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Iowa History Daily: December 20 - Roto-Rooter's Iowa Roots

Iowa History Daily: On December 20, 1964, founder of Roto-Rooter, Samuel Oscar Blanc of Des Moines passed away after starting North America’s largest provider of plumbing, drain cleaning, and water cleanup services allowing Iowans to feel sure “away go troubles down the drain.”

Inspired in 1927 by struggles with a clogged drain in his son Milt’s apartment, Blanc set about developing a machine to help avoid future problems by clearing out drain pipe obstructions. Using a ⅙ horsepower Maytag washing machine motor, roller skate wheels, some blades, and ⅜ inch cable, Blanc developed a machine his wife Lettie named the “Roto-Rooter” during 1933.

Two years later, 1935, Blanc officially established the Roto-Rooter Corporation in Des Moines. Quickly gaining business thanks to his machine’s efficiency in cutting tree roots out of pipes and sewer lines without digging, the business took off. In 1937, the first franchises signed contracts as Roto-Rooter spread outward from the Des Moines metro. 

Other innovations, including the “Roto-Rod” machine for municipal pipes paired with effective marketing to build the company into one of the most relied-upon brands created in Iowa. In 1954, Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers recorded the company’s jingle, “away go troubles,” helping to launch the company toward nation-wide success as America’s #1 drain cleaning service. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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