99 44/100 % Pure

This is the story of Proctor & Gamble and one of the Company’s best sellers, Ivory Soap. An interesting tale.

The United States in 1837 was in the middle of a gigantic financial crisis. Panic everywhere.

Alexander Norris was a midwestern businessman. He had two daughters. Both married. Norris’ son in laws were experiencing financial difficulties. One made candles and the other soap. Raw materials for both consisted of animal fats.

The brothers in law did not like each other. Norris convinced them that if they were to survive the economic crisis, they had to join together. Animal fats would be decidedly cheaper because of the volume they would be purchasing.

Father in law knew best. They finally listened to him. They each invested $3,596.47 in 1837 dollars. The sum each invested equivalent to roughly to $75,000 today.

The brother in laws’ small business made them a fortune. The Company today sells roughly three hundred products world wide. The son in laws last names obviously were Proctor & Gamble. The name the Company carries to this day.

Now comes Ivory soap. It Floats! and 99 44/100 % Pure became slogans/advertising that made Ivory sell even more.Two stories persist as to It Floats!

One is that a workman left his machine running when he went to lunch. The machine whipped more air into the composition of the soap. It was soon discovered that the addition of the extra air caused the soap to float.

The other story is that James N. Gamble, son of one of the founders, was a chemist. He is given credit in some circles for making the soap float.

The 99 44/100 % Pure is credited to Harley Proctor, son of the other Company founder.

At the time, castile soaps were claimed to be the purest soap available. Castile soap was made with olive oil. Harley Proctor disagreed. Ivory was the purest. He hired a laboratory to make a comparison. The lab’s report stated that Ivory was 99 44/100 % pure. From that point forward, everyone recognized Ivory as pure. Mothers for generations bought Ivory soap believing it was pure.

An attractive model/actress became the Ivory girl, in effect. Her picture was on everything Ivory holding a baby. Mother and child. Purity. Ivory’s sales increased. Her name Marilyn Chambers.

For some reason, Chambers left Ivory and the baby to become a porn actress. In 1972, she starred in Behind the Green Door. One of the first feature length hard core films. Preceded only by Deep Throat. Behind the Green Door was an adult film shown in movie houses across the country. Next door in the same theater to Sound of Music and the like.

An instantaneous success! Grossed $50 million.

Chambers was no longer pure and neither was Ivory due to the association with Chambers. Ivory was tainted by her pornographic success. Chambers went on to get rich doing such films. Proctor and Gamble hurried to get Chambers’ picture off their advertising and products. The Company went so far as to recall any product on a store’s shelf that had Chambers’ picture on it.

In 1992, skin irritability became a problem for soap manufacturers. Each claimed their soap did not irritate. Proctor & Gamble included. Ivory went back to the lab. A new soap with a number of different ingredients was developed.

A problem, however. The new product did not float. Floatability had to come out of its advertising. Also, calling the product soap. Due to the ingredients in the new bar, soap was not a correct description of the product being sold. Soap disappeared from Proctor & Gamble’s labeling.

No more floatability, no more designation as soap.

The problem did not hurt Ivory in any fashion. Its loyal supporters continued to use it and over the years since 1992, Ivory sales have increased.

My columns generally cover heavy thought provoking material. Every now and then I like a week off from such writing. I believe that you my readers enjoy a break also. The Ivory story represents such a break.

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