Mortein was first manufactured as an insecticidal powder in the 1870s by J. Hagemann, a German immigrant to Australia. It is said that Hagemann himself came up with the name Mortein, with a little help from his French wife: the famous name is a combination of the French word 'mort' (dead) and the German 'ein' (one).
Hagemann used crushed chrysanthemum flowers to produce a pyrethrum extract. The powder was originally sprinkled about, and in the 1920s a squeeze puffer was developed. Hagemann introduced a liquid version in 1928. He combined this with kerosene and had a pump pack designed (the traditional 'flit gun') which allowed the insecticide to be sprayed into the air or onto the pests themselves.
Hagemann's product was distributed wholesale by Samuel Taylor. Taylor ran his own business until his death in 1895. Soon after that , the business went broke, and in 1909 it came into the hands of F. S. Steer and Thomas Jackson. They were to revive Taylor's business and ultimately set it up as a proprietary company in 1937 as Samuel Taylor Pty Ltd. This company was to play a critical role in Mortein's development, mainly through the activities of its larger-than-life managing director from the 1940s to the 1960s, Bill Graham.
By 1953, Mortein was already a household name when the Samuel Taylor company pioneered the aerosol industry in Australia by introducing the Pressure Pak. When TV arrived in Australia in 1956, a lengthy 'infomercial' by Mortein was one of the first TV ads produced and shown in this country.
Graham believed in aggressive marketing and advertising, and saw the potential of TV as soon as it appeared. He developed new brand after new brand, including several which are household names today, such as Preen, Fabulon, Aerogard and Mr Sheen. Mortein was, perhaps, his favourite. He was a passionate believer in the safety and efficacy of his product, and once (rumour has it) drank down a glass of Mortein in front of a shocked government inquiry to demonstrate how safe it was.
In 1969 the Samuel Taylor company was bought by the British company Reckitt & Colman. The Australian firm, under its British parent, introduced and promoted to the Australian market several of the country's most familiar household names over the past few decades. Among these consumer icons, Mortein stands out as the most widely recognised of all.
Things you didn’t know about Mortein
- Mortein Pressure Pak was the first commercially produced aerosol in Australia back in the 1950s
- Mortein was a pioneer in advertising, producing one of the first television advertisements in Australia
- That loveable rogue Louie the Fly, synonymous with the name Mortein, has been around on television since 1957. Follow Louie the Fly on Facebook. Visit www.facebook.com/louiethefly?ref=br_tf.
- The name 'Mortein' is said to derive from the French 'mort' (dead) plus the German 'ein' (one) and was concocted by Mortein's German inventor and his French wife in the 1870s.
- Mortein, developed and made in Australia, has been the leading brand of household insecticide in Australian homes for over 100 years.
- Mortein was introduced into New Zealand for over many decades.
Mortein has moved a long way from the simple pyrethrum powder and early kerosene-based flit gun fly spray.
Mortein now has products to cater for all pest problems.