Madam C.J. Walker created specialized hair products for African American hair care and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.
Madam C.J. Walker invented a line of African American hair products after suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss. She promoted her products by traveling around the country giving lecture-demonstrations and eventually established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories to manufacture cosmetics and train sales beauticians.
In 1908, Walker opened a factory and a beauty school in Pittsburgh, and by 1910, when Walker transferred her business operations to Indianapolis, the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company had become wildly successful, with profits that were the modern-day equivalent of several million dollars.
In Indianapolis, the company not only manufactured cosmetics but also trained sales beauticians. These "Walker Agents" became well known throughout the black communities of the United States. In turn, they promoted Walker's philosophy of "cleanliness and loveliness" as a means of advancing the status of African Americans.
A relentless innovator, Walker organized clubs and conventions for her representatives, which recognized not only successful sales, but also philanthropic and educational efforts among African Americans.
In 1981, the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company ceased operations.
The company is now a registered National Historic Landmark.