Following a failed business venture, Lou acquired a patent to a manual clothes washer and he approached Emory to see if he could add an electric motor to the design. Their first customer, the Federal Electric division of Commonwealth Edison , ordered machines, but a fault in the gear transmission led the customer to threaten their return. Sales grew quickly and in , Sears appointed Upton as their sole supplier of washers. The company was relatively unaffected by the Great Depression ; during World War II, its factories were converted to armament production. In , it introduced an automatic, spinner-type washer sold by Sears under the " Kenmore " brand, and a year later, sold by the company under the "Whirlpool" brand name.