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Elmer's Turns 50, Isn't Just Sticking to Glue

Anniversary: New items include a folder and an eraser-sharpener. And Elmer and Elsie the cow have produced an heir.

September 19, 1997|AMY BETH GRAVES | ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Michelle Brevick needs only three things to keep her young pupils entertained for hours: a bit of borax, a few drops of food coloring and a big tub of glue.

The mix makes a colorful, gooey concoction the kids squeeze into shapes or smash onto a newspaper to pick up the image of a comic strip.

Any borax and food coloring will work.

But only Elmer's glue will do.

"It's the only one that works," said Brevick, who teaches art and science in suburban Worthington. "Nothing else does it like Elmer's."

The white glue that baby boomers grew up with celebrated its 50th anniversary in August.

To mark the milestone, Elmer's Products Inc. launched a decidedly un-glue like product called Brain Stuff. Elmer's says the items were designed by children and are its first non-glue products to be marketed to kids. Among the line's highlights: a folder that folds out like an accordion and a brain-shaped eraser-sharpener.

There's another announcement in honor of the anniversary. Elmer the bull and Elsie the cow--the bull that adorns virtually every Elmer's product and the cow that adorns Borden's milk products--have produced an heir, Elmer Jr., a grinning baby bull, who will be called E.J. for short.

E.J. will be exclusive to the Brain Stuff line.

"He's cool and hip and right on target for kids," said Mitch Kon, vice president of marketing.

It's the latest update for a glue that has become a home and schoolhouse staple.

For decades, kids have trudged to school armed with the white squeeze-bottle with the triangular orange top. They have used it for everything from sticking that big construction-paper heart onto a doily to making the perfect Valentine's Day card to crafting a bird house out of Popsicle sticks.

At home, Elmer's wood glues have saved countless pieces of furniture from the scrap heap. At the office, glue sticks have brought many a presentation together. In all, about half of the company's 200 products are used by craftsmen and the do-it-yourself market.

Even though Elmer's is celebrating its 50th, the company has been around much longer under a different name.

In 1929, Borden Inc. bought a small glue company called Cascorez and introduced the first consumer white glue, called Cascorez All-Purpose Glue, in 1947. The 29-cent glass bottle contained 2 ounces of a dry substance that had to be combined with cold water to make the glue. It came with a wooden stick for mixing.

Two years later, the Columbus-based company was renamed Elmer's. Elmer was introduced at the 1939 World's Fair as a scowling bull, then given a kinder, mellower smile in a 1994 update.

In 1968, Elmer's introduced Elmer's School Glue, the first white glue that washed out of clothes.

"When they say washable, it really works," said Carol Rezentes, who buys the glue two gallons at a time for her Brooksedge Day Care Center in Westerville, a suburb of Columbus.

Elmer's had another hit in 1992 when it introduced a gel glue that comes out blue but dries clear.

"Kids have changed and are a tougher consumer," Kon said. "The gel gave us the first indication that they wanted something cool."

Kon and his staff have their own expert team to test the new products--their own children.

"Nothing is better than for the staff to sit together with their kids to talk about a product," said Kon, whose children are ages 6 and 9. "My kids think it's really cool that they get to help out with products."

Although Brain Stuff will be the largest product line for Elmer's, there are other new products too.

Coming out this year will be Fun Dimensions, a colorful gel glue with mixed-in glitter.

Elmer's also is experimenting with the triangle tops of its glues. Its new Gooey Glue Gel features a top that dispenses--and spreads--glue.

Also coming out, a glue that will help you get unstuck.

"Our Skin Guard all-strength glue gives you a chance to fix mistakes like gluing your fingers together," Kon said. "You have enough time to get to a sink and wash it out."

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