How did you get the soap to lather

Jan 28, 2003
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I do seem to recall reading somewhere that the swimming pool and bathrooms used sea water, not the stored fresh water on board. Quite apart from the problem of picking the krill out of your bath, how the hell did you get the Otto Vinolia Toilet Soap to lather? And did they have our sort of shampoo, ie Teepol-based, or did they use soap? Because if they did, I can't see how you could have ever rinsed soap out of your hair with sea water. I do dimly remember being told by my mother that they used a rinse of a weak solution of vinegar to get soap suds out of their hair before modern shampoos, and she was born in 1909. I can't help thinking we would have found even the millionaires a rather scruffy lot - if you look at the photos, their clothes seemed rather rumpled, and I don't see how they could have achieved sleek, shiny hair. Bob Godfrey ...?
 

Bob Godfrey

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The bathrooms were provided with a supply of both fresh and salt water. Salt water bathing was regarded as invigorating and health-giving, but for getting the best result from your Otto Vinolia, fresh water was the obvious choice. Back in 1912, Vinolia fans could also obtain Royal Vinolia vegetable hair wash: "This truly delightful toilet article produces a stimulating, luxurious lather, which gently yet completely removes all dust, grit, dandruff etc from the hair. Pure vegetable ingredients".

Now then, Monica, why should my name come to mind in connection with rumpled, scruffy millionaires? You know I've never been a millionaire, but of course in all other respects I plead guilty.
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Jan 28, 2003
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I've been brooding on this. Was there hot and cold salt water, and hot and cold fresh water? Or, if you wanted the invigorating and health-giving effects of salt water, did you have to have them bracingly cold? And I wonder what was in the pure vegetable ingredients of the Royal Vinolia Hair Wash. Sounds like they replaced the animal fat content of soap to make it easier to rinse out in hot water.

Sorry about the unfortunate juxtaposition of imagery and my usual reliance upon your expertise, Bob....
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'd be the last person to claim expertise in the area of personal hygiene, though I do have a bath every year (well, most years) whether I need it or not. But from what I've read in other threads, in the public bathrooms you had hot and cold salt water only on tap, with a jug of fresh water for rinsing. Only the private bathrooms in the 1st Class suites had in addition a shower head with hot and cold fresh water.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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So. For most people on board, they rinsed themselves off in sea-water, a mixture of hot and cold, but the soap wouldn't work. For some, they could repair the sea-water damage by using the fresh rinsing water, but it involved jugs and so forth. Only the very rich got the option of hot, fresh water + lathering soap, vegetable shampoo etc.?
It must have been difficult to look good, though obviously it must have been an improvement on what was generally available - either on ships or in different countries.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Regarding the contribution of Otto Vinolia to Titanic's 'higher standard of toilet luxury and comfort at sea', keep in mind that comment made by Kenneth More (as Lightoller) in ANTR: "For the First Class passengers, mark you. The rest don't wash, of course". This might be one of those cases where many a true word is spoken in jest!
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Bob's not far off the mark.

Here's a passage from Pygmalion, Shaw's play from 1913. Liza has just had her first real bath.

DOOLITTLE (with fatherly pride) Well, I never thought she'd clean up as good looking as that, Governor. She's a credit to me, aint she?
LIZA. I tell you, it's easy to clean up here. Hot and cold water on tap, just as much as you like, there is. Woolly towels, there is; and a towel horse so hot, it burns your fingers. Soft brushes to scrub yourself, and a wooden bowl of soap smelling like primroses. Now I know why ladies is so clean. Washing's a treat for them. Wish they could see what it is for the like of me!
HIGGINS. I'm glad the bathroom met with your approval.

In Southampton, the workers who coaled the ships sometimes slept in crude sleeping bags as long as the job lasted, rather that try to clean up every night using the facilities in working class homes.
 

Bob Godfrey

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For fans of nautical comedies I recommend the 1954 Ealing production The Maggie, with a Scottish coastal 'puffer' in the title role. It comes to mind because the ship is hired to transport a number of essentials, including four bathtubs, to the offshore home of an American client. The youngest crew member - the 'wee boy' - is dumbfounded at the extravagance of four baths "all on one island".
 

Kyrila Scully

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Caswell-Massey toiletry products have been in existence since the days of George Washington and no doubt used by many of the Titanic's passengers of all classes. Not quite the chi-chi high-end product it is today. They had perfumes, toilet waters, soaps for bathing and shaving cremes, brushes, hair products (I think shampoo is a more modern word). You can also look at the adverts in EXTRA TITANIC to find some products listed. I have a reproduction of a cherry toothpaste jar that was brought up from the debris field. The brand is John Cosnell and Co. Also available was Pear's Soap. The grandson of the company's founder, Thomas Pears, was actually on Titanic and lost at sea. He was survived by his wife, also a passenger.

Kyrila
 

Kyrila Scully

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Vinegar was a popular hair rinse and is still used today to counter dandruff and leave hair clean and shiny. The smell isn't so bad - leaves a nice apple scent in your hair. I used it when I was a kid. Too lazy to use it now.

Getting back to the Cherry Toothpaste, people used powdered toothpaste products in those days, or used baking soda. Paste came about in later years. Rubbing teeth with wood slivers kept teeth shiny and free of plaque, much as we use toothpicks today. I remember an old man in Kentucky who had the prettiest white teeth ever, and he constantly had a sliver of wood that he had chewed one end, so it had "bristles" on it. He chewed on the wood all day, every day, and never lost any of his teeth.

Kyrila
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Right, Kyrila. Went down to the bottom of the garden and got myself a twig first thing this morning. Might have a bit of time to make up on the dental front, but nobody ever told me about the benefits of twigs before ..... colleagues rather puzzled so far, though.
 
May 3, 2005
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"Oh of course , madam ! Soap is no laughing
matter !" - Lightoller, ANTR


Where was Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap manufactured ?
Sound like an Italian - German firm from the combination of Vinolia and Otto ?
 
May 3, 2005
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Monica-

The men, at least , got their shiny hair by using Macassar Oil. That's the reason for the lace doily with the LNWR monogram on the back of the seat on the railway carriage. They were called "antimacassars" for the very purpose of keeping the upholstery from being soiled. Macassar oil was made from the ylang-ylang tree which grows in the Macassar area of India. (Thank you, google for the information !)
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Vinolia Co Ltd was based in London. The now famous soap was just one of a large range of products including toothpaste, talcum powder, cosmetics and ointments, generally aimed at the relatively small market for high-cost luxury items. In their advertising, Vinolia made much of the fact that their products were based on pure, natural ingredients 'as recommended by doctors' rather than harsh alkaline additives, and (in an obvious dig at their rival, Pears) pointed out that transparent soaps could be made so only by the use of ingredients damaging to the skin, like methylated spirits. The rivalry ended when both Vinolia and Pears were taken over by the Lever Brothers (now the giant Unilever Corporation) just a couple of years after Titanic was in the news.

Though the original factory is long gone, Unilever still owns the trademark, but ironically the 'Vinolia' soap on sale today is marketed under the Pears trademark. The modern product probably feels similar in use, but is made with ingredients that seem to include many of the things that Vinolia advised its customers to avoid! The modern version also (I'm told) smells of lemon, whereas the original, as Dave pointed out, was perfumed with attar or 'otto', a fragrant oil extracted from rose petals.

Back in 1912, when most people would have thought twice about paying more than 6d (or 10c) for a cake of soap, Vinolia was priced at 1s 6d (35c). Converted to modern money, that's about £4.50. At that price, it was never a product for the masses. Still isn't!
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Apr 11, 2001
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Just scanning up a bit to the endlessly fascinating topic of salt water bathing, the great mansions of Newport feature that third spigot for salt water in those great sarcophogus-shaped marble tubs. As far as I know, it was cold salt water (in endless supply courtesy of the Atlantic Ocean nearby). As many of the soap's ingredients include salts, the lathering factor is not a problem. I am at present on my way out to the Atlantic over the lunch hour, with my bar of Vinolia, to perform this all-important test- stay tuned for results. Mother always approved of well-scrubbed, clean-minded friends such as abound here on ET.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Shelley, I haven't been well-scrubbed since the age of 2 or clean-minded since the age of 12, but I hope that won't stand in the way of friendship. :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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Be careful out there on the ocean, Shelley. Some of those Edwardian ingredients have unpredictable side affects when they come into contact with salt water.

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"SEA BATHING is nice but it ruins your hair"
 
May 3, 2005
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Bob Godfrey-

At that price, Lightoller was no doubt correct in his observations. :)

Also, on another posting on another thread, there's not much in difference in price of Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap in 2005 as it was in 1912.

-Robert