75 Years of Innovation
the beginning, there was water. Residential water treatment products
came along a little later, say the early 1920s.
That's when Lynn G. Lindsay, a young hydraulics
engineer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, teamed with his brother, Fred, and
a neighbor, Emmett Culligan, to begin experimenting with water conditioning
In 1925, Lynn Lindsay received the first of
his many patents for automatic water softeners designed to meet the
needs of the individual homeowner.
The early Lindsay water softener consisted of
two steel tanks, several feet high and interconnected by a system of
brass pipes and valves. One, which intersected the home's water supply,
was a pressure tank containing a bed of zeolite, a sand-like mineral
with a negative electrical charge. Zeolite was covered with sodium (salt)ions,
which carry a positive electrical charge. Calcium and magnesium, natural
enemies of pristine water, carry stronger positive charges than does
sodium. Thus when water flowed through the softener, calcium and magnesium
ions were drawn to the zeolite, dislodging and replacing the sodium
ions. The process, known as ion exchange, removed the hardness-causing
minerals from the water.
The second tank served to regenerate the softener.
A brine solution flushed the calcium and magnesium from the zeolite,
carried them out a drain and left the zeolite re-coated with sodium.
Thus the zeolite was "regenerated," ready to repeat the water
Lynn Lindsay and Emmett Culligan stumped the
Midwest preaching the virtues of home water conditioning, but sales
were few. Mr. Culligan thought the system's problem was that the owner
needed to frequently perform the manual regeneration procedure. Mr.
Lindsay, however, stuck to his original idea and the two parted, each
to run his own business.
Mr. Culligan's approach was to install a zeolite
(pressure)tank in the home, but no salt (regeneration)tank. For a monthly
fee, route servicemen visited the customer's home every few weeks, removed
the sodium-depleted pressure tank and replaced it with a fresh one.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lindsay sold his two-tank unit outright, maintaining
that different levels of hardness and varying rates of household use
often required more frequent and irregular regeneration than that offered
by a scheduled route service.
First the Great Depression and then World War
II interrupted Mr. Lindsay's soft water business. During the war, he
manufactured silica gel used in the packing of delicate war materials
to prevent corrosion. Meanwhile, his two sons served in the military.
At the outset of the post-war housing boom, however, the reunited family
resumed the water softening business in St. Paul. The company began
selling through dealers, some of whom continue in EcoWater's dealer
Though lack of consumer awareness limited industry
growth, competitors ppeared, copying the Lindsay water softener. In
1950, the company took the lead again by replacing zeolite with tiny,
porous beads made from a petroleum- based resin. The result: The water
conditioner's contaminant-removing capacity greatly increased, reducing
the frequency of regeneration.
Three years later, regeneration became automatic
with the addition of a timer that allowed the unit to regenerate when
water wasn't being used, typically during the night. In 1955, the company
moved to a bigger factory in St. Paul. More improvements followed, including
introduction of corrosion-proof fiberglass pressure tanks, fiberglass
brine tanks and, in 1958, the first space-saving tank-within- a-tank
system. It would be Lynn Lindsay's last innovation. In 1959, he sold
the company to Trans Union Corporation.
Improvements in product appearance and efficiency
continued under the new ownership, including introduction of the first
decorator-styled, compact console model in 1969.The same year, Lindsay's
operations, which had expanded into six facilities, were consolidated
in a new plant in the Twin Cities suburb of Woodbury, still home to
Still more innovations followed in the 1970s,
including replacement of electro- mechanical timers with electronic
controls. The decade also witnessed the opening of the company's first
production facility in Europe. Located in Belgium, the plant gave Lindsay
an important resource for international growth.
In 1981, the acquisition of Trans Union brought Lindsay into The Marmon
Two years later, the company introduced a complete
line of drinking water products, including filters, distillation units
and reverse osmosis systems. Also in 1983, Lindsay purchased the Water
Refining Company of Middletown, Ohio, owner of the Miracle Water and
Servisoft brands of water conditioning equipment. For a time, Lindsay
manufactured three lines of equipment, sold through three separate dealer
In 1988, however, the three brands were united
under one banner: EcoWater Systems.