This Day in History (22-May-1892) – Dr Washington Sheffield invents toothpaste tube

Toothpaste was used as long ago as 500 BC in both China and India; however, modern toothpastes were developed in the 1800s. In 1824, a dentist named Peabody was the first person to add soap to toothpaste. John Harris first added chalk as an ingredient to toothpaste in the 1850s. In 1873, Colgate mass-produced the first toothpaste in a jar.

In the late 19th century, numerous companies flooded the toothpaste market with products available in a variety of different jars—into which all members of a family might dip their brushes. Dr. Washington Sheffield, a dental graduate, formed a company for oral care products in New London, USA. During this time, Washington Sheffield’s son, Dr. Lucius Tracy Sheffield was in Paris, France, where he noticed artists using collapsible metal tubes for paints and inks. He thought putting the jar-packaged dentifrice in these tubes would be a good idea. Lucius communicated his observations to his father and shortly after, in 1892, Washington Sheffield unveiled first toothpaste tube. Sheffield’s toothpaste was called Dr. Sheffield’s Creme Dentifrice.

Taking all manner of manufacture under his own control, Dr. Sheffield began producing tubes made out of tin. He built facilities for printing and embossing the tubes and even manufactured the boxes for shipping them. In 1896, Colgate Dental Cream was packaged in collapsible tubes imitating Sheffield. The product was called Colgate Ribbon Dental Creme. Sheffield’s two grandsons took this idea a step further when they formed the New England Collapsible Tube Company in 1911—an enterprise that became the largest producer of collapsible tubes in the country. The company Washington Sheffield started is still in business today under the name Sheffield Pharmaceuticals. Still located on Broad Street in New London, it is in the business of making creams, ointments, and pastes for the medical and dental fields. In addition, it still makes its own formula of toothpaste.



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