We are all aware of how important product packaging is nowadays. Although its main function is to protect the product from damage, it can also increase sales.
Packaging is a passive salesman, and it has the power to attract consumers and change their perception of what’s inside.
Many packaging innovations came about during World War I. Thanks to Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums we are now able to present to you a collection of vintage household products with some fascinating package designs, manufactured in the UK during WWI.
A tin of Vaseline, bronze, yellow, and black in color
Even in his early twenties, Robert Augustus Chesebrough was already a well-known chemist. By 1865, he had patented the process of making petroleum jelly and in 1872 he registered it as “Vaseline.” The product became extremely popular in the United States; in the middle of the 1870s, nearly 1,500 jars of Vaseline were sold every day in America.
Chesebrough formed the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company in 1875 and expanded the business to Canada and Britain.
A tin of Zenobia Talcum Powder; yellow, orange, blue, and black in color; with flower decoration
The story of Zenobia’s Talcum Powder involves another great chemist named William Frederick Charles, who established the company back in 1888 to produce horticultural products. In the first decade of the 20th century, though, Zenobia Ltd. shifted its focus to manufacturing perfumes and toiletries.
Charles named the company after Queen Zenobia of the Roman colony of Palmyra, in present-day Syria. He died in 1939 and in 1952, Zenobia Ltd. was sold to a company called Genatosan.
Box of Fullers Earth for nursery and toilet use, made of cardboard and paper in green, white, and red
Founded in 1852 by Richard Stothert in Atherton, Greater Manchester, Stotherts Ltd. started as a small business selling medication and ointments. By the end of the 19th century, it would become one of the most popular companies in Britain.
Box of Household Blended Starch, covered by cream paper with blue print
Nearly 180 years ago, back in 1840, in the city of Hull, England, Isaac Reckitt founded “Isaac Reckitt and Sons,” the company that would later go on to become Reckitt & Colman Ltd. By 1862, the year Isaac Reckitt died, the company employed 210 people and was among the most successful in Hull.
His three sons inherited the company and in 1913 they joined forces with former competitor J&J Colman and eventually formed Reckitt & Colman Ltd.
Box of Hudson’s soap extract, in blue, red and white
Chemist Robert Spear Hudson started experimenting with bars of soaps back in 1837 when he opened a small shop in West Bromwich. He is credited with popularizing dry soap powder that was sold in his shop. Hudson’s business grew very fast and in 1875 he opened a factory in Liverpool that eventually employed around 1000 people.
Hudson was not just an excellent chemist, he was also a great businessman who knew how to attract customers with many marketing campaigns throughout the country. He was succeeded by his son who sold the business to Lever Brothers in 1908. However, the name of the company remained unchanged until 1935.
Box of Oxydol Soap Powder, blue, orange and white in color
Thomas Hedley Co. was among the most famous soap manufacturers in Britain during World War I. The company was founded back in 1837 by Thomas Hedley and John Green who set up a manufacturing facility in Newcastle.
Thomas Hedley died in 1890 and his son took over the business and expanded it during World War I. However, the company was eventually sold to Procter and Gamble in 1930.
Burdall’s Ground White Pepper tin cylindrical in form, with nine small holes in the top
The founder of Burdall’s Ltd. was Herbert Moses Burdall. Born in 1875, he appears in the trade directories of 1902 as “Herbert Burdall, Drysalter”. The company that was described as a “manufacturing chemist noted for its gravy salt” bought the former Hillsborough Barracks for £12,000 in 1932 and based the company there. Burdall’s Ltd was sold in 1976 and manufacturing ceased.
Rowntree’s Cocoa Tin, with the inscription ‘The Nourishing Food That Aids Digestion’
The story of Rowntree & Co Ltd goes back to 1862 when Henry Isaac Rowntree acquired the Tukes’ cocoa and chocolate business. By 1869, 12 people were employed in his company but Mr. Rowntree faced some financial difficulties and his brother, Joseph Rowntree, joined him in full partnership under the title H. I. Rowntree and Co.
By the last decade of the 19th century the company was already transformed into a large-scale manufacturer and in 1898 it acquired its own cocoa plantations in the West Indies.
The company was a great success and at its peak it employed over 14,000 people. In 1988, Nestlé bought Rowntree’s for $4.5 billion after a months-long takeover fight.
Three bars of Eve Toilet Soap, covered by brown, green and cream packaging
Known as “Soapy Joe’s,” the company that was founded back in 1830 by a man named Joseph Watson was among the first soap companies in Britain. The business prospered over the years, but it wasn’t until Watson’s grandson, Joseph Watson Junior, took over the business that it became a real soap empire which ruled the soap market in England.
In the beginning of the 1890s, the company was already one of the largest in Britain producing 600 tons a week. However, in 1906 Watson sold some of his shares to Lever and in 1917 he sold the rest of his shares.
Toiletry set containing soap and talcum powder in a blue, red, silver and cream box
The origins of Vinolia Company Ltd. lie in a British-French company named Blondeau & Cie Ltd, established in around 1888. Blondeau & Cie Ltd were the proprietors of the Vinolia Company Ltd.
The company was founded in 1898 at 37-38 Upper Thames Street, London and produced soap, cream, and powder.
The company was acquired by Lever Brothers in 1906 but continued production until the early 1960s.