|Pink, but quite nice really (The Bottle Depot)|
Toothpaste and tooth powders were first made my the ancient Egyptians, but it was only in the late 18th, and increasingly in the 19th century, that they started appearing in various fancy flavors such as honey, cherry,orange and areca nut (betel). Toothpaste ingredients included chalk or salt, and sometimes bits of old toasted bread “blackened in the fire, reduced to powder and…mixed with a little honey and a few drops of essence of peppermint”* – not the sort of thing that would make your teeth clean!
In 1879 The Living Age told the story of an fictional inventor whose tricks were probably pretty close to those employed in some Victorian advertising:
|1887 ad – will not go mouldy (in theory, anyway) as is “Climate Proof”|
A tooth-paste had grown mouldy upon the counters of a score of chemists. The inventor, in an access of despair, sent a pot to the Princess of Wales, and then printed forty thousand labels calling his pink abomination the “Royal Sandringham Tooth-Paste” as used by H.R.H.” What followed? The tooth-paste thus relabeled found a thousand purchasers, and in an incredibly short space of time the inventor was rich enough to fill a column of the Times with testimonials, all proving that until the Sandringham tooth-paste came into use there never was known in England such a thing as a really white set of teeth. Why did the public buy this tooth-paste?…It likes to buy what royalty buys. [The Living Age, vol. 142, 1879 p. 256]
And of course we do still like to buy things because celebrities wear them, eat or drink them, or lose weight using them. The closest thing I found to the imaginary Royal Sandringham Toothpaste was Gabriels’ Royal Tooth Powder, made in the 1870s and 1880s in England. But the Gabriels’ ads were rather terse and didn’t have any testimonials or amusing illustrations, unfortunately. Their tooth preparations were not pink abominations, it seems.
*Lippincott’s Magazine (vol. 18, 1876, p. 125).