Thread Number: 20616
Vintage 1950's Johnson & Son Convertible Floor Scrubber Polisher Buffer Cleaner
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Post# 230811   5/1/2013 at 12:00 (1,519 days old) by Electrolux137 (Los Angeles, California)        

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I get all excited whenever I see one of these old Johnson-Wax polishers! The machines are such an iconic part of my childhood. My parents didn't have one but several neighbors did, and most of the large grocery stores had a display rack of rental machines and supplies just inside the front doors, as many markets now have rug shampooers and steamers.


(I clearly remember a "C/S" grocery store that had the first automatic door I'd ever seen -- another great fascination in my childhood! My daddy would play along, standing at the door and boldly intoning, "Open, Sesame!" then stepping toward the door, making it open!)


The beautiful, very atomic-age "retro" styling of the RP machines leads me to believe they were designed by one of the leading industrial designers of the era but haven't ever been able to find out who that might have been.


I have all of the "RP" series models:


-- canary yellow Model RP-53 (the oldest, 1953)


-- turquoise model RP-54 (1954)


-- turquoise with aluminum trim RP-57 (1957), the model in this listing which was the first to have the rug-shampooer setup and thus the name"Convertible"


-- dark turquoise RP-59 "Extra Duty" commercial model, the rarest of all these models.


I also have a mid-1960s Johnson "Floor Care Machine" with a larger brush.


The RP machines make a very distinctive wurr-wurr-wurr sound that I knew instantly when I heard it!



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Post# 230816 , Reply# 1   5/1/2013 at 12:18 (1,519 days old) by Electrolux137 (Los Angeles, California)        

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I have four old Johnson-Wax TV commercials on YouTube. These all feature the 1954 RP-54 model. If you go to my "Vacuum Cleaners" channel on YouTube and scroll down, you'll find them.  I also have a couple of videos of my RP-59. (I tried to post direct links to the videos, but it appears that feature has been disabled...)



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Post# 230989 , Reply# 2   5/2/2013 at 21:04 (1,518 days old) by Paul (MN)        
Ebay pics of older Johnson floor polishers


Listed simply as a 1920s machine:



Model H:



1924 ad:



1925 ad:



1926 ads:











1927 ad:



Klear Floor Wax (1959 ad):



Johnson's Polishing Wax (1924 ad):



1949 Johnson's Glo-Coat Ad:


Post# 231029 , Reply# 3   5/3/2013 at 05:05 (1,517 days old) by paulg (my sweet home Chicago)        
Who manufactured these buffers?

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I doubt that Johnson's Wax operated the factory. I wonder whose factory put these units together...

Post# 231048 , Reply# 4   5/3/2013 at 11:23 (1,517 days old) by Electrolux137 (Los Angeles, California)        

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They were manufactured at the Johnson-Wax plant in Racine, Wisconsin.

Post# 231092 , Reply# 5   5/3/2013 at 18:22 (1,517 days old) by paulg (my sweet home Chicago)        

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I am surprised.

Post# 289783 , Reply# 6   7/21/2014 at 23:58 (1,072 days old) by electrolux137 (Los Angeles, California)        

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Here's an update on this old post (which I found via Google).

I met a guy more than 20 years ago from Racine, Wisconsin. He's a friend of the local Electrolux rep in that area. I was talking with the Electrolux guy one day and mentioned the Johnson Wax floor polishers. He told me he knew a man who was their polisher serviceman for many years. He gave me the guy's phone number. I called and began a long-distance friendship with him via phone and mail.

He confirmed that the polishers were indeed manuctured in Racine at the Johnson Wax factory. He said that the polishers were no longer made after the mid-1960s but for years thereafter, the company got so many requests from customers for service on their machines that he remained in their employ until the early 1980s.

Thereafter, he went off on his own and became an independent contractor whom JW would contact when they got service requests. He said there were plenty of people with JW machines even into the early 1990s and he continued to get occasional service requests, but eventually, having become elderly, he retired when the calls slowed down to just one or two a year.

He had some NOS polisher repair parts, belts, brushes, trim, cords, etc. that I asked him many times about buying out from him but he never got around to packing it up and sending it to me. In the late '90s he moved into a retirement community and had to dispose of his stock because he no longer had anywhere to keep it. Boy was I ever disappointed!!! :( :( :(

Post# 289840 , Reply# 7   7/22/2014 at 15:45 (1,072 days old) by kevin (USA)        

I can imagine what a disappointment it was to learn that the JW contractor simply disposed of his old stock. It's a shame that he didn't sell it or give it to you. I would take for granted that you've contacted S. C. Johnson & Son regarding parts.

I would be interested in seeing a complete list of the machines if you have one (in addition to the ones you've collected).

Were the JW rotary machines able to serve as carpet and rug shampooers also? I've never seen or heard of them advertised or described as such. If the answer is negative, then I could see why they discontinued the units with the popularity of wall-to-wall carpeting--including in kitchens and even bathrooms.

I am also wondering if it is advisable to use a rotary scrubber on a wood floor in the kitchen (around 25 years old, so not the old early- to mid-century style). I believe it's real wood and yet appears to have a seal or coating that gives it a different appearance and texture than the aforementioned wood floors. I have used a wet mop on the floor without damaging it.

Post# 289867 , Reply# 8   7/22/2014 at 20:57 (1,072 days old) by electrolux137 (Los Angeles, California)        

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S.C.Johnson Wax doesn't even know what a floor polisher is these days. They've had nothing to do with the machines ever since the ONE repairman working for them left.

The Model HP-59 was called "The Convertible" because it had both floor polishing and rug shampooing setups. I don't know how well the rug shampooer worked as I've never tried it. I do have the model but have only used it for floor polishing.

Here are some various photos including two commercial machines, one 12-in. and one 16-in.

There's no reason why you couldn't use a rotary polisher on any floor -- all commercial polishers operate on that principle -- unless the floor is sealed with acrylic or some other finishing agent that should not be machine-cleaned.

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 14         View Full Size
Post# 289881 , Reply# 9   7/22/2014 at 23:44 (1,071 days old) by kevin (USA)        

Thanks for the Johnson scrubber/polisher info., Charles; and for the response to my query of using a rotary machine on wood floors.

Since S. C. Johnson is such a popular company with an excellent reputation, I appreciated seeing the floor machines it used to manufacture--especially the Convertible because of its dual-usage properties. However, I don't think I'd like the single handle. I guess it would be somewhat like holding a golf club or a bat with one hand over the other, but I am used to having two-handle bars/grips.

It's hard to believe that such a large company had only one repairman for its scrubber/polishers. Although maybe the "lonely Johnson repairman" was akin to the lonely Maytag repairman. See the video below.

The first "lonely Maytag repairman" commercial in 1967 featuring Jesse White, who played him until 1988; and later played by Gordon Jump 1989-2003, and Clay Earl Jackson since 2006):

I'd read some time ago in another thread that you had a certain series of Johnson scrubber/polishers collected which made me wonder about the full fleet of them. I wonder if S. C. Johnson has a museum of its vintage products? It would definitely be fun to visit.

By the way, have you ever heard of the Multi-Clean brand commercial scrubber/polishers (they merged with Minuteman some time ago)? That's what our school system used, back in the day and they seemed to be a good product due to their performance and longevity. Here is a link to the Multi-Clean website:

Post# 374019 , Reply# 10   6/16/2017 at 08:09 by Vicki (Somerset Pennsylvania)        
Johnson Model HP 57

I have an old Johnson's wax polisher-scrubber. I would like to take it to my church's flea market, are they worth anything?

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