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Vintage Ads: Ivory Soap

Published: July 26, 2018

Ivory Soap was first sold by Procter & Gamble in 1879, and it’s still available today, nearly 140 years later. The Saturday Evening Post has regularly carried Ivory ads throughout its equally long history. While the tactics have changed (one early ad warned Europe-bound travelers to bring their own soap), the basic message never did: Ivory was always “The Soap that Floats” and “99 44/100% Pure.”

(All advertisements copyright © Procter & Gamble)

A couple on a ship

June 2, 1906 (Click to Enlarge)

“It is a mistake to suppose that you can buy good soap ‘anywhere in Europe.’”

 

A recently married couple leave a chapel

October 20, 1906 (Click to Enlarge)

“There are two things she will do well to remember: (1.) All men enjoy good meals. (2.) Most men appreciate cleanliness.”

 

A woman tending flowers

June 12, 1909 (Click to Enlarge)

“Professional florists use Ivory Soap in preference to anything else.”

 

Two Army servicemen talking to eachother in a tent.

March 2, 1918 (Click to Enlarge)

“After a hard hike or muscle-building romp, it certainly will be a pleasure for him to have an old-time bath with the bubbling, copious Ivory lather as he used to have at home.”

 

Woman in a chair speaking to a man.

March 10, 1928 (Click to Enlarge)

“With Ivory as their guardian all through the day, your hands can say nice things about you always!

 

Closeup of hands and a full tea cup

March 8, 1930 (Click to Enlarge)

“I don’t have $780 a year to spend on a maid—like my nice next-door neighbor, Alice G, who has two cars and never even washes out a handkerchief!”

 

Man reads in a bathtub

November 14, 1931 (Click to Enlarge)

“Most men (and most wives might as well know it) warble more cheerfully, relax more completely, in the clean-smelling foam of an Ivory bath—with a big, mansized cake of Ivory, floating in easy reach.”

 

Closeups of men

March 17, 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

“When you take a healthy dive into a brimming Ivory bath . . . And lather up with great rich gobs of pure, pure, Ivory lather . . . Then . . .You’re washing blues and troubles and worries away.”

 

Illustration of a woman's face, emphasizing smooth skin as a result of soap use.

June 25, 1938 (Click to Enlarge)

“If you want a baby-clear, baby-smooth skin, use the baby’s beauty treatment.”

 

Photos of a baby enjoying a bubble bath

April 19, 1941 (Click to Enlarge)

“Recently a leading medical journal wrote every doctor in the United States asking which soap they advised. For both babies’ and grown-ups’ skin, more doctors replied “Ivory” than any other brand of toilet soap.”

 

A soldier in battle

May 6, 1944 (Click to Enlarge)

“We make special soaps for processing parachutes. We make soaps for treating soldiers’ uniforms, for preparing war metals for plating, for preserving the leather in boots and strengthening the rubber in jeep tires.”

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  • Patric Cosgrove

    Did Ivory soap stop advertising after 1944?

  • Thank you Post Editors for this treat. Trust me, I enlarged each and every one to read the ad copy, for isn’t that what we love the most here? Of course it is!

    The top one (1906) has an attractive American couple all aboard for a trip to Europe. They cleverly imply why you had better have a sufficient supply of Ivory soap with you while there, stopping short of any real insult(s).

    The 2nd 1906 ad features another attractive couple, and might seem fine… if you just turn the page and don’t read the ad copy. It’s so sexist and overwhelmingly demeaning to women that you have to wonder how these men got away with it even then. Today, I think both men and women should get an amusing kick out of it—-and some laughs!

    The 5th one from 1928 is a beautiful watercolor of the woman. The man here is only partially there, but that’s okay. The ad copy is fair, but too close together.

    Love the art deco of #6 and the ad copy. This ad guy doesn’t pull any punches about anything here, and it seems he may have actually had a woman’s input on it.

    #7 actually features an ad man taking a bath (with the bar floating) and how ad guys think. Who’d have thunk that? Their egos of course.

    The ad copy on #8 sounds as though I’d written it myself; every word of it.

    On #11, they don’t even bother mentioning Ivory Soap, just Proctor & Gamble because we all know what soap it is. This covered everything P & G all in one fell swoop, pleasing the finance guys.

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