Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 4, 2014


June 4, 1872: US Patent No. 127,568 is granted. Robert Augustus Chesebrough was born in London and moved to the US. He was a chemist working with the distillation of products from kerosene from the oil of sperm whales. When a new product was discovered, his old line of work became obsolete. He traveled to Titusville, Pennsylvania to see if he might be able to use the new oil to create something other than simple fuel. Workers there disliked the paraffin-like substance which formed on the rigs since it caused the machinery to malfunction. It was useful because it hastened healing of burns and cuts.

The workers called this annoying material “rod wax” and Chesebrough brought the unrefined goo back to his lab to see if he could make something of it. By distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the rod wax, a light-colored gel was left behind. Using a vacuum distillation process needed lower heat and the resulting gel was then filtered through bone char to remove residue. The patent he applied for was to protect the process of creating what he called Vaseline. It was not immediately found to be useful and the inventor travelled around New York burning and cutting himself in order to show prospective customers the value of his product.

Chesebrough Manufacturing Company was formed in 1859 as an oil business. He began manufacturing Vaseline – named from the Greek for water (wasser) and oil (olion). While he obtained his US patent on this date, he did not get a patent in England until 1877. They began manufacturing Vaseline Petroleum Jelly at a plant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. In 1881, Chesebrough began operating under Standard Oil but became independent again in 1911. Additional plants were built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and London, England. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange with other oil-related industries such as Standard Oil. The company was successful even throughout the Great Depression.

Chesebrough and Pond’s Creams merged in 1955. Pond’s Cream was a patent medicine created by pharmacist Theron Pond. His cream could heal small cuts and other ailments. Originally named Golden Treasure, after the inventor died, the name became eponymous. The TT Pond Company formed in 1846 and the CEO died in 1852. By the new century, Pond’s Cream was sold across the country. By the 1920s, women were looking for designer creams and Pond’s sales declined. Pond’s first merged with the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company in 1955 which by that time had control of brands such as Cutex and Matchabelli. The combined companies known as Chesebrough-Ponds was purchased by Unilever in 1987.

There’s no lotion or potion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work. – Jeffrey Gitomer

My grandma told me never, ever, ever to use soap on my face. But I do use lotion. – Natalia Kills

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. – Hippocrates

Nothing is so healing as the human touch. – Bobby Fischer

Also on this day: Consumerism’s Helper – In 1937 Sylvan Goldman got creative and boosted sales.
Congratulations – In 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.
Bravery – In 1989. Tank Man faces a row of Chinese tanks.
Rogers Family – In 1989, three bodies were found floating in Tampa Bay.


One Response

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  1. vanbraman said, on June 5, 2014 at 1:04 am

    Really cool to know where the name vaseline came from. The German word for water is also wasser. Makes sense to me 🙂

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