[Ads-l] Fwd: Ivory Soap

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Sun Sep 3 11:34:41 UTC 2017

--- Begin forwarded message:

From: Dave Feldman <feldman at imponderables.com>
To: JJJRLandau at netscape.com
Subject: Ivory Soap
Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 01:02:01 -0400

Hi Jim,

A friend of mine, who is on the ADS listserv contacted me about the age-old
Ivory Soap Imponderables, and I attempted to answer directly to the
Listserv but my email was rejected.  Might you be willing to post this to
the list, just in case the OP is sleepless without the answer?  Thanks!

Dave Feldman


 If Ivory Soap is 99.44% pure, what's the rest?
> The answer can be found in David Feldman _Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise_.
Unformatunately I do not have a copy available at this time.
> - Jim Landau

I seem to have a copy floating around here:

        Procter & Gamble, in the late nineteenth century, sold many
products made of fats, such as candles and lard oil, as well as soap.
Ivory Soap was originally marketed as a laundry soap, but the company was
smart enough to realize its product’s potential as a cosmetic soap.  The
only problem was that most consumers were buying castile soaps (hard soaps
made out of olive oil and sodium hydroxide) and considered laundry soap
inappropriate for their personal grooming.
        In order to convince consumers that its soap was wholesome, Procter
& Gamble employed an independent scientific consultant in New York City to
determine exactly what a pure soap was.  The answer:  a pure soap should
consist of nothing but fatty acids and alkali; anything else was foreign
and superfluous.
        Samples of Ivory Soap were sent to the same chemist for analysts.
Much to the manufacturer’s surprise, Ivory, by the consultant’s definition,
was “purer” than the competing castile soaps — containing only 0.56 percent
“impurities.”  The impurities, then and now, were rather innocent:

                        Uncombined alkali:  0.11 percent
                        Carbonates:  0.28 percent
                        Mineral matter: 0.17 percent

        The first Ivory advertisement was placed in a religious weekly, The
Independent, on December 21, 1881.  Procter & Gamble decided to emphasize
the positive, and right away hammered at their product’s advantages.  Ivory
Soap was trumpeted as “99 and 44/100 percent pure,” a rare advertising
slogan in that it has lasted longer than a century.
        I wrote this 30 years go, but I’m guessing the info is still
accurate, as this is a rare Imponderables entry that I’ve gotten no
complaints about!  Hope this helps.

Dave Feldman

Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list