History of Soap


2500 BC: Sumerian clay tablets mention soap.

2000 BC: The Bible speaks of soap. "If I wash myself with snow water and cleanse my hands with soap...." Job 9:30

79 AD: Mt. Vesuvius erupts and buries the city of Pompeii in ash. Later excavations reveal a large, fully equipped soap factory.

467 AD: The fall of Rome and the beginning of a millennia of dirt in greater Europe. Bathing is considered dangerous and decried as immodest, unless prescribed for medicinal purposes.

1296: Marco Polo, upon return from China, introduces ice cream to Europe.

1300’s: Italy introduces goat tallow soap to France. Over the next 200 years, France develops castile soap, made with olive oil, and scented soap.

1500's: France introduces England to its discoveries.

16-1700's: The American colonies gain wealth through exporting soap ash and fat to England.

1622: James I of England grants a soapmaker the privilege of producing 3000 tons of soap each year, all for the bargain price of $100,000 each of those years. And folks, that's 24 million 4-ounce bars of soap.

1711: England taxes soapmakers 1 penny per pound of soap produced.

1787: The US Constitution is written.

1791: Nicolas LeBlanc discovers a process to manufacture caustic soda (lye) cheaply and in large quantities. Raw materials are no longer needed from the colonies.

1806: William Colgate of New York founds his soap establishment.

1816: England raises the soap tax to three pennies per pound produced.

1823: M.E. Chevreul deciphers the underlying principles of saponification, noting differences between the fats and oils useful in soapmaking.

1833: England's government lowers the soap tax to 1 1/2 penny per pound produced.

1853: England repeals the soap tax, which was bringing in $5 million annually. Soap is now affordable to the masses and large scale production begins. Enter Lever....

1867: The typewriter is invented.

1903: Wilbur and Orville Wright take flight.

1941-45: World War II opens the door to widespread use of synthetic detergents.

1953: The production of synthetic detergents exceeds the production of soap.

Today: Soap and detergents are a multi-billion dollar industry.

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