In 1900 there were slightly less than 93,000 traveling salesman, numbers warranting the formation of a national association - one that would look after the needs of direct selling companies and create an image for direct selling as a respectable profession by making sure ethical business methods were observed.
What is today known as the Direct Selling Association was formed in Binghamton, New York in 1910. At its founding, the association was called the Agents Credit Association. This formation of this group marks the start of the modern-day direct selling era.
The Agents Credit Association had 10 members and functioned primarily in the fields of credit matters and collection of accounts, as its name implies. The original 10 members were:
- California Perfume Company (now Avon Products, Inc.) - New York, New York
- Freeport Manufacturing - Brooklyn, New York
- McLean, Black & Co. - Boston, Massachusetts
- Mitchell & Church - Binghamton, New York
- Mutual Fabric - Binghamton, New York
- National Dress Goods Co. - New York, New York
- Queen Fabric - Syracuse, New York
- Security Company - Weedsport, New York
- Standard Dress - Binghamton, New York
- World's Star Knitting - Bay City Michigan
The Agents Credit Association was reorganized in 1914 and re-named the National Association of Agency Companies. For a brief period between 1917 and 1920, the name was changed to the National Association of Agency and Mail Order Companies, but the name was changed back in 1920.
The greatest part of the business of the direct selling association in the first decade was attracting new members. Officials of the NAAC realized that the health of the industry depended to a great extent on a large and active membership.
By 1920, the NAAC had formed a strong enough organization to issue the following proclamation describing its purposes:
- To protect against unjust taxation, license fees or other illegal restraint or interference with their business.
- Co-operation, promotion and protection of the business interests of our members.
- To prevent and discourage misleading advertising and all dishonest practices in the agency and mail order field.
- To assist in the enactment and enforcement of laws, which in their operation shall deal justly with the rights of the Agency Houses and consumers.
- To promote confidence between the consumers and the Agency Houses in our Association.
- To foster and promote good will among our members.
In 1924, the Association established its headquarters in Winona, Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, at the annual meeting of the NAAC in 1925, the Association was again reorganized and renamed the National Association of Direct Selling Companies. The list of active members numbered 80 and, for the first time, an associate membership category was added. This membership category, equivalent to today's supplier members, included companies offering services or merchandise to the direct selling companies.
In 1968, a final reorganization gave the association its current name, the Direct Selling Association, and the headquarters moved to Washington, D.C., where it has remained since.
Today, DSA operates from its D.C. headquarters which it shares with the Direct Selling Education Foundation and the secretariat of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations. DSA provides educational opportunities for direct selling professionals and works with Congress, numerous government agencies, consumer protection organizations and others on behalf of its member companies.
For more historical information about the Direct Selling Association, please visit our online museum.