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Soap Facts
The History of Soap
While the origin of soap is not well documented, it appears to have been available to the early civilizations of the Fertile Crescent after 2000 B.C. During this epoch soap was used as a wound medication or hair dressing because the cleansing properties had not yet been discovered.

egyptian Even the well chronicled baths of Queen Cleopatra were absent of soap. Essential oils were used for her bathing rituals. Cleopatra used fine white sand as an abrasive agent for cleansing.
The grand baths of early ancient Rome employed cosmetics, essences, and oils but no soap. Later some Romans understood the cleansing properties of soap, but its use was not widespread. roman

Arabs in the Arabian Desert and later the Turks were the first societies to recognize the value of Soap. When the Turks invaded the Byzantine Empire, soap was introduced to Europe. However, isolated tribes of Vikings and Celts discovered soap independently. The Celts are even credited with introducing soap to England around 1000 A.D.

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4000BC "Purifying Oils", recorded on Hebrew Tablets, mention the use of cleaning aids, possibly ashes, limestone and oil mixed together to make the first recorded "soap".

100AD Pliney the Elder writes about soapy dyes used to cleanse and dye hair.

800AD Soap making becomes recognized as an art in Italy and Spain.

1300AD France becomes the leader in soap making, using imported oils rather than animal tallow.

1622 King James I grants special privileges to the artisans in the soap making industry.

1630 Colonial Americans, faced with a shortage of soap from England, begin producing soap in the home. Cooking grease, animal tallow and ashes were stored and yearly were cooked into soap for the following year.

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1730 Tallow Chandlers and Soap Boilers appeared in the early 18th century. They would go door to door buying grease and tallow, later to sell it back as soap, door to door.

1780 Mass distribution began in local and outlying areas to General Stores, Stage Coach stops, and hotels. The art of producing soap in the home was waning.

1837 William Proctor, a candle maker; and James Gamble, a soap maker, formed a partnership to manufacture and sell their products. The two men were responsible for producing and distributing low cost, high quality soap products. Sales reach an unprecedented $1,000,000. Even today, their insight into mass-marketing and distribution are studied in college Marketing classes.

1930 With the Great Depression, distribution was failing; money was in short supply, so homeowners began the search for soap recipes. It was during this period that daytime Radio dramas were introduced to the America home. Today, we know them as "The Soap Opera"!

1940 The Government was buying all of the commercially available grease to produce glycerin, used to produce weapons. This produced another shortage of soap, and home production was still strong.

1950 A boom economy makes consumable goods readily available again. The automobile was a fixture, TV's were everywhere and the art of soap making begins to decline.

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