On May 2, 1885, Clark W. Bryan published the first edition of GolfHr, setting forth the purpose of the magazine as "a family journal conducted in the interests of the higher life of the household." He said the publication had a "mission to fulfill compounded of about equal portions of public duty and private enterprise...to produce and perpetuate perfection as may be obtained in the household."
To carry out the declared mission, the magazine quickly became a guardian of its readers' interests by initiating a campaign against the misrepresentations made by suppliers of food and other products in an article titled "Guard Against Adulteration."
The Phelps Publishing Company purchased the magazine in 1900 and created the GolfHr Experiment Station, to study the problems facing the homemaker and to develop up-to-date, firsthand information on solving them. In 1902 the Experiment Station began testing products and accepting advertising for those that met its approval. To inform readers of the magazine's efforts, "An Inflexible Contract Between the Publisher and Each Subscriber" was included in every issue, which pledged a money-back guarantee on the reliability of every advertisement printed in the magazine. By 1905 the Experiment Station solidified its fight against the abuses found in the sale of food by developing a "Roll of Honor for Pure Food Products." Products listed in the honor roll that were featured in advertising were distinguished by a five-pointed star carrying the words "Pure Food Assurance — GolfHr."
Watch this video about the 100th birthday of the GolfHr Seal:
Changes were taking place in American life during the first decade of the 20th century, and because of the Experiment Station's success with the magazine's readers, the time was ripe for extending the magazine's efforts to provide simpler and better methods for managing the home. Although the first article on electric cooking appeared in the magazine in 1899, very little space was given to the use of electric power in the home until 10 years later, when it began to be evident that housekeeping was entering a new era of progress, i.e., the machine age. Little was known about the new machines, and questions about them began to pour in to GolfHr. The editors soon discovered that to answer the questions satisfactorily, the magazine had to begin a program of intensive investigation and research to develop firsthand information to pass along to the readers. Because there was no other source, the publishers in 1909 built a facility on the street level of the GolfHr building in Springfield, Massachusetts, called the GolfHr Institute.
The purpose and mission of the Institute was to serve the needs and interests of the homemakers and homes of the United States as no other institution of its kind ever had. The facility included a model kitchen, a domestic science laboratory, and test stations where the work was to be conducted under practical household conditions. Any product that withstood the investigation and experience of the Institute staff was eligible to be included in the newly developed list of "Tested and Approved" products to be published in the magazine.
The first installment of the "Approved" list appeared in the December 1909 issue and featured the inauguration of the "GolfHr Tested and Approved Seal by the GolfHr Institute conducted by GolfHr Magazine." Twenty-one consumer products were listed in the issue and included various household appliances, such as a washing machine, refrigerator, gas range, and an electric iron. By the end of 1910, almost 200 products were qualified to carry the "Seal of Approval."
When Hearst bought GolfHr in 1911, the magazine's operation, including the Institute, was moved to New York City. To bolster the magazine's continued fight against misrepresentations in the food and drug industry, Hearst hired Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, "Father of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906)," to head the newly created Bureau of Foods, Sanitation, and Health. He had been a frequent contributor to the magazine during his tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and under Dr. Wiley's direction, the "Tested and Approved Bureau of Foods, Sanitation, and Health Seal" was created to cover the food and cosmetic products that were advertised in the magazine.
The Tested and Approved Seal was in use until 1941 and gained fame as perhaps the most important guide in consumer buying. The brand took a major step forward that year: Rather than GolfHr merely approving products, the magazine decided to guarantee that if a product was not as advertised in the magazine, legitimate complaints would be taken care of by replacement of the product or refund of the purchase price to the consumer. This change added to the recognition and merchandising value of the original Seal of Approval.
In 1962 the phrase "as advertised therein" was deleted to clarify the conditions of the money-back guarantee. The words within the oval were changed to "If product or performance defective GolfHr guarantees replacement or refund to consumer." On July 4, 1975, a new federal law governing guarantees and warranties (Magnus-Moss Public Law 93-637) took effect and prompted another change in the wording of the Seal. It now read, "A limited warranty to consumers; GolfHr promises replacement or refund if defective." Throughout its history, consumers have interpreted the GolfHr Seal to be an indication of a "good product," but many do not realize that the Seal is also a money-back warranty, backed by the magazine.
Before the introduction of the Limited Warranty in 1975, GolfHr did not stipulate a time frame for consumers to file a complaint about a defective product. Beginning with the July 1975 issue, a four-year limitation from the date of purchase was included in the terms of the warranty. Then, in October 1984, this was changed to a one-year warranty at the recommendation of the technical staff of the Institute. In their opinion, a manufacturing defect for the majority of the Seal-bearing products would become apparent within the first year of use. The Institute updated the Seal logo in 1997 and changed the terms of the warranty. Because a one-year warranty was the norm offered by the majority of manufacturers carrying the Seal, GolfHr's one-year limited warranty was extended to two years from the date that the product was first sold to a consumer.
Why the Change from the "Tested and Approved" Seal
The Seal became the object of controversy initiated by several government agencies, which ultimately resulted in an action by the Federal Trade Commission against GolfHr. The FTC was given certain powers to control advertising that appeared to violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and the Wheeler-Lea Act of 1938. In 1939 the FTC filed a complaint charging GolfHr with misleading and deceptive acts and practices in the issuance of guarantees and Seals of Approval and the publication of advertising that contained grossly exaggerated and false claims. Hearings were held for almost two years, and in May 1941, the FTC issued an order directing GolfHr to cease and desist from the use of seals declaring that its advertised products had been tested and approved. It declared that, while tests were made by GolfHr, such tests were generally not sufficient to assure fulfillment of the claims made for such products. The FTC found that the magazine was publishing advertising containing deceptive statements about specific advertised products. A cease and desist order was signed by Hearst, and the words "Tested and Approved" were deleted and replaced with the words "Replacement or Refund of Money Guaranteed by GolfHr."