
1989 - Anza AB, Sweden, acquired
Back in 1973 Jordan had signed a collaboration agreement with paint brush manufacturer Bankeryd Penselfabrik in Sweden. In 1979, Jordan purchased a majority stake in the Swedish manufacturer, which had been renamed Anza, before finally, in 1989, buying the rest of the company, making it a part of the Jordan Group.
It was a logical move for Jordan, whose involvement in the production of paintbrushes dated back to Skippergaten at the end of the 1800s. While brush production had evolved over the years into a sophisticated industry, it had always been an important contributor to corporate growth and the acquisition consolidated Jordan’s position in this sector.
1998 - Toothbrush factories Sanodent and Wisdom
Since Jordan was based outside the EU, it became necessary for the company to start production of tooth brushes within the area. In 1985 it was decided to start building a new factory in Kerkrade, Netherlands. Two years later the plant was ready and was named Sanodent bv. Production on the site consisted mainly of own-label toothbrushes. In 1998 Jordan sold the Sanodent facility and bought British toothbrush manufacturer Wisdom Toothbrush Ltd.
The Trend dishwashing brush was launched in Norway and the UK this year. The Trend dishwashing brush was groundbreaking in several ways for Jordan, with a particular emphasis on design, colour and product quality.
The production of toothbrushes moved from Oslo to the factory at Flisa.
Painting tools manufacturer Hamilton Acorn Ltd in England was acquired.
Toothbrush T42 was launched, and Jordan's new main toothbrush model was a great success. T42 replaced the former main model T4 "Jordan's new long" which was launched in 1974.
A successful launch of microfibre cloths was introduced. These went on to win the company's World Wide Packaging Award and an award for Design Excellence.
Until 2003, Jordan had two production sites for toothbrushes; Wisdom in the UK and the Jordan factory at Flisa. Each of the factories had the capacity to meet the entire group-wide annual demand for toothbrushes.
In this year all toothbrush production was moved from Norway to the Wisdom factory in England. However the factory at Flisa remains one of the world's leading manufacturing sites for dental sticks and also produces household brushes for the Norwegian market.
All production of tooth brushes ceased in Norway and the StepByStep tooth brush range for kids was launched.
The international markets experienced significantly increased competition, particularly in dental brushes with several global players establishing low-cost production facilities in the Far East. Jordan likewise moved more of its toothbrush production moved from Wisdom to Asia in order to remain competitive.
Toothbrushes Clean Between and the Jordan GO were launched this year.
The Jordan Individual toothbrush was launched and quickly became Scandinavia's best-selling toothbrush. It came in a number of different designs that gave consumers the opportunity to select their personal favourite.
The new paintbrush series Basic, Perfect and Ultimate were launched with great success.
Per-Arnfinn Brekke was hired as CEO for Jordan AS. He is the sixth generation after the founder Wilhelm Jordan.
After a successful build-up of production capacity for toothbrushes in Asia, Jordan decides to sell its interest in Wisdom in England.
A new dental stick board package with new exciting designs is launched.
Jordan is now organised in two divisions - Personal & Home Care and House Care.
Personal & Home Care is responsible for oral care products sold through the grocery retail trade and pharmacies, and home cleaning products sold in the grocery trade. House Care focuses on painting tools and cleaning products sold through the do-it-yourself and professional channels.
Home Collection - a totally new kitchen collection with matching dishwash brush, kitchen cloth, and tea towel.
Fresh Mouthrinse and Protect Fluoride Rinse have been successfully launched. Both products are without alcohol and give a longlasting fresh breath and fluoride protection.
Kids toothbrushes Step by Step relaunched. Step by Step receive the award "Award for Design Excellence."
MultiAction mouth rinse is introduced. This mouthwash offers an all-in-one protection, by preventing tartar, give stronger teeth and contribute to healthier gums.
Establishment of a new global range of dental floss products.
All production of cleaning products on Flisa is decided to close down for moving out of Norway. The factory of Flisa is one of the world's leading dental sticks manufacturers and production of dental sticks will be continued at the factory.