Thursday, February 23, 2012

Giving Fels-Naptha a Try

This etching does not look like an add for laundry detergent which it is. In fact, to me it looked a little creepy with a stranger peering in through the windows of the house. But the components for a serene summer scene are all in place: Trees, picket fence, dog, children and their father who is visiting with a friend nearby. Apparently the well dressed man is
The Stranger They Never Forgot.
The print caught my eye in this 1930 copy of the National Farm Journal. It is the illustration in a full page ad for Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap.
Laundry was always a big dirty job on farms. Stains, and odors found their way into the clothing worn on the farm. Dirt, grass stains, sweat, soot, grease, the list is endless, were a challenge to clean. There were other ads for laundry soap in this magazine, such as the ad above for Rinso.
My theory is that the ads were sold in support of the above story in the issue. Apparently, working in a rural laundry is better than doing laundry at home. The opening of the article reads: "Why should not the farmer folks take their wash to the laundry just the same as the city folks do? The farmer's wife usually has so many other tasks to perform beside laundry..." 
And yet, nine of the ten laundry employees are women.
They were using all the latest equipment at the laundry, and surely not in farm homes in 1930.
Perhaps because many women concocted their own laundry detergents, companies were reaching out to farmers and their wives.
They indicated modern women preferred to buy laundry detergent.
Young women knew the value of purchasing laundry detergent to avoid scrubbing. It seems that mother had never seen suds so thick and creamy.
I found this magazine in the GriggsDakota attic, received long ago by my grandfather. 1930 was the beginning of the tough times in GriggsDakota and across the country. There was not a paying crop in the area for eleven years during the drought and years of depressed prices which ended in 1940, according to Iris, my great aunt. 
 The long copy on the ad reveals that this sales man knocked on doors in the 1890's. We learn that Fels-Naptha laundry bar would work in lukewarm water. Only mansions had hot water heaters, so commonly water was heated on the stove for washing. Wash water was never hot enough and this bar would do the job in cool water. Women were eternally grateful for the product. Thus, the stranger who sold Fels-Naptha was never forgotten, although the ad makes it clear that by 1930, the product was available at the grocery store.
Fels-Naptha is still available. Heavy duty laundry bar soap that is ideal for pre-treating stains. Isn't that scrubbing? I thought we were to avoid that. Oh yes, that was Rinso, now used primarily in Austrailia. 
Fels-Naptha has a strong fresh scent that I like.
The back of the wrapper tells us that it is manufactured in the USA by the Dial Corporation. A bar of Dial Soap was by the sink in GriggsDakota when I was young. It also assures that it contains no naphthalene. That is a change from 1930 when the ad read "the unusually good soap and plentiful naptha working together get clothes clean so quickly that you don't have your hands in hot water so long." 
The bar sliced easily into sixteen pieces. 
It sudsed readily in my hand and did not irritate. 
It sudsed well in the small bucket of water that I use to presoak stained laundry. 
 The 1930 ad contained an opportunity to send in for a free chipper. I consulted with Mom to find that yes, the bar was shaved into pieces as it was added to the laundry tub.
I used a paring knife and headed to the laundry room. 
These old washing instructions are posted in plain view. I have rewritten instructions countless times and posted them as my children grew, and the washing products and machines changed. These are looking tired and I wondered if, when I take them down, it would be for the last time. My family is grown and Farmer Fred knows how to wash clothes.
 I thought about how easy laundry is in GriggsDakota. Automatic washer and dryer, plenty of hot water, a sink, plumbing, I take it all for granted.
I attempted, unsuccessfully, to take a photo of the shards of soap through the glass of the front loading machine.  Modern foolishness. I have time for this because of all of our many conveniences and products.
I do not want to give convenience up, but I enjoyed using Fels-Naptha soap. It made today's laundry feel like a 4-H Demonstration. Fels-Naptha is still a good product, even though I didn't ever meet 
The Stranger They Never Forgot 
in GriggsDakota.

1 comment:

  1. I would never guess that laundry soap from 1930 would still be available today. How cool! Mom I love this post! Well done!!

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