So, we’ve seen the slow adaptation of tooth powders followed by the meteoric rise in toothpastes through commercial promotion.
Let’s look at the next part of the story.
Collapsible metal tubes were first patented in the U.K. and in the U.S. back in 1841. They were originally used to hold artist’s paint, making it easier for artists to travel with their art supplies and more easily do paintings on location in villages and fields.
The first “tube” of toothpaste was believed to be invented when Dr. Sheffield introduced his ‘Crème Dentifrice’ toothpaste in 1886. He is likely the first to use such tubes for toothpaste.
The first ads for ‘Zonweiss’ appeared in 1886, Johnson & Johnson’s first year in business, and our 1887 price list includes ‘Zonweiss’ tooth cream as the Company’s first consumer product among the sterile surgical products and medicated plasters.
Most teeth-cleaning products in 1886 were tooth powders: you had to dip a wet toothbrush into some tooth powder, or gently tap tooth powder onto your toothbrush (without accidentally tapping the container too hard and spilling the powder) and then add water.
Tooth creams take over from tooth powder
As a tooth cream (similar to toothpaste), ‘Zonweiss’ eliminated that step and was a lot easier for consumers to use. It came in a cobalt-blue glass jar, with a tiny spoon for people to use in applying it to their toothbrushes — to avoid the unsanitary practice of having multiple people dipping their toothbrushes into the same jar.
It was eventually decided to repackage it in what was said to be the first squeezable toothpaste tube, ( actually imitating ‘Sheffield’s invention of 1886),
There was a collapsible tube manufacturer in New Brunswick, New Jersey – “The Consolidated Fruit Jar Manufacturing Company” (despite its name, that company also made tins with shaker tops and collapsible tubes.)
The always ingenious Johnson brothers used them as their source, as ‘Johnson & Johnson’ was already buying fruit jars from them to package sterile surgical gauze and dressings.
The fruit jars could be hermetically sealed to keep the contents sterile an important step forward.