Written by by Jackie Sexton
This article was originally published on CNN.
Beth Ford’s father was the subject of his own global media phenomenon — a scandalous divorce in the 1920s.
Her mother, philanthropist Elizabeth C. Stearns of Chicago, attempted to be the center of her family’s attention and leave her own pain behind. But Ford had no desire to follow her mother’s astute example.
Beth Ford has become the most famous heir to the Ford Motor Company fortune. Michelle Saunders
An eccentric outsider, she’d been forced to become the fifth person to house the car company’s second floor when her uncle, Henry Ford II, turned down her father’s proposed relocation of the family factory. When her mother, with whom she was briefly engaged, divorced his father in the early 1950s, Ford didn’t participate in her mother’s new post as Land O’ Lakes Limited’s C.E.O.
By the end of the decade, Ford was determined to leave her own legacy — the toilet bowl be damned.
Designed in 1932, the Geneva-based Schott Group invented the Swiffer, a device that clings to a dustpan and that clings to anything, in the first of many inventions that introduced clutter-free cleaning products to the American home.
Ford, an executive with the company, was deeply involved in a series of housecleaning campaigns that over 10 years resulted in 3 billion Swiffers being sold.
But it was the cleaner she personally invented in 1986 — called Vibrancy — that really makes people think of her.
Flushed down the toilet
The device launched in 1988 with the slogan “Greater clean, greater fun,” and it helped cause a similarly paradigm-shifting shift in toilets.
What once mostly had a high-tech look, became more and more conceptualized — the end product became less tubular and more, well, design led.
Consumers were finally educated that older toilets come with an unwelcome surprise. Smelling the end of the once all-encompassing seal, you can quickly and accidentally inhale harmful chemicals — flame retardants, in particular.
Manufacturers eventually began to tell consumers there’s a better, safer way to clean an upholstered seat.
The product transformation continued with new fluids that also cleaned surfaces, saran wrap and toilets with a variety of styles, from clean and free-form to traditional and efficient.