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.
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.