Not much of significant occurred for many years,  when later in the 1850’s John Harris then added chalk, and in 1873, when Colgate started to mass produce their soap-based toothpaste in jars.

Before toothpaste as we know it today existed, people tried several different things to clean their teeth such as, eggshells, ash, ground oyster shells, salt and various other abrasives too.  

The poor continued to use these in the late 1800s and even soot has been described as a cleaning agent – although I can’t imagine teeth were very white following this.

Although most people probably think that the desire to have whiter teeth as one of those distinctly modern obsessions, yet people wanted whiter teeth over 100 years ago too. Its been estimated that only 7% of Americans brushed their teeth regularly in 1900 compared to 68% today

The Johnson & Johnson brothers made something to fill that desire.  In the late 1800s, Johnson & Johnson made a tooth cream called ‘Zonweiss’, which means “white teeth” in German.  ‘Zonweiss’ was packaged in small jars and sold in drugstores or by mail order and had a catchy promotional “poem”. (Gift Clocks were also available).


Consumers applied it to their toothbrushes or cloths with a small spoon that came with each jar which made keeping if more sterile easier.  ‘Zonweiss’ was advertised in major magazines of the day, including Harper’s Magazine. 

“Zonweiss’ was advertised in major magazines

The other benefits of toothpaste and tooth cleaning may have close associations to general health as we’ll see in future posts.