There is an old Sesame Street song called “L is Such Pretty Letter.” It is either sung by Grover or Oscar the Grouch. One of the lines is:
L, Linoleum, Listen to Me. ‘Cause “L” is such a pretty letter..”
The song came back to us when we were reading today about the Congoleum bankruptcy case, which has not been settled. We thought my how we HADN’T thought about Congoleum, original maker of linoleum, for ages. And then, the old song started playing in our head. And we thought dang, this great brand has been in Chapter 11 since 2003.
Yesterday, a judge held up the settlement of the Congoleum bankruptcy over lawyers fees for asbestos claims. Three cheers for Judge Kathryn Ferguson for stalling the bankruptcy, saying that the $2 million to trial lawyers Joe Rice and Perry Weitz was not explained, and that all asbestos claimants weren’t treated equally. “The debtors offer no explanation for this munificence,” said Ferguson.
We think that could be the statement of the year. We wish other judges and SEC folk would use that line.
But that’s not the point of our writing. Our point is to point out the value in the Congoleum brand name, which is totally out of the public mind these days. In a time when people cannot afford to move, and consumers need a cheap and quick picker upper for the kitchen floor, Congoleum has potential.
Congoleum, based in Mercerville, New Jersey, was founded in 1886. It still makes a wide variety of floor coverings. Most folks think of Pennsylvania-based Armstrong first when they think of decorative flooring (it was founded in 1860), but it had roots in cork. Both companies pioneered all sorts of flooring, but Armstrong has been better known in recent decades. Even if you wanted real linoleum, you wouldn’t think of Congoleum. If a hipster wanted to be green to outfit a period house, they would probably not choose a Congoleum product but would instead choose Marmoleum, which advertises itself as being a type of linoleum and all made with natural materials.
We wonder if today, with environmental consciousness, this old idea of linoleum might have some market potential? After all, you can see early versions of painted floorcloths even in Colonial Williamsburg.
Above, an ad from the vintage paper seller on Ebay, Period Paper. It shows a Congoleum Nairn ad from early in the 2oth century.
Sidenote: By the way, if you are interested in how to do over a retro suburban house, take a look at the website Retro Renovation. It has all sorts of ideas for using old style products in your very tired old house.