The History Of Pears Soap

by Gio
history of pears soap

Did you know that Pears’ Soap is the world’s oldest continuous brand? Founded in 1789, their almost transparent amber soap bars are still an iconic presence in many households 200 years later.

So iconic that, when Uniliver changed the 220+ year old formula, people started a Facebook campaign to bring back the original.

But what is it that makes Pears Soap so special and who invented it?

The Beginning Of Pear’s Soap

In 1789, Andrew Pears, a Cornish barber, opened a store in Soho, a wealthy area of London, and started making creams, powders and other beauty products.

Pretty soon, Pears noticed his socialite clientele used his products to cover the damage and dryness caused by arsenic-laden cosmetics they applied to achieve the fair, alabaster complexion that was so fashionable at the time.

Seeing a gap in the market, he decided to create something that would be gentler for the skin. After a lot of experiments, Pears Soap was born.

Made with glycerin and natural oils, the soap smelled like an English garden, and had a transparent appearance that set it apart from its competitors.

Pears was more interested in quality that quantity, so he sold his soap only to an exclusive customer base. His choice paid off. His business prospered so much, he moved his shop to Oxford. In 1851, he also won the prize medal for soap at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

pears soap advert

The Golden Era Of Pears’ Soap Advertising

When Andrew Pears retired, his grandson Francis took over and expanded the business to compete with the increasing numbers of rivals the brand now had.

In 1865, his son-in-law Thomas J Barratt, became a partner in the business. Considered “the father of modern advertisement”, he changed the distribution system and came up with the extensive advertising campaigns that have become iconic.

Barratt’s campaigns worked so well, the brand’s advertising posters are still very famous today. He appealed to people’s emotions before everyone else did, and used works of art, like Bubbles by John Everett Millais, as images for his posters. They were famous, and reinforced the brand’s clean and safe image in people’s minds.

He also came up with catchy slogans, like the famous “Good morning. Have you used Pears’ soap?”, and convinced physicians and pharmacists to provide testimonials. He also convinced the very famous actress Lillie Langtry to appear in its advertising campaign – and paid her handsomely  for it, of course.

Barratt also came up with novel publicity schemes. For instance, he imported 250,000 French coins and had the name Pears imprinted on them before putting them into circulation.

Another scheme involved giving new parents, who placed a birth notice in the newspapers, a bar of soap and an advertising leaflet.

Modern Times

In the mid 1910s, Pears’ soap became part of Lever Brothers and moved production in the north west of England.

From the early 20th century, Pears also organized a “Miss Pears” competition, in which parents entered their young daughters in the hope they would be became the new face of the brand.

Now, Pears Soap is made in India by Hindustan Unilever. What a fascinating story behind such a familiar bar of soap, don’t you think?

Do you use Pears Soap? Do you like the new formula or did you prefer the original one? Let me know in the comments below.

Take The Guesswork Out Of Skincare Shopping

Screenshot from 2017 04 30 11 51 35

Get access to the “Pro Skincare Library” for exclusive skincare routine “cheat sheets” and tricks to help you navigate the beauty aisles jungle like a pro and immediately know what to pick off the shelves to achieve the gorgeous skin of your dreams - even when you’re drowning in an endless sea of skincare products.


Powered by ConvertKit

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

37 comments

LaDamaBianca July 6, 2012 - 12:33 pm

Non lo conosco…o non me lo ricordo.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains July 6, 2012 - 7:37 pm

LaDamaBianca, effettivamente qui in Italia è meno conosciuto che all’estero però ogni tanto lo si vede in giro. Se ti capita, provalo. 🙂

Reply
Janessa July 7, 2012 - 7:29 am

I’ve never even heard of Pears soap! :[ I feel so misplaced, lol. I have to get me a bar of it , though! Are both formula’s still available? Old and new?
I find your history posts very easy and entertaining to read. You choose intriguing topics (partly because they’re beauty related) rid the big, unnecessary words, and throw in humor. 😀
So much to love about your blog!

Reply
beautifulwithbrains July 9, 2012 - 5:50 am

Janessa, I believe that only the new formula is still available.

Aww thank you. History is often considered boring and I think that’s because of how it is taught. Hopefully posts like this will make people realise how interesting and fun history can really be. 🙂

Reply
Jan July 14, 2012 - 12:40 am

I have a coworker who only uses Pears for her sensitive skin. Interesting read!

Reply
beautifulwithbrains July 16, 2012 - 5:32 am

Jan, I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

Reply
Beverly Pears Greer August 17, 2012 - 2:50 pm

My family name is Pears and I am interested in finding information to determine if perhaps the original creators could be distant ancestors. I recently visited the Lever site in Port Sunlight, but was not able to get any information there.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains August 18, 2012 - 5:58 am

Beverley, it would be really cool if you were related, and it’s a shame that it’s so hard to find information. Have you considered hiring a professional genealogist? I’m sure they would be able to help.

Reply
April Wright July 1, 2018 - 7:41 pm

Hi .my grandma was a decendents of Pears she was born around 1886 .I have finally put the pieces to get her.
Regards April

Reply
Gio July 6, 2018 - 7:52 pm

April, how lovely!

Reply
Martyn October 14, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Hello pears.

I rang your Australian supplier (Pental) on 03 92512311.
To ask them if the original Pears soap is back.
The person I spoke to sent me a 3 pack of Pears Transparent.
The batch number is 1112B655.
We opened the package, only to be set back with the strong chemical smell. Not very nice at all!
So we gave it a try, 3 showers later and it was gone!
We will never purchase it again!
I am now asking you to please bring back the “original” pears transparent soap.
The soap with the beautiful aroma that is darker than the new one and lasts for 28 showers!
Thank you

Reply
beautifulwithbrains October 15, 2013 - 2:16 pm

Martyn, I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience with the soap. However, this is just my personal blog. I am in no way affiliated with Pears. If you have any complaints or requests, you should contact them through their website or call them.

Reply
jayne hanson April 12, 2015 - 11:21 pm

please can you give me an email address that I can contact pears on thankyou Jayne

Reply
Gio April 13, 2015 - 2:32 pm

Jayne, I’m afraid I don’t have it. But you could try contacting them through their website or facebook page?

Reply
Peter Schramko October 29, 2015 - 5:18 am

Hi,

I have found your library of Pears ads and another large collection on Google but with no email address.

I am trying to find one of my mother, Australian, circa 1926-1938. She was a well known actress on the Sydney stage. It has her head and shoulders and the message reads “Phoebe Martyn loves Pears Soap”

There was a copy of the ad in my mother’s papers but now that I need it for the family history I am writing it has disappeared.

Can you help by giving the name and address of someone who may be able to assist me in finding a copy?

Thanks

Peter Schramko

Reply
Gio October 29, 2015 - 8:02 am

Peter, what a fascinating story and worthwhile project! But I am just a blogger. I don’t have the info you’re looking for. I’m sorry I can’t be of help.

Reply
Julie May 27, 2016 - 7:11 am

Pears’ soap was racist why didn’t you cover that and only congratulate them? You should look into their ads for “clear complexion”

Reply
Gio May 28, 2016 - 7:22 pm

Julie, I will. I became interested in Pears’ soap because of the artwork they used (big history nerd here), but I wasn’t aware of the more racist ads. I will do more research and rewrite this post accordingly. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and sorry if this post offended you.

Reply
Vonna June 12, 2018 - 10:31 pm Reply
Gio June 16, 2018 - 4:56 pm

Vonna, sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for in this post. I hadn’t seen those two specific ads before and they’re very racist indeed. There really is no justification for them.

Reply
Valerie Martin September 4, 2016 - 4:13 am

I was born in the UK but have lived in NZ for many years. I am appalled that my beloved Pears soap is no longer available. I am nearly 80 years old and have washed my face in Pears soap for all of my years as did my mother and my grandmother . People always tell me I have beautiful skin with no wrinkles at all.

PEARS soap manufacturers how can you do this to us?

Valerie Martin

Reply
Gio September 4, 2016 - 11:52 am

Valerie, oh no! It sucks when a long-time favourite gets discontinued. 🙁

Reply
Swetha Ramesh April 12, 2017 - 7:10 pm

Please ban the new pears soap and bring back the old original formula the tagline stay young does not suit the current formula is not gentle makes skin dry, does not hydrate skin due to the presence of harmful chemicals like SLS.

Reply
Gio April 21, 2017 - 8:12 pm

Swetha, what a shame they changed the formula!

Reply
Tosin David June 15, 2017 - 12:36 pm

pears really spoilt everything …..the old formula would last for a month using it alone but now it barley last to weeks i hope they bring back the old formula tho ….i cant wait i use the germ shield tho

Reply
Gio June 17, 2017 - 12:27 pm

Tosin, oh no! It’s too bad when that happens, isn’t it? They should just stick to what works.

Reply
Patricia James October 25, 2017 - 12:30 am

I am a senior have used Pears all my life did try the new one but the original was the best.Since it has been made in India it has a different perfume.

Reply
Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:27 pm

Patricia, what a shame. If it wasn’t broken, they shouldn’t have “fixed” it. 🙁

Reply
Robyn Catherall November 24, 2017 - 2:00 pm

My cousin Gail Croucher was a child model for pears in the late 40s. She has no photos of herself in the ad in a bath and since her mother as passed she was would love a copy

Reply
Gio November 26, 2017 - 1:50 pm

Robyn, that would be lovely. Unfortunately I don’t work for Pears and have no connection to the brand so I can’t help here. But I hope you can find a way to fulfil her wish. Best of luck to you both.

Reply
Chen January 1, 2018 - 4:42 pm

We stopped purchasing pears when both location and formula relocated.

Reply
Gio January 19, 2018 - 4:16 pm

Chen, what a shame!

Reply
Liz August 16, 2018 - 10:23 pm

My husband remembers a picture of a lady getting into a bath with Pears?soap. I’d like to see that as he compares her to me, haha! Do you know about it? Thanks, Liz

Reply
Gio September 6, 2018 - 8:45 pm

Liz, I’m afraid I don’t, sorry!

Reply
JeffRacey January 6, 2019 - 3:49 am

Our local Dollar Tree in Knoxville, Tn sells this soap. I purchased one box and it ended up in the garbage.

Reply
Gio January 12, 2019 - 2:34 pm

Jeffracey, sorry it didn’t work for you.

Reply
H. Goldstonr August 20, 2019 - 9:42 pm

I have a Pear’s poster dated 1921 of John Collier’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. I believe these posters were issued with Christmas annuals. I am trying to find out if anyone would be interested in buying it as it needs a good home, but an finding it difficult. Any info gratefully received. Many thanks.

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.