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Bradley Corp. Drawing On Its First Sink Design To Help Reduce The Spread Of Diseases

BradleySinkWomen
Courtesy of Bradley Corporation
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Inventor Harry Bradley came up with the idea for the Washfountain after realizing the amount of time workers had to wait in line to wash their hands. He created the group handwashing concept to save time and keep workers on the shop floor.

For the past 100 years, The Bradley Corporation has been a pillar of southeast Wisconsin.

The company started in 1921 when Louis Schleisinger, Gustav Grossenbach and Howard A. Mullett purchased the patent for a new hand washing station from Harry Bradley called the Washfountain. The station, famous for its foot activated water and large sink, made hand washing faster and cleaner — especially in commercial settings.

BradleyWorkers
Courtesy of Bradley Corporation
Inventor Harry Bradley came up with the idea for the Washfountain after realizing the amount of time workers had to wait in line to wash their hands. He created the group hand washing concept to save time and keep workers on the shop floor.

Jon Dommisse, director of global strategy & corporate development for Bradley Corp., explains that the first Washfountain was installed in Harry Bradley’s own factory in 1917 and was an immediate hit.

“[The design] allowed multiple employees on the shop floor to wash their hands at the same time and not only did that save time and the employees loved it, it also saved water,” he says.

Ever since, the company has been producing products for commercial bathrooms, many that still resemble Bradley’s original design.

Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have had to think about the possible germs they are spreading everywhere they go, and Dommisse says that is going to have a permanent effect of how spaces like bathrooms in commercial buildings are designed.

One aspect from the original Bradley design that has been growing in popularity since before the pandemic and will continue to grow are no-touch sinks. But he says when designing a bathroom, the sink isn’t the only thing that might become no-touch.

“Better ways of entering bathrooms, like at airports, you’ve seen they’re doorless,” he says. “A lot of companies are looking at touch-free flushers in the bathroom stalls, so the more that you can make everything no-touch, the better it’s going to be.”

One thing that Dommisse says might never leave the bathroom is paper towel. Despite the waste it creates, he says it offers patrons not only the ability to dry their hands but also to avoid coming in direct contact with any surface that may be dirty.

ElizabethSWetherell
Courtesy of Bradley Corporation
In 1942, Elizabeth Wetherell took the helm at Bradley, making her the first female president of a Wisconsin company.

“Going forward, I think you’re going to see [hands-free] driers will be a higher percentage than they are today but you are definitely still going to see the paper towel dispenser because it plays an important role beyond just drying your hands,” he says.

Bradley Corp. hasn't only made history when it comes to bathroom products, but in 1942 the company chose Elizabeth S. Wetherell as the president of the company — making her the first female leader of a company in the state of Wisconsin.

"She didn't know it at the time but she was going to be the very first female president of any Wisconsin company," he says. "So, she really paved the road for a lot of people in Wisconsin."

Wetherell served as president for 11 years at Bradley Corp. until she was succeeded by Howard G. Mullet — son of founder Howard A. Mullett. The company has been run by the Mullett family ever since, with Bryan Mullett being named president and CEO in 2012.

Dommisse says that culture is what keeps people at Bradley Corp. for decades.

"I've been at Bradley 25 years this year, I am by no means even close to so many people who've been at Bradley for, you know, 30, 40, 45, 50 years at Bradley," he says.

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.