Deodorant in 1912


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Alyson Jones

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I found out that people in 1912 don't bath as much as we do today,so what about there higene?
Did men and women have underarm and aftershave and perfume?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Perfumes have been available for thousands of years and there was a huge range on the market in 1912, along with soaps, shampoos, talc, toothpaste etc. Shaving soap was in common use, but the 'aftershave' treatments of the period were generally not made specifically for that purpose, like Eau de Cologne. Anti-perspirants are a quite modern concept, but deodorants (which mask odors rather than preventing the cause) are as old as perfume itself. The first commercial deodorant (Mum) had been on the market for 20 years. All these things cost money, though, so most people would have relied on including the underarm area in their daily morning wash.
 
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Alyson Jones

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Did they use it more than once a day?,well they kind of have to if they only bath once a week
 

Bob Godfrey

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If you mean deodorant, the point I've already made is that most people didn't use it at all. Most of us today have been brainwashed by advertisers who want us to believe that all sorts of perfectly natural things (like dandruff, 'BO' etc) are un-natural or even symptoms of disease. Sweat actually has little or no odour, so the cheapest alternative is to wash it off regularly before bacteria (the real culprits) get to work on it. And cheap alternatives were more necessary then than now. Keep in mind that while few people had access to showers and most didn't climb into a bathtub more than once a week they did have the opportunity to wash regularly and quite thoroughly - though not all took that opportunity!
.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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I vaguely recall something unattractively called a "sweat pad" from my extreme youth. It was attached to a dress etc. by poppers under the arm, and could be detached and washed frequently, thus saving having to do difficult laundry (in those days) on the garment itself on a regular basis.

Those people having a daily wash instead of using deodorant were probably better off, if the purpose of deodorant is to mask odours. What's the point of thrashing out ££s / $$s on Chanel No. 5 if it's going to have to compete with Mum Rose - which is not pleasant, and distinctly cheap. And it's probably not a good idea to spray aluminum-based anti-perspirants all over yourself on a daily basis now, either.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Aimed at the working class, and sold thru august periodicals like National Police Gazette, was Zedonia, an underarm cream application, .05 per bottle. That dates to at least 1892.

I don't know how long it took for concern about body odor to travel upward thru the class system but, in the U.S. at least, very effective "You smell and you offend" adverts were running in what would one day be called The Tabloids as early as the 1880s.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I imagine that early campaigns to encourage the use of such products would have been aimed mainly at those with aspirations to elevate themselves to the lower middle class, like shop girls and clerks. Certainly in the UK (where wage levels were lower) this sort of marketing had made less progress. And, as Aussies are often keen to point out, it's possibly still got some way to go! "Jeez, I need a beer. I'm dry as a Pom's towel"
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Sweat pads were, as I understand it, normally referred-to as "dress protectors". Scouting for Boys (unfortunate title?), by Robert Baden Powell, contains several references to the need for regular and careful washing of clothes and bodies - to the Victorians, "cleanliness was next to Godliness".
 
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My grandmother was 16 at the time of Titanic and she lived another 73 years. Late in her life I asked her what was the most important invention during her lifetime. Of course, I expected to hear something like "electricity" or "the telephone." She thought for a moment, then got an almost embarrassed look. "Why, it was deodorant," she said. "Without doubt, deodorant."

-- David G. Brown
 
Jan 28, 2003
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We girls are so frivolous, David! My son once asked me the same question, and I instantly replied "Non-smudge, long-lasting lipstick", and I don't even wear it. But I do remember what a problem the old-fashioned greasy stuff was - on cups, food, guys' faces, collars, pillows etc., and the endless 'touching-up'.

On a less exotic, but probably equally frivolous note, I think possibly the dishwasher in my lifetime. No, that's stupid. The computer. My dishwasher is broken at the moment, and I manage perfectly well. When the satellite serving the supermarket went down, they couldn't even open the tills, even if they'd known the prices, which they didn't, never mind let anyone buy anything. How fragile is our modern world?
 

Jim Kalafus

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>"Why, it was deodorant," she said. "Without doubt, deodorant."

Yes. If you are old enough to recall how vile The Flower Children smelled...particularly when they slathered themselves with patchouli oil in lieu of showering...or if you were ever in a NYC cab with a vibe ripened driver, before the new "culturally insensitive" regulations went into effect, you can appreciate the wisdom of that.

>I imagine that early campaigns to encourage the use of such products would have been aimed mainly at those with aspirations to elevate themselves to the lower middle class..

No. To be blunt it was aimed at guys who wanted to get laid. The ads for Zedonia, with its promise of "Smelly Armpits Cured" ran side by side with "No Woman wants a WEAK Man- Certain Organs Enlarged" ads in the National Police Gazette.

Womens Mag ads sections of the era were filled with "Miracle Cures," most of which contained Tansy... or natural ...substances which...if you drank half the bottle...would cause you to abort. Or die. Or abort THEN die.

Lots of adverts for...uh...products that "Gently Gave A Woman Grecian Smoothness." That is to say, full-body hair removing gels. They worked. Check out the Taschen Press' new volume of thousands of antique nude images for examples of how early the taboo against female body hair began..."The Beauty of a Grecian Statue", etc.... but one suspects that they were probably caustic. A gel with lye in it would be my guess.

So...men woried about smelly armpits and small...personalities. Women worried about excess body hir and unwanted pregnancies.

The common factor that joined our Victorian Era ancestors? The thread which runs through the adverts in the American working class male AND female "Low Press?"

YOUR BREATH OFFENDS.

Yes, on top of smelly armpits, small organs, hairy forearms and unwanted pregnancy, was the CLASSIC villain. Bad breath. YOU can't smell it...you have no idea....but the entire world draws back at your approach. You are doomed to die a virgin, EVEN if you can get past the small organ/hairy armpits problems, because your breath will doom the deal.

You are evil.
We can help.

One progressive/nonprogressive ad from 1925, a favorite of mine, targets professional women. YOU ARE IN A MANS WORLD MAKING YOUR OWN WAY ON YOUR OWN TERMS blares the banner. Great so far. YOU CANNOT LET 'OLD FASHIONED' FEMALE WORRIES HINDER YOU. Again. Good message. Then, it veers off into the stratosphere explaining that you cannot POSSIBLY do your job well if A) you worry about odors emanating from your privates, or B) far worse, your coworkers worry about them and begin shunning you. The solution? A "Doctor recommended" dilution of Lysol.

>and the endless 'touching-up'.

Which, of course, was a euphemism for "Let's go into the bathroom and talk about what jackasses our dates are, and how quickly we can lose them."
 

Bob Godfrey

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All too sophisticated for the UK public in 1912, Jim. Our ads hawked the bird-pulling power of hair restorers, flatter ears, a manly physique, male corsets and a fine new set of second hand teeth. And we knew of course that a large appendage always impressed if it was a moustache.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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"If you are old enough to recall how vile The Flower Children smelled...particularly when they slathered themselves with patchouli oil in lieu of showering..."

Do you mind, Jim! I am old enough to remember this, and also old enough to know I eschewed the vile patchouli oil and embraced showering. But I do remember men at the time slathering themselves in "the great smell of Brut" - don't know what you called it in the USA but it must have been there, permeating society. C'mon now, Bob, confess - did you once use Brut?

I don't think, Jim, adverts aimed at women have changed a lot really, except the solutions are more now high-tech. I have recently squirmed on the sofa watching an advert which warns against a vaguely-phrased form of incontinence, usually afflicting ladies in their 70s, and featuring lovely women in their 30s leaping around and forging careers ... thanks to (I think, I didn't pay much attention - Tenalady). Having a classical education, I think the "Tena" bit is something to do with "holding". I don't like to contemplate it much further.

Now, Stanley. Scouting for Boys was brilliantly revealed to us by Ian Hislop on TV not long ago, and the cold showers and hygiene you mention seem to have been a result of his obsession with what he called 'beastliness'. Oh dear. More poor children worried, but on the other hand, many more children had loads of fun. Hard to balance it out really.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>a large appendage always impressed if it was a moustache.

Not on a woman.

Back later to expand on this topic.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Well, Mon, I do recall once receiving a small bottle of Brut Aftershave at Christmas. Which puzzled me as I had a beard. Maybe somebody was dropping a hint. Do your remember Hai Karate aftershave? Their commercials at least displayed a sense of humour - from nerd to adonis in one easy step. "Be careful how you use it".

What always impressed me in those ads with little comic strips is how the advice to use Lifebuoy soap or whatever was always followed by a transformation of lifestyle equalled only by the winners of lottery jackpots.
 
May 27, 2007
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No. To be blunt it was aimed at guys who wanted to get laid. The ads for Zedonia, with its promise of "Smelly Armpits Cured" ran side by side with "No Woman wants a WEAK Man- Certain Organs Enlarged" ads in the National Police Gazette.
Figures. Back then a man had to work twice as hard to get on with a woman because of the risk of pregnancy or the damage to a woman's reputation if the neighbors found out. That was if the Woman was of good family or had a good head on her shoulders who wanted something more then to be some man's floozy.

I'm sure there was bad girls, freebies and the hired kind but there was trouble with that is you never knew what you'd end up coming home with. So if you were a man and wanted a night of loving with a 'Lady' you'd better have a ring or a very smooth tongue.

We have Brut, Monica. I remember smelling some once and damn near burning my nose hairs off. Luckily I found Old Spice. I think they used to have powdered Deodorant. I know they had spray on back in the 60's. I wonder how good that worked?
 
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Alyson Jones

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WOW,i don't know who i should replie too!
Some one mention the best invention of their time,mine would be the hair straightener!i had to add that one.
Hey George what do you mean men had to work harder back in those days?
Bob yes i meant underarm deodorant,the roll on ones.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Brut. Ah yes, Brut. A truly gagging stench redolent of 1978; gold chains; pomade; Camaros and, of course, singles bars.

During my college years in NYC, a certain crowd at my school still used it.

Within the last 6 weeks I was blessed with a deluxe gift box of Brut bath soap.

>Do you remember Hai Karate aftershave?

Of course. Back in the day, my father had it in the medicine chest.

>I have recently squirmed on the sofa watching an advert which warns against a vaguely-phrased form of incontinence, usually afflicting ladies in their 70s...

....ah, yes. June Allison found new fame as a pitchwoman for adult diapers late in her life. The commercials were unbelievably tacky, and made all the more amusing by the fact that they weren't MEANT to be campy! Women sitting in country style kitchen. They are planning a day trip but one of them is Miss Gloomy Pants because of her incontinence. Why, she's even AFRAID TO LAUGH! A smiling June Allison appears thru the open upper half of the Dutch door. "June Allison!" they cry out in unison. She gives them advise on geriatric diapers and...problem solved...they all drive off for a day of fun. Even Miss Gloomy Pants.

Saturday Night Live did a spot-on parody of these ads:

[Open - porch of nice home, looking out on yard.
Two grandparents sit with grandchild, as parents approach in tennis uniforms]

Ana: Hey, Mom what do you say to a game of tennis?
Grandchild: Come on grandma, with you on our side, the boys don't stand a chance!
Grandma: Ok, I'll get my racket
[Grandma rises from seat but changes her mind, looking concerned]
Grandma: On second thought, I think I better sit this one out.
[Grandma upset, looks up at grandpa]
Grandpa: You kids go ahead, I wanna have a talk with your old grandma.

[Kids, parent leave; grandpa sits down]

Grandpa: You're still having control problems, aren't you?
Grandma: I just don't feel confident Harvey.
Grandpa: Come with me. I wanna let you in on a little secret.

[Grandpa takes grandma's hand and they leave porch]

[Grandpa opens cabinet and takes out adult diapers]

Grandpa: Here we are; "Oops I Crapped My Pants."
Grandma: Oops I Crapped My Pants; I've heard of those. Do they work?
Grandpa: Oops I Crapped My Pants out performed every bladder and bowel control product on the market today. Here, I'll show you.

[Grandma holds open diaper, grandpa holds pitcher]

Grandpa: Imagine this pitcher of tea is really a gallon of your feces.

[Grandpa pours pitcher of tea with lemons into diaper]

Grandpa: See how its super thick protection allows for maximum absorbency without leaking.
Grandma: I'm impressed. Oops I Crapped My Pants can hold a lot of dung.
Grandpa: And get this; Oops I Crapped My Pants are biodegradable. Now that's good for the environment.
Grandma: Hey, how do you know so much about Oops I Crapped My Pants?
Grandpa: Well I'm wearing them. And I just did.

[Grandpa and grandma smile at each other]
[tennis courts, grandpa and grandma playing tennis with children]

Grandchild: Nice point Grandma!

[Grandma turns to and addresses camera]
Grandma: Thanks Oops I Crapped My Pants!

Voice over: Visit your local pharmacy and just say Oops I Crapped My Pants.

[Grandpa hugs grandma, kisses her on the head. They walk away happy]


BUT...back to the 1880s, and deodorant for men. Sad to say, the 1880s equivalent of "Sassy!" magazine never quite happened. So, altho it is EASY to read via etiquette books what women were SUPPOSED to want in a man, it is harder to determine what they really DID want. The evidence- in the form of ads aimed at men only- suggests that women of the era rejected rank-smelling men, but there is little supplemental evidence in the form of "10 Things you Find Gross About Your Boyfriend" articles and such to back up this assumption.
 
May 27, 2007
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Jim,
Loved the Saturday Night Live skit.

It is too bad there was no Woman's magazine or one that had a 10 most things that are gross or bad about you Suitor or fellow. Now we'll never know.

Hi Alyson,
Men did have to work harder to get a lady in may ways whether it be for a wife or to get a special moment with one. Usually a Woman if she had any sense back then wouldn't go all the way unless she a had a ring or b there was a good standing promise of a ring or c she was a prostitute or of that ilk where she would receive just compensation from a man for performing the sexual act. Free Love was the stuff of poetry or dime novels.
 

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