Ref NoGB1752.EFL/DG
Alt Ref NoOFR:
LevelSub collection
TitleD & W Gibbs Ltd
DescriptionThe origins of the firm D & W Gibbs can be traced as far back as 1762 to a tallow chandler and soap manufacturer called John Hammond operating from No.3 John Street, Clerkenwell. This business passed from John Hammond, through several members of the Wright family, until it was purchased in 1804-5 by brothers John and David Gibbs. At this time the premises had moved to 76 Grub Street (later called Milton Street). The works, and consequently most of the business records, were devastated by a fire in 1889 making the history of the firm's development prior to that date difficult to ascertain.

At the time of the fire the firm was owned by two of the sons of David Gibbs: David Aspland Gibbs (1813-1898) and William Alfred Gibbs (1819-1900), who had entered the business following the death of John Gibbs in 1816 and the
subsequent withdrawal of his brother, David from the business. The style of the firm had been altered from J & D Gibbs to D & W Gibbs. Following the fire David and William acquired the business of fellow soap manufacturers Paton and Charles of Wapping and continued operations from their premises. Leading authorities had driven out factories that used open fires from the city boundaries. It was in their new premises in Wapping that the business prospered, with candles, tooth-cleaning powder, toilet soap and shaving soap being the major product lines. At the beginning of the twentieth century the major part of the company's business was in hard soaps, toilet soaps and shaving soaps, with much of the
toilet soap trade being contract work by which Gibbs stamped soap tablets with the name of the seller.

1887 - Gibbs' own brand of cold cream soap, which the company had first introduced this year, had begun to increase public awareness of the Gibbs name in the field of toiletries due to the limited advertising that supported the products launch.

1896 - The firm was incorporated as D & W Gibbs Ltd. Shortly afterwards the two senior partners of the firm died: David Aspland in 1898 and William Alfred in 1900, but the business was carried on by several younger family members.
1905 - The company was producing a range of their own toilet soaps by this year including brands such as the Superfatted Cold Cream Soap; 'Kura' medicated soap, Jockey Club soaps and Old Brown Windsor; as well as a cold cream shaving range including shaving soap sticks and shaving soap cakes; laundry and household soaps, and tooth soaps in various flavours sold in metal or celluloid cases.

The company had also begun to export their products to the French market, establishing a Paris selling agency, Thibaud et Cie.

1906 - It was following the request of the newly established Thibaud et Cie agency that Gibbs developed a product which was to become one of the company's strongest brands: a solid dentifrice - an innovative product as the chief dentifrices of the time were in powdered form. The product was initially marketed in the UK as 'Gibbs French Dentifrice' and proved its convenience during the First World War when used by British troops in France. The soldiers liked the fresh flavour and convenience. They also discovered that the dentifrice was an excellent cleaning product for the brass buttons on their tunics and the regimental badges on their caps.

1913 - The company, in order to spread business risks over a wider ownership than Gibbs family members, sold a block of Gibbs Ordinary shares to Prices Patent Candle Company, under condition that they should have representation on Gibbs' board.

1919 - Lever Brothers acquired Prices Patent Candle Company this year and bought the balance of Ordinary Shares in D & W Gibbs.

1920s - During this period the company went on to establish a scheme to promote dental health awareness amongst children called the 'Ivory Castle League'. Advertising and promotional material included illustrated storybooks for children in which the Ivory Towers or Castles (teeth) were protected from the wicked Giant Decay by the valiant Gibbs defenders.

1922 - The first Lord Leverhulme assumed chairmanship of the company - the first chairman for more than 150 years who was not of the Gibb family.

1923 - The company continued to expand its overseas operations, establishing on 1st April 1923 S.A. Establissements in France.

1926 - On 2nd October the Company formed with the principal shareholders of Thibaud Gibbs et Cie an Italian company, Stabilimenti Italiani Gibbs.

1929 - The company had become part of the Unilever group, following the formation of Unilever from the alliance between Lever Brothers and the Dutch Margarine Union. As such it eventually became subject to reorganisaton in line with Unilever's policy of rationalisation of the many toiletry manufacturers which had formerly been subsidiaries of Lever Brothers.

1934- Gibbs SR Toothpaste, which was set to revolutionise the market, owed its origins to the unlikely setting of London's St Paul's Cathedral. Whilst attending service there during the 1930s, a Gibbs executive became involved in conversation with a dentist who drew his attention to research that indicated that a solution of ricinoleate could prove highly effective in the treatment of gum diseases. D & W Gibbs was able to extend its share of the dental health market by introducing toothpaste which it described as 'an entirely new and revolutionary product specially prepared for the treatment and prevention of tender, bleeding gums, gingivitis and pyorrhea'. The product was named SR, the initials standing for Sodium Rincinoleate, and was launched this year.

1946 - The company took over the selling operations of the Vinolia baby brands and Vinolia Lypsyl, as well as J & E Atkinson's top-selling perfume brand, Californian Poppy. Following the war the company began an advertising campaign to promote the product, by then simply titled 'Gibbs Dentifrice', which soon became popular for its convenience and economic benefits, and identified strongly as a family product with particular appeal to children. Advertising used images of ivory castle imagery based on the line: "Your teeth are ivory castles - protect them with Gibbs 'Dentifrice'".

1949 - D & W the company modernised one of its older products - Gibbs Cold Cream superfatted soap, with a new name, new formulation and new packaging. The product became known as Astral Cream Soap and in the same year Astral Skin Cream was launched to complement the soap.

Further new products launched by the company during the 1950`s and 1960`s included Sunsilk shampoo, launched in 1954 and promoted as an innovation in only needing one application; Clinic shampoo, a medicated shampoo launched in 1960; Signal, a red and white striped toothpaste, launched in January 1960 and promoted as "the toothpaste with a mouthwash in its stripes"; Fluoride in 1962 and the Sure range in February 1966.

1950 - The sales of Vinolia products were transferred during this year to another Unilever owned company, Pepsodent Ltd.

1952 - The marketing operations of Gibbs were again expanded through a merger with A & F Pears associated. New products added to Gibbs included Pears' Transparent Soap, Erasmic Shaving Stick and Coroshave; Gloria shampoo; Pears' Nutriline shampoo; Pears' Embassy Soap and Pears' Baby Powder.

1955 - SR Toothpaste made advertising history on 22nd September this year by becoming the subject of the first ever television commercial shown in the UK.

1963 - On the 1st January D & W Gibbs Ltd was integrated with two further Unilever toiletry manufacturers, Joseph Watson and Sons Ltd and Pepsodent Ltd to become Gibbs Pepsodent Ltd, so forming the core of the company, Elida Faberge Ltd.

1965 - The sales divisions of Gibbs and Pepsodent remained separate initially but were integrated in 1965, at which time the company name was changed again by special resolution to Gibbs Proprietaries Ltd.
Date1792-2000
Access StatusOpen
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