In 1883, George William Hoffman, an Indianapolis chemist and owner of the George William Hoffman Company, used a powder he concocted to clean rhubarb from a metal pan. He later sold the new cleaning powder to bars in Indianapolis, and it was dubbed “Bar-Keepers’ Friend.” Before he invented Bar-Keepers’ Friend, Hoffman had already established himself in the Indianapolis marketplace as a purveyor of metal polishes, cream cosmetic lotion, hog and poultry remedies, horse and cattle powders, and insect powders.
Hoffman died in 1909, at age 58, after a short “tubercular” illness. At the time of his death, the George William Hoffman Company had offices not only in Indianapolis, but also in San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans, and Chicago. In the 1950’s, the Servaas Laboratories, Inc. bought the Bar-Keepers’ Friend formula and name, and still produces the cleaner from its Indianapolis offices today.
Bar-Keepers’ Friend is not the only legacy Hoffman left behind – check out the HI article Flats Saved: Virginia Avenue, which features the Hoffman Building, located in Fountain Square.