Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Wardell, Fred

Fred Wardell was the founder of the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company. Born in Toronto, Canada on March 30, 1866, the family moved to Detroit in 1873 where the father, Orrin Wardell, established Wardell & Sons, auctioneers. In 1902 Wardell left a 20-year career with his father to sell vacuums for Stecher Electric and Machine Company. In 1909, Stecher made a vacuum for him that he named “Eureka” and in 1910 he opened his own company, Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company, which at first sold other companies’ vacuums.

Joined by four partners, Wardell began to make his own vacuums in a small factory he bought in 1913. That year he also became chairman of the newly formed Vacuum Cleaners Manufacturers Association. By the early 1920s he opened the company headquarters and retail outlet in a building on Broadway near John R streets. The Eureka Building still stands today. During this time Wardell created an army of door-to-door salesmen, at one time numbering 3,000. 

Over two million vacuums were sold by 1927, making Eureka the second-best selling vacuum in the United States, behind Hoover. Beginning in 1930, Eureka expanded its production of appliances, later manufacturing items such as heaters, air conditioners, and school furniture.

Wardell had another interest, real estate, and in 1925 built the Wardell Apartments (today the Park-Shelton) at Woodward Avenue and Kirby Street. In 1939 Wardell turned over the running of the company to chief of sales for Nash-Kelvinator, Henry Burritt. Among Wardell’s other pursuits were memberships in the Detroit Athletic Club, the Oakland Hills Country Club, the Pine Lake Country Club and the Detroit Golf Club. 

After a long career with Eureka, Fred Wardell passed away on January 13, 1952. He is buried in the Wardell Mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit. The Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company changed hands several times throughout the 20th century, at one time owned by Electrolux. Currently the Eureka vacuum is manufactured by the Midea Group.



Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company factory, 1930 - 2009.019.131

Eureka Vacuum Cleaner billboard, 1927 - 2008.007.190

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