The Right Coast

May 01, 2004
In Praise of Ivory Soap
By Gail Heriot

I woke up this morning with Day 3 of a migraine headache. When it finally lifted about mid-afternoon, I decided to take a long pleasant bath with a bar of Ivory soap. How could anyone resist the charms of a floating soap?

Ivory soap was invented quite by accident in the 1870s. A Proctor & Gamble employee left his soap-churning machine on during his lunch break. When he returned, the soap mixture was so frothy that it produced soap that floated. The ever-frugal Proctor & Gamble decided to market the batch anyway and called it "P&G White Soap." Much to everyone's surprise, the public loved it.

But it deserved a more appealing name than "P&G White Soap," and a little while later it got one. Harley Proctor was attending church when he came across Psalms, chapter 45, verses 8-9: "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." The rest, of course, is soap history.