Cudworth-Hooper: From Hog Oilers to Businessmen

With a company as large as Cudworth Hooper, manufacturers of everything from gloves to Gadabouts, it’s easy to forget that even this huge corporation – with 36 divisions, they’re one of the largest manufacturers in the world – began from humble beginnings. And it doesn’t get any more humble than hog oilers.

Walter Horatio Hooper was born August 8, 1899 in Sowville, Tenn. His father was war hero Horatio Hooper, who had a successful mercantile business in town, and Walter was the youngest of 15 children Horatio had with his second wife Alva. Walter was known as a shy dreamer, always thinking and tinkering, and often came up with improvements to some of the items his father sold in the store.

Hooper met PJ Cudworth in 1922, when Cudworth came through Sowville on his route as a traveling salesman. Cudworth saw Hooper fiddling with a new design for a hog oiler and, impressed, offered to sell it on his route. Hooper, however, had a head better suited to mechanics than to business and misunderstood, believing that Cudworth meant only that one model. So when Cudworth came back with orders for 300 units, Hooper had to admit that he’d never drawn up plans for his design. They had to buy back the prototype at great cost just to have one to use a model. They founded Cudworth-Hooper in 1923 beginning with their hog oiler and the rest is history.

Say what you will about the company – and getting through to their customer service line is frustratingly impossible – but they haven’t forgotten their roots. Despite a catalog that has expanded into bioengineering and telecommunications, the company’s bylaws dictate that all engineers must have advanced knowledge of hog oiler design and manufacturing, and working on hog oilers continues to be the most prestigious job in the company. As Walter H. Hooper was often quoted as saying, “We must never forget that it all started with a hog oiler.”