Have you seen a Culligan® Water truck driving by? Maybe you have a Culligan® Water filter in your home? Or, you know the catch-phrase “Hey, Culligan Man?” Have you wondered from where the Culligan® name comes?
Culligan Water was founded by Emmett Joseph Culligan, who was also a prominent donor of time and money to the founding of the University of San Diego. In 1979, Culligan’s family donated the personal and business records of Emmett Culligan to the archives at USD. An online guide to Culligan’s collection is now available both at Digital USD and on the Online Archive of California.
Delving into Emmett Culligan’s records provides a look at Culligan as an inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, family man, and devout Catholic. Dated during the time of World War II and the Cold War, contemporary topics of race, war, environment, Communism, Catholicism and prophecies are included throughout these records. Genealogical records, correspondence, and family photographs comprise the bulk of Culligan’s personal records. Of particular significance are the 1919 letters between Emmett and Anna Harrington (later Anna Culligan) during their early courtship, and letters between Emmett, Anna, and their son Tom through the 1940s. These dozens of letters give insight into Culligan’s life in Porter, Minnesota, into early twentieth century courtship, and into Emmett and Anna’s perceptions of world events including World War II.
Culligan’s professional records document his array of entrepreneurial ventures, primarily his founding of what became Culligan, Inc. Culligan was keenly interested in many topics of water including softening water, water’s impact on health, desalination of water, and ways of locating water. This is documented throughout the collection by way of correspondence with researchers, colleagues, and government officials, Culligan’s writing and speeches, and invention and patent information. Other interests, projects, and investments pertaining to land, elk, health, and fertility tracking are also included.
Demonstration of Culligan’s ties to both the University of San Diego and his Catholic faith are prevalent throughout these records. Correspondence between Culligan and Bishop Buddy reveals their strong friendship, and Culligan’s involvement with the fundraising campaign for USD.
Not only does this collection provide a visual look at Culligan’s life through his papers, photographs, and artifacts, we have the rare treasure of hearing Culligan speak. With thirty 78 rpm vinyl and lacquer records we can hear Culligan be interviewed about Culligan Zeolite, comment on his Catholic faith, discuss the flying saucer sightings of 1947, and hear Culligan radio jingles of the 1940s.
If you are interested in learning more about Emmett Culligan, or viewing his collection, please contact University Archives and Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org.