Ref NoGB1752.EFL
Alt Ref NoOFR:
Acc No2018-51
LevelCollection
TitleElida Faberge Ltd
DescriptionThe histories of several eminent toiletry manufacturers are involved in a history of the evolution of Elida Faberge Limited, which has developed over several years through a series of integrations, acquisitions and reorganisations. On 1 Jan 1963, as part of a strategy of rationalization, Unilever integrated three of its operating companies - Joseph Watson and Sons, Pepsodent Company Limited and D + W Gibbs - to become Gibbs Pepsodent Limited, so forming the core of the present company. By the time of this integration the three companies already enjoyed very close working relationships, and had absorbed responsibility for toiletry brands originating from several other former Lever Brothers subsidiaries, including J + E Atkinson, Erasmic, Icilma, A + F Pears and the Vinolia range of Blondeau et Cie. The histories of these companies are consequently fundamental to a history of Elida Faberge, and business papers of the three merged companies pre-dating the 1963 integration, as well as papers of many of their subsidiaries and associates, are included in the Elida Faberge collection.

The firm of Joseph Watson and Sons was founded in the 1830s-1840s as a hide and skin dealers with soap-making originally developing as a sideline using the tallow by-product. By the 1860s a soap works had been built at Whitehall Road, Leeds, and at the time of the company's incorporation in 1897 Watsons were producing domestic soaps that had become household names including Watson's Matchless Cleanser and Venus Soap. Lever Brothers purchased the company in stages between 1913-1917. With the formation of Unilever the company began to experience some reorganisation in line with the corporate strategy of rationalisatiion of Unilever's many operating companies: during the 1930s production of household soap within Unilever became concentrated at Whitehall Road and later in this decade the Whitehall works became the centre for development of soapless shampoo and shampoo powders, as well as extending production of toothpastes.
Following the Second World War more radical changes took place . All Unilever soap output was transferred to Port Sunlight and in 1952 production of household soap was finally discontinued at Whitehall Road, whilst Watsons began its conversion to the UK Toilet Preparations Unit of Unilever, producing and packing toothpastes and dentifrices, shampoos, permanent waving lotions, perfumes and toilet waters, to include production of products for other companies within the Unilever Group, including toothpaste for D + W Gibbs and Pepsodent and Pears shampoo.

(See introduction to EFL/JW for a more detailed account of the history Joseph Watson and Sons)

The origins of D + W Gibbs can be traced as far back as 1762 to a Clerkenwell soap makers, a business bought in 1804 by brothers David and John Gibbs. The premises, by that time situated in Grub Street, Finsbury, were devastated by fire in 1889 and the owners at this time, David and William Gibbs, bought another soapmakers business, Paton and Charles of Wapping, in order to continue their former operations. In 1896 the firm was incorporated as D + W Gibbs Ltd. By the beginning of the twentieth century Gibbs was producing hard soaps, toilet soaps and shaving soaps, a lot of production being contract work for outside sellers, although Gibbs' own brand of Cold Cream Soap had been introduced in 1887. Gibbs had also begun exporting to the French market, which from 1905 was conducted through an agency, P. Thibaud et Cie. In 1906 this agency requested the company to produce a new type of product for the French market, a solid dentifrice, and consequently Gibbs Dentifrice marketed from 1912 in the UK initially as 'Gibbs French Dentifrice' was introduced and gained steadily in popularity to become one of the foremost dental products sold in the UK. In 1913 Prices Patent Candle Company purchased a block of Gibbs ordinary shares, and when in 1919 Lever Brothers acquired Prices they bought the balance of Ordinary shares in Gibbs. Gibbs continued to devleop and introduce new brands, from toothpastes including SR (launched 1934) and Signal (1960) to shampoos including Sunsilk (1954) and Clinic (1960). Another popular Gibbs' line was Astral Cream Soap and Skin Cream (1949/1950). As a consequence of Unilever's strategy of rationalization of its subsidiaries Gibbs underwent a course of reorganisation in the 1940s -1950s during which time it took on the responsibility of several of Unilever's toiletry brands, including Vinolia products from 1942-1950 ; Pears' brands from 1952 when the company merged with A + F Pears, and Erasmic shaving products.

(See introduction to EFL/DG for a more detailed account of the history of D + W Gibbs)

The Pepsodent Company was founded in Chicago in 1915 producing Pepsodent toothpaste; five years later the product was exported to the UK where it gained steadily in popularity until by 1932 public demand was large enough to justify local manufacture and production started at Park Royal, London. In 1944 the Pepsodent Company was bought by one of Unilever's American concerns, Lever Brothers USA, transforming the Pepsodent Company in the UK into a Unilever toiletry company. As such Pepsodent Ltd's selling catalogue was soon expanded: in 1950 Pin-Up home perm and Vinolia lines were added to Pepsodent range following transfer from D + W Gibbs. Pepsodent was responsible for the marketing of Icilma creams and shampoo from 1953, and the launch of Vinolia baby lines (1950) and Mentasol toothpaste (1952), and extended its hair care range with the launch of Twink home perm (1954) and Harmony hair colourant (1956). In 1951 to meet the Company's need for larger premises, the Park Royal factory was closed and production was transferred to the works of Joseph Watson and Sons in Leeds.

(See introduction to EFL/PP for a more detailed account of the history of Pepsodent Ltd)

Preparations for the merger of the three companies took place throughout 1962, and on the 1 Jan 1963 they were integrated to become Gibbs Pepsodent Ltd, a company formed through a name change from the former Lever Brothers' subsidiary, Tyson and Co., originally incorporated in 1910. The company headquarters from this time until 1995 were based at Hesketh House in Portman Square, London, in 1996 being transferred to Kingston. On 18 Jan 1965, the company name was changed again by special resolution to Gibbs Proprietaries Ltd. The name change was partly in response to reorganisation within the company, including the integration of the two previously separate sales divisions of Gibbs and Pepsodent; and partly inspired by plans for expansion into the field of non-prescription medicines, or 'proprietaries'. At the end of 1965 the company began to operate an agreement with Abbott Laboratories Ltd, a leading manufacturer of prescription drugs by which Abbott Laboratories would develop new products for sale by Gibbs Proprietaries, using the house name Tobal Laboratories.

On 2 Dec 1964 a new company, Elida Ltd, was formed by Gibbs Proprietaries in order to band together its hair products under a single international name - Unilever's Elida companies already existed on the continent in Austria, Germany and France. The name Elida began to be added to the packaging of certain of Gibbs' products including Sunsilk, Melody, Harmony, Pin-Up, Twink and Sea-Witch; and the House of Elida was officially launched by Gibbs Proprietaries on 18 May 1965. On 18 Apr 1971 the name of the company was changed by special resolution to Elida Gibbs Ltd.

The company had been rapidly outgrowing its Whitehall Road works and in 1985 Unilever decided that the site would have to close and all production to be moved to a larger site at Seacroft, on the outskirts of Leeds. Production at Whitehall Road ended on 6 November 1986 .

In 1987 a new and notable acquisiton made by Unilever was added to Elida Gibbs: Chesebrough-Pond's Ltd., a company whose origins spring from two separate New York businesses: the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company Consolidated, and the Pond's Extract Company. Robert Chesebrough founded the former company, and by 1870 had perfected a product he called 'petroleum jelly' based on the substance formed on steel rods of oil pumps. The brand name for this product, Vaseline, was registered as a trademark in 1877 in the UK and 1878 in the US. The Pond's Extract Company dates back to 1846 when Theron T. Pond set up business to manufacture Pond's Extract; in 1872 the Pond's Extract Company was formed with offices and a factory in New York and a distillery in Connecticut. Pond's Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream were introduced in America in 1907 and Europe in 1915. In the 1930s-1940s the company branched out into cosmetics including the Dreamflower and Angelface ranges. The Chesebrough Manufacturing Company and Pond's Extract Company merged on 1 Jul 1955 to form Chesebrough-Pond's Inc, and during the 1950s-1960s completed a series of acquisitions which greatly expanded the brand portfolio, including the fragrance house Prince Matchabelli, associated with fragrances such as Cachet, Pastale and Aviance; Odo-ro-no deodorants, Cutex nail care and Q-Tips.
(See introduction to EFL/CP for a more detailed account of the history of Chesebrough-Pond's Ltd )

In 1989 Unilever acquired the American firm of Faberge, associated with brands Brut aftershave, Aqua Net hairspray and Babe perfume, and integrated the business with Elida Gibbs. Substantial investment in the house name of Faberge followed, and the name began appearing on packaging of Lynx deodorant and shaving products as well as Brut and the Addiction fragrance range launched by Elida Gibbs in Oct 1995. On 18 Dec1995 as a result of the strength of the Faberge name and its associations with high quality grooming products the company name was changed to Elida Faberge Ltd .

Subsequent reorganisation has further extended the company's personal care range. In March 1996 Unilever acquired Helene Curtis and integrated the company with Elida Faberge to concentrate on the expansion of the Salon Selectives hair care range. In December of the same year the sales and marketing of five leading personal wash brands - Dove, Lux, Knight's Castile, Lifebuoy and Shield - was transferred from Lever Brothers to Elida Faberge in order to centralize Unilever's personal wash brand marketing and to strengthen further Elida Faberge's commanding position in the personal wash market.

Date1811-2000
Extent5.086 m³ (388 boxes)
Access StatusOpen
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