The Living History Fair (and 444Farm Soaps) is coming to Watertown SD this weekend - January 30th and 31st!
Hanging clothes on the line is, however, the closest I will ever get to washing clothes like yester-year. I am pretty sure that I dislike washing clothes today as much as my ancestors did. The job is just never finished! At the fair, I'll be talking about how soap was made then and now. We'd love to see you, but if you can't make it, here are some things you might not know about soap making.
Maybe it hasn't changed that much since those pioneers headed west -- after all what is soap?
Soap making is much older than our prairie pioneers. Babylonians made soap in 2800 BC - about 4800 years ago. A little older than the Great Pyramid in Giza, a little older than the Mayan civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula. That's old!
However, in Greece, you maybe would have been tempted to clean your body with pumice or clay, then annoint yourself in oil, and finally scrape that oil off with a metal instrument called aStrigil.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, around 467 AD, washing became quite unpopular in Europe. Bad hygiene + unsanitary living systems was bad news and contributed to the plagues during the Middle Ages.
It isn't until the 17th century, when soap was no longer considered a luxury item for most of Europe. That finally occurred when they repealed the heavy tax on soap and it became affordable for others.
And then along came detergents...
During World War I and II, there was a shortage of one of soap's key ingredients --- animal and vegetable fats. In response, the process to create detergents were developed. They used an easily available substance - Petroleum - and mixed it with a chemical such as ethylene oxide. This created a fatty acid which, like soap, was mixed with an alkali such as lye and created soap-like product - detergent..
By 1953, more detergents are being sold than soap. Today, very few of bar soaps available to consumers are soap but are made with detergents and labeled sometimes as "Beauty or Bath Bars".
Liquid Soap - a newcomer
Liquid soap has only been around a little over 150 years. You may have heard of one of the earliest liquid soap makers - PalmOlive. In 1980, the Minnetonka Corporation introduced the first modern liquid soap called SOFT SOAP brand liquid soap. Minnetonka cornered the liquid soap market by buying up the entire supply of the plastic pumps needed for the liquid soap dispensers. Well, that's one way to eliminate the competition!
Oh, my - the 'good old days' for liquid soap were during my lifetime. That's kind of scary!
Ivory Soap - what a mistake!
A soap maker at the Procter and Gamble company went to lunch one day in 1879. He forgot to turn off the soap mixer, and more than the usual amount of air was shipped into the batch of pure white soap that the company sold under the name The White Soap. Fearing he would get in trouble, the soap maker kept the mistake a secret and packaged and shipped the air-filled soap to customers around the country. Soon customers were asking for more "soap that floats."
S.O.S Soap Pads In 1917, Ed Cox of San Francisco, an aluminum pot salesman, invented a pre-soaped pad to clean pots and as a way of introducing himself to potential new customers, Cox made the soap incrusted steel-wool pads as a calling card. His wife named the soap pads S.O.S. or "Save Our Saucepans." Cox soon found out that the S.O.S pads were a hotter product than his pots and pans.
Gotta love vintage ad's
Not falling for it...Super Suds would not make me a happy woman again.
Aw, yes, what we have to do to get our boys clean. This hasn't changed!