Stanley Murray, the plumber
You may not have heard of Stanley Murray, a smart businessman and very savvy marketer in 1954.
Stanley Murray owned a plumbing business, and we know about him almost seventy years later because of his ability to latch onto a current event to promote his enterprise.
It reads like a case study: A celebrity (in this case, Albert Einstein) makes a statement. A local business picks up on those words. The owner of the business (in this case, Stanley Murray) aligns with the celebrity, using the accumulated fame and power to boost his own standing.
Albert Einstein, the genius
Albert Einstein, a genius recognized around the world, had been worried about the loss of academic freedom and attitudes he perceived as hostile to intellectuals. Einstein thought teachers, scientists, and thinkers were not just undervalued but were being attacked during the McCarthy era.
In fact, one high-school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, William Frauenglass, taught a course called “Techniques of Intercultural Teaching.” The whole purpose of the class was to provide methods to “help ease intercultural or interracial tensions.” Mr. Frauenglass was called before Congress, accused of teaching something that was “against the interests of the United States.”
Einstein’s power of celebrity
Frauenglass wanted to be bolstered by the best defense he could think of when he appeared before Congress, so he asked the reigning genius of the day, Albert Einstein, to write a letter of support for him. Albert Einstein, a staunch anti-racist who believed in the mission Frauenglass had embarked on, wrote a letter in May of 1953 that the New York Times quoted extensively. In the letter, Einstein bemoaned what McCarthy was doing.
“The reactionary politicians have managed to instill suspicion of all intellectual efforts into the public by dangling before their eyes a danger from without. Having succeeded so far, they are now proceeding to suppress the freedom of teaching and to deprive of their positions all those who do not prove submissive, i.e., to starve them.”
A quote that went “viral” à la 1954
The next year, thinking about the trouble of Mr. Frauenglass, who had been fired from his teaching job after being called before the Senate subcommittee, Einstein penned another public letter declaring that if he were young again,
“I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”
The statement, repeated in the press, gained the equivalence of a “viral” post à la 1954, and plumbers everywhere rejoiced. One group sent Einstein a set of plumbing tools, and the plumbers union in Chicago offered him membership.
Enter Stanley Murray
Enter Stanley Murray, a New York plumber and savvy guy, who was one of many plumbers inspired by Einstein’s words.
He pitched an idea — in a written letter dated November 1954 — to Albert Einstein, suggesting a collaboration:
“Since my ambition has always been to be a scholar and yours seems to be a plumber, I suggest that as a team we would be tremendously successful. We can then be possessed by both knowledge and independence. I am ready to change the name of my firm to read: Einstein and Stanley Plumbing Co.”
Einstein didn't respond, and Murray didn’t change the name of his company, but decades after, his name went down in history as a guy who took advantage of current events to draw attention to his business.
I admit that ServiceOne doesn't have a connection with current geniuses of the day. Elon Musk doesn't have us on speed dial. Warren Buffet isn't our customer.
But what we do have, is genius plumbers.
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