In 1949, when Stanley Baker purchased the J.T. Eaton Co. from a man whose name he has long forgotten, Baker thought of himself as a peddler. Maybe the word “peddler” fit Baker to a “T” in those days, as he moved throughout the pest control industry selling his Red Squill and Warfarin rodent control products.
Fifty years later, Baker may still think of himself as a peddler, but others think that Baker is one of the innovative pioneers who helped to pave the rodent control road toward the future.
“Basically, I was a salesman,” Baker says as he looks back. “I had a little job before World War II selling Hartz Mountain Bird Seed. However, I was always interested in manufacturing. I wasn’t just interested in selling this or that to them, I wanted to be part of it. I was always looking for a niche market.”
Baker purchased J.T. Eaton for $2,500, and in the first year, he did $35,000 worth of business.
“I had to borrow that $2,500 against my insurance policy, but I have deliberately not paid off that note to remind me from whence I came,” he states.
The company was at first in an East Cleveland, Ohio, storefront building. It was much later in the life of the business that it moved to the current offices in Twinsburg, Ohio.
When Baker first got into rodent control 50 years ago, Red Squill was the product of the day. He learned that the J.T. Eaton Co. took oysters and dipped them in chocolate that contained Red Squill. After the product dried, it was wrapped in wax paper. Exterminators would then put the product out.
“There was a lot of resistance,” Baker says.
A short time later, Warfarin came along.
“With Warfarin, rodents literally died next to the dish,” Baker remembers. “However, it was difficult for us manufacturers to compete with our finished products against exterminators who would mix their own rodenticide product. In fact, the do-it-yourself exterminator was our biggest competitor.”
Baker hit upon the idea of taking his products to the Purdue Pest Control Conference.
“I went to Purdue for 25 consecutive years, but that was the end of that because of the snowstorms when we were either coming to or leaving West Lafayette, Ind.,” Baker states.
Approximately 15 years ago, J.T. Eaton thought so much of the Purdue Conference experience that the company launched a J.T. Eaton scholarship at that university’s Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management. Now, each year a student entering the university’s entomology program is awarded a $500 Eaton scholarship as the result of a $20,000 Eaton endowment to Purdue.
Of course, as the years moved along, J.T. Eaton developed a host of different rodenticide products.
One of the industry’s early problems was that Warfarin got moldy when it was left outside. Therefore, there was little acceptance on the part of rodents.
John Beck, a longtime pest controller and government official, helped Baker test his paraffin bait block research.
That sensitivity, whether it was created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or by Rachel Carson’s famous book Silent Spring, helped to bring about an increased emphasis on glue boards for rodent control. Once again, Baker’s company was one of the leaders in developing that technology.
Over the years, J.T. Eaton also played a role in improving rodent bait stations.
Eaton, under Baker’s guidance, also pioneered a series of other things that helped to shape the rodent industry today, including a guaranteed satisfaction program and emergency service delivery within 48 hours.
Baker passed away in 2005 at the age of 87. Learn more about Baker, his life and career on the Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame website.