This is my 150th post since starting writing last November (2015) about my discoveries and escapades as I try to save two old church buildings in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland. Thank you for reading them and I hope you continue to enjoy my posts.
Anyway, as mentioned in a previous post, I found a wonderful pamphlet titled “Life & Work” with the sub-heading “Ardrossan New Parish Church” which had been hidden beneath floorboard of the Barony St. John Church since 1893.
Inside the pamphlet were some fantastic advertisements including the following for Pears Soap;
Initially, I was excited to see the drawings – the front cover featured a tin bath of a shape I hadn’t seen before (I always thought tin baths were oval shaped but this one is like a keyhole – a bigger end for sitting in and a longer end for your legs) and two ladies dressed in beautiful Victorian dresses of the day. 🙂
The inside of the advert declared that the soap was by special appointment to Her Majesty the Queen (who would have been Queen Victoria) and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
But as I thought about writing this post and telling you all about my find, I thought I’d like to know more about Pears Soap – and my investigations revealed a darker side to what was the nation’s favourite soap;
Pears transparent soap was first produced and sold in 1807 by Andrew Pears at a London based factory. It was the world’s first mass-market transparent soap and Pears’ clientele included many wealthy socialites who took pride in their appearance.
In a change from current trends, the fashion among the wealthy of the period was for pristine white complexions (tanned faces were associated with the lower classes who laboured outdoors).
Andrew Pears found that his powders and creams were frequently being used to cover up damage caused by soaps and other beauty products, many of which contained arsenic or lead, so he began to experiment with soap purification and eventually managed to produce a gentle soap based on glycerine and other natural products.
The clarity of his soap gave it a novel transparent appearance and its floral scent, which reminded people of their gardens, gave Andrew Pears a huge marketing advantage especially overseas in America (not yet united as the Civil War was fought from 1861 – 1865).
Thomas J. Barratt, sometimes referred to as the father of modern advertising, married Mary Pears (Andrew’s granddaughter) in 1864 and he began a worldwide sales campaign for Pears Soaps – part of which were these removable advertisements (not just printed in newspaper and pamphlets but adverts which could be removed and taken to your shopkeeper or chemist where orders could be placed).
The first Pears soap advert (below) would be deemed racist nowadays and would never be allowed to be printed but back in Christmas 1884 it was seen in publications throughout the British Empire.
It would seem a lot of their advertising centred around turning black skinned people white or at the very least trying to improve their hygiene as on the reverse of the advert I found was this rather racist advert;
It may be difficult to make out as it is water damaged but it features a black native complete with feather headband staring at an apparently naked white woman who is coming out of a giant clam shell on the beach. The heading reads;
“Good Morning! Have you used Pears Soap?“
I’m not sure if this is supposed to be the black native asking if the white woman had used Pears Soap perhaps trying to explain how she had turned white (as in the previous advert) – or is it the white woman asking the black native if he had used Pears Soap as a nod towards his lack of hygiene? What do YOU think?
Meanwhile, if you would like to know more about my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, search for us on Facebook or peruse our website at www.ScotCPS.org.uk
Goodbye for now – and here’s to the 150 posts. 😀