On This Day: in 1892, toothpaste in a tube was patented

Dr. Sheffield's toothpaste in a tube. An advert from the 1890's

Some inventions have been around for so long that one tends to assume they have existed for ever. One such is toothpaste in a tube. Not so. The toothpaste tube was patented only in 1892, the year my Mother’s parents were born.

Although tooth-paste had been available from the 1850’s, many people still used homemade, abrasive tooth powders made from chalk, brick-dust or salt to get the job done. At that time, the more sophisticated “toothpaste” could only purchased in a tubs or pots, to be applied by a brush made of stiff, boar bristles.

Metal tubes used to store oil paint had been invented by an American portrait painter living in London named John  Goffe Rand [born, New Hampshire in 1801], half a century earlier in 1841. Rand’s invention was made of zinc, with a wooden stopper to prevent the paint spilling out when not in use.

In the early 1890’s Lucius Sheffield, a dental student from Connecticut studying in Paris, noticed artists using paint from tubes and suggested that his father use similar tubes as the delivery mechanism for his earlier invention of toothpaste cream.

Advert from 1909

Washington Wentworth Sheffield [born in New London, Connecticut in 1827], had come up with a popular paste for cleaning teeth in 1850 that he marketed as “crême dentifrice”. Seeing the potential of using tubes for toothpaste, he decided to put his own product into lead tubes with a screw top.

Amazingly, Sheffield Fluoride Toothpaste is still available, produced by Sheffield Pharmaceuticals a division of Faria Ltd., the head office still located in New London, Connecticut.

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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2 Responses to On This Day: in 1892, toothpaste in a tube was patented

  1. Xarici says:

    That little metal handle looks useful!

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