Pond’s Extract Company


Pond’s started out in 1846 as a patent medicine company when Theron T. Pond [1880-1852], a pharmacist from Utica, New York, began selling ‘Golden Treasure’, a homeopathic remedy he had developed from witch hazel. In 1849, Theron Pond, Alexander Hart, and Edmund Munson formed the T. T. Pond Company to make and sell Golden Treasure which was renamed as Pond’s Extract. After the American Civil War [1861-1865] soap and toiletries were added to the product list. Changes of ownership, Theron Pond’s death, and legal disputes over who owned the manufacturing rights to the extract, created problems for the early Pond’s, but by the 1880s things had settled down and the Pond’s Extract Company emerged.

Pond’s Extract

Pond’s Extract was a mixture of witch hazel distillate, alcohol and water. It was promoted as a general cure-all for burns, colds, catarrh, wounds, chilblains, hoarseness, sore throats, piles, scalds, bruises, sunburn, rheumatism, chapped hands, bites, boils, chafing, lameness, nosebleed, frost bite, inflamed eyes and female complaints.

By the twentieth century most of the patent medicine claims for Pond’s Extract had been dropped and the product was promoted as a general antiseptic for bites, wounds, sunburn or after shaving. Advertising was often aimed at families, presumably because children were expected to have a larger number of scrapes.

Pond’s Extract, first produced in 1846. Most of us remember how tenderly our mothers touched our childish wounds with this healing soothing lotion. Today any physician will tell you it is still the best of household remedies. Get a bottle today, you will be surprised at how frequently you use it.

(Pond’s advertisement, 1916)

Witch hazel’s effectiveness as an antiseptic was disputed. In 1886, a laboratory investigation suggested that the virtues of the witch hazel were due more to the alcohol in the product than anything else. This view was endorsed by the National Dispensatory in 1916 which stated that “The good that it exerts in the treatment of sprains, bruises, wounds, chilblains, sore eyes, headache, and a host of other conditions, resides more in the activity of a cleansing and evaporating lotion and in the mind of its user, than in any decided curative properties that the preparation may possess.” (Lloyd & Lloyd, 1935).

In the 1880s, several new witch hazel based preparations were added to the company’s product line including an ointment, a dentifrice, plasters, a toilet cream, a soap, a lip salve, a catarrh cure, and medicated papers all of which contained witch hazel. Unfortunately, other companies were also producing witch hazel products which increased competition and lowered the company’s margins.

An 1891 marketing survey identified an increased demand for skin care products (Peiss, 2007, p. 99) and this gave the company a possible way out of its declining margins, leading to it eventually concentrating on cosmetics. It began this process with the addition of some new skin creams.

Two creams

In 1904 Pond’s began selling Pond’s Extract Cold Cream and Pond’s Extract Vanishing Cream that had been developed by William Wallbridge, a chemist who worked in the Pond’s factory. Both creams were characteristic of their class – the cold cream was a beeswax-borax emulsion made with mineral oil, and the vanishing cream was a stearate emulsion using glycerin as the humectant. Both cosmetics were sold in opal jars for the home and in tubes for the handbag.

See also: Cold Creams and Vanishing Creams.

The introduction of these two creams was not without its problems as J. K. L. Wenham, Managing Director of Pond’s Extract described in 1950.

To introduce our creams we used demonstration jars of cream. These were sent to all our clients for counter use. And to be hygienic we supplied a small silver spoon, to prevent dirty fingers from being pushed into the cream. But you eat with spoons and so the cream soon vanished from the jars. The only complaints we received were not about texture—but about taste. It never occurred to the public to try it on the skin. That was our first mistake, and the second was supplying a silver spoon. The chemist was frequently asking for more.
The education of the public to use creams was a slow process, with only press advertising as the instructor.

(Manufacturing Perfumer, 1950)

At first these products were given very little promotion and the products were only mentioned in small print at the bottom of larger advertisements for Pond’s Extract but by the beginning of the First World War the situation had been reversed.

Sales really took off when the products were promoted together. A campaign based around the idea that ‘Every skin needs two creams’, developed by the J. Walter Thompson advertising company in 1916, resulted in a threefold increase in sales by 1920 (Peiss, 1998, p. 121).

Every normal skin requires two creams. A cold or grease cream for cleansing, for massages, and a non-oily, greaseless cream before going out—to protect the skin from chapping, to keep it from becoming dry and tough.
No matter what creams you are using now, send for the free samples of these two creams. Rub the cold cream on one hand, the vanishing cream on the other. See how different each cream is—how each cream, in its own way, benefits your skin.

(Pond’s advertisement, 1917)

What the campaign was promoting was the use of each of the creams as part of a ‘system’ – the cold cream as a cleanser at night and the vanishing cream as a base for powder during the day. Advertisements for the products stressed the need for both creams and gave detailed instructions on how they were to be used. For many women this was the first time they had a simple skin care routine they could follow. To further distinguish between the two creams the company added prominent capitals to the packaging in 1923 with a large ‘C’ for cold cream and a ‘V’ for vanishing cream.

Testimonials

As the skin care business became more competitive in the 1920s, Pond’s creams began to lose sales to higher priced lines from salon-based companies such as Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. As one market researcher noted, “women thought that higher priced creams must be better” (Peiss, 2007, p. 137).

The company tried to counteract the trend through an extensive advertising campaign based on testimonials. Like others, Pond’s had used stage personalities for endorsements in the past but the new campaign, which began in 1924, attempted to give the cold and vanishing creams more cachet by having them endorsed by socialites and European aristocracy. Although it improved sales the campaign came at a cost, with Pond’s spending nearly $60,000 in advertising in the U.S. in one month of 1926, almost three times that of Elizabeth Arden (Peiss, 2007, p. 106). Although I doubt that anyone was convinced that either the cold or vanishing creams had become upscale, high-class cosmetics, the testimonials must have been having some effect as the company persisted with them. Pond’s continued to use testimonials through the ‘She’s Engaged, She’s Lovely, She uses Pond’s’ campaign of the 1940s and beyond, although the endorsements gradually came from younger and better looking women.

Pond’s also responded to the increasing sophistication of its customers by adding an astringent and cleansing tissues to its skin routine in 1928. Although described as a four-step process, it was in reality very similar to other three-step skin care routines commonly introduced in the 1920s.

One, lavishly apply Pond’s Cold Cream for immaculate cleansing. Two, remove with Tissues. Three, pat face and neck briskly with the rejuvenating Freshener. Four, just a whisk of Vanishing Cream can make the powder cling.

(Pond’s advertisement, 1929)

Products

Pond’s Cold Cream: “[A]n oil cream. It is scientifically prepared from ingredients chosen for their cleansing, lubricating qualities. It is wonderfully dewy and smooth—has just the quality for proper massaging and for removing dust and grime without irritation.”
Pond’s Vanishing Cream: “[C]ontains no oil and is not intended for cleansing or for massage. The base is a wonderful skin-softening ingredient which has a special affinity for the skin—an ingredient recognised by dermatologists the world over as one of the utmost value to the skin.”
Pond’s Cleansing Tissues: “[S]ilky soft. Modern science prescribes them for removing cold cream. They are generously large and firm, and so marvelously absorbent that in an instant they wipe away dirt and oil.”
Pond’s Skin Freshener: “It is a tonic and mild astringent safe to use as often as you need. It closes the pores and tones and firms your skin—brings lovely glowing youth to your cheeks.”

Ponds store display

Above: Part of a Pond’s store display in the 1930s.

Overseas expansion

Pond’s had opened a London branch early as 1878 and had continued to expand overseas ever since. The company did well in the depression that followed the 1929 crash, as many women switched to budget priced creams, and the 1930s were marked by further expansion. Pond’s opened a factory in Britain in 1933 and subcontracted manufacturing of its products elsewhere to increase its global reach. By the end of the 1930s, Pond’s products were being sold in 96 countries around the world with overseas sales making up 40% of its revenues (Jones, 2010, p. 128).

Adjusting to change

In the 1930s, in an attempt to get around some perceived problems with its cold cream, Pond’s introduced Pond’s Liquefying Cream as an alternative, less greasy cleanser. The product was given a prominent ‘L’ on the label and was often advertised as a quick cleanser.

See also: Liquefying Cleansing Creams

Pond’s also tried to rebadged its cold cream as being more than a cleanser. In its ‘Under Skin’ campaign it suggested that Pond’s cold cream could be used to improve blackheads, lines, coarse pores and dry skin because the oils could penetrate deep into the skin.

If pores were windows, you could look deep into your underskin and see! Overactive glands loading up your pores, stretching them wide. Underactive glands parching your skin, drying it up. Tiny fibres losing tension—letting ugly lines form outside!
Skin becomes Smooth, Line-free … Most skin faults start the same way—under your skin. Even the very blemishes and blackheads that spoil a young girl’s looks! But you can invigourate those failing glands and cells and fibres ’rouse them to a fresh start—see you skin faultless! Pond’s Deep-skin Cream is made for this purpose.
The specially processed oils of Pond’s Cold Cream go way down deep—releasing all the dried-up dirt, make-up, secretions, wedged in your pores. Even the first time you use Pond’s, you’ll see your skin clearer, fresher, smoother by far.

(Pond’s advertisement, 1936)

Pond’s would continue to promote its cold cream but, seeing the way the wind was blowing, introduced Pond’s Dry Skin Cream containing lanolin in 1941.

Skin vitamins

Although claims made for Pond’s skin care products were generally restrained they did succumb to the ‘magic ingredient’ addition on the odd occasion, as for example in 1937, when they included a ‘skin-vitamin’ in their creams.

A new type of cream is bringing more direct help to women’s skin!
It is bringing to their aid the vitamin which essentially helps build new skin tissue, the vitamin which helps to keep the skin healthy and glowing—the “skin-vitamin.”
When there is not enough of this “skin-vitamin” in the diet, the skin may suffer—become undernourished, rough and subject to infections. Skin faults would result.
For over three years Pond’s tested this “skin-vitamin.” in Pond’s Creams.
… When women used the creams, three out of every four of them came back asking for more. In four weeks they reported pores looking finer, skin smoother, richer looking!
Every jar of Pond’s Cold Cream now contains the precious “skin-vitamin.” Not the “sunshine” vitamin. Not the orange juice vitamin. Not “irradiated.” But the vitamin which especially helps rebuild skin tissue.

(Pond’s advertisement, 1937)

The unnamed advertised ‘skin-vitamin’ was vitamin A. Tests indicated that it was added, along with a very small amount of vitamin D, to the company’s Liquefying Cream, Cold Cream, Vanishing Cream and Danya Lotion – a small ‘SV’ on the label indicated they were there. Unfortunately for Pond’s, the United States passed the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act in 1938, and in 1941 it was ordered to cease and desist misrepresenting the benefits of vitamins in its products (JAMA, 1942). It would appear that Pond’s knew this was coming as advertising highlighting ‘skin-vitamin’ had been discontinued after 1939.

1-Minute Mask

The use of all vanishing creams declined in the second half of 1930s, including those produced by Pond’s. It is perhaps because of this that the company introduced the 1-Minute Mask, in the hope that this would bolster sales. It involved applying a thick layer of vanishing cream on the face and leaving it there for at least one minute.

NEW 1-Minute Mask of Pond’s Vanishing Cream releases coarsening surface scuff. Its “keratolytic” action dissolves and loosens dried skin and dirt particles. Smooth mask thick over face and throat (except eyes).
AFTER a full minute simply wipe off Mask! See how much lovelier your skin is! So much softer feeling. So much Fresher, clearer looking!

(Pond’s advertisement, 1941)

However, as the newer cake make-up and powder-creams did not need vanishing cream as a powder base, and speciality creams promised better skin protection, the decline of vanishing creams continued.

1947 Ponds products

1947 Pond’s Cold Cream, Vanishing Cream, Dry Skin Cream, Liquefying Cream, Tissues, Freshener, Cheeks rouge, Angel Face powder-cream and Lips lipstick.

Hand creams

In the 1930s, Pond’s introduced a series of hand cream formulations starting with Pond’s Hand Lotion, followed by Pond’s Cream Lotion (Danya) in the late 1930s and Pond’s Angel Skin in the 1950s. The Danya lotion appears to have been contracted from Les Parfums de Dana, perhaps to get an acceptable fragrance. It featured in the ‘She’s Engaged, She’s Lovely, She uses Pond’s’ campaign which often contained a hand displaying an engagement ring. Angel Skin, introduced in the 1950s, was aimed firmly at the housewife with ‘detergent hands’.

Products

Pond’s Liquefying Cream: “A quicker-melting cream. Fine for quick cleansings.”
Pond’s Dry Skin Cream: “Exceptionally rich and deep penetrating. Pond’s Dry Skin Cream goes right to work on dry skin problems that “middle-age” a woman’s face.”
Pond’s Hand Lotion: “[C]onstant plunging in hot water, house and office work, gardening, sports, exposure to wind and sun all combine to dry the natural moisture from skin. You can renew the youth and beauty of your hands by renewing this natural moisture.”
Pond’s Lotion (Danya): “Don’t let work rob your hands of their feminine charm. Thousands of women today have found a way to take care of a house, children—or to work a job every day—and still keep their hands soft and smooth.”
Pond’s Angel Skin: “Remarkably unlike other lotions—Angel Skin neutralizes the drying, chemical action of detergents and soaps … helps prevent irritation! Housewives report amazing improvements in their hands after using Angel Skin.”

Powder and paint

Pond’s had been selling a face and body powder since before the First World War, although neither product was promoted with any degree of fervour. Things began to change in 1932 when the company launched Pond’s Powder in five shades. This was followed up in 1942 with the introduction of the Dreamflower range which included Face, Dusting and Talcum Powders.

Sometime during the 1930s the company also added an indelible lipstick and compact rouge in matching shades. The lipstick was initially produced in five shades with new ‘enticing Stagline Shades’ added in 1940s including Honey, Rascal Red, Dark Secret, Heart Beat, Natural, Beau Bait, Black Blaze, Dither, Heart Throb and Blue Fire. It is hard not to judge the names and the reference to ‘Stagline’ as being a little obvious. The lipstick and rouge were also rebadged in the 1940s as Pond’s Lips and Pond’s Cheeks respectively.

Following the success of Max Factor’s Pan-Cake make-up – introduced in 1938 – Pond’s produced its own version in 1945, under the name Make-Up Pat; presumably its introduction was delayed because of the war. Like other cake make-up it was applied with a moist sponge then blended with the fingertips before being finished off with powder.

In 1946, Pond’s introduced their Angel Face compact powder in five shades. As a powder-cream it was applied with a puff rather than with the wet sponge needed for cake make-up. A mirror case model, introduced in 1950, later completed the package and it became the company’s leading make-up line and sold well. The company leveraged its success and introduced Angel Lips and Angel Hands to the line in 1954.

NOT A CAKE MAKE-UP … NOT A GREASY FOUNDATION
A completely different kind of new make-up— Pond’s Angel Face is actually a foundation and powder all in one. A masterpiece of soft-spoken, sweet tinted flattery—neater to use at the dressing table, and perfect to carry in your handbag because Angel Face can’t spill!
GOES ON WITH A PUFF—AND STAYS!
Angel Face is incredibly easy to use. You just smooth it on with its own downy puff! No watery sponge. No greasy finger-tips. No loose, silly powder! Hours after a make-up with Angel Face, your skin still looks exquisitely fresh and velvety!

(Pond’s advertisement, 1949)

Products

Pond’s Face Powder: “adds a smooth-as-baby-skin finish and keeps away shine for hours!” Shades: White, Flesh, Brunette. Later shades: Naturelle, Light Cream, Brunette, Rose Brunette, Dark Brunette, Light Natural, Rose Cream, Rose Dawn.
Pond’s Dreamflower Powder: “to mist your face with soft enchantment … to give you a ‘dream girl’ complexion … and keep it that way.” Shades: Dusk Rose, Dark Rachel, Natural, Rose Cream, Rachel, Brunette, Mocha, Camellia, Peach.
Pond’s Make-up Pat cake make-up: “Easy way to a smooth, flawless looking complexion. Exquisite glowing shades. Stays on! ” Shades: Natural, Brunette, Dark Rachel, Rachel, Peach.
Pond’s Angel Face compact powder: “A sensational new make-up that’s easier to apply—no water, no greasy fingertips. And it stays on longer than powder! A smoothing ‘cling’ ingredient is pressure-fused into Angel Face. Makes it go on evenly—stay on.” Shades: Blonde Angel, Ivory Angel, Pink Angel, Tawny Angel, Bronze Angel, Blushing Angel, Gypsy, Golden Angel.
Pond’s Lips lipstick: “blended scientifically to keep their warm, rich tones in the broad sunlight or under the glare of electric lights … as alluring by day as by night.” Shades: Honey, Rascal Red, Dark Secret, Heart Beat, Natural. Later shades: Beau Bait, Black Blaze, Dither, Heart Throb, Blue Fire.
Pond’s Cheeks rouge: “blend a little … up around the cheekbones and over the eyes—very youthifying, the ‘reflected glow’ of rouge used this way.” Shades: Matched Lips lipsticks.

Acquisition

By the 1950s Pond’s was firmly situated in the middle to lower end of the cosmetic market. One way to survive in this market was to be large and it was perhaps because of this that it combined with the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company, the makers of Vaseline, in 1955. The new company, Chesebrough-Pond’s, would go on to become stronger than its component parts.

See also: Chesebrough Manufacturing Company

Timeline


1846Theron T. Pond produces a witch hazel extract initially sold as Golden Treasure.
1852Theron T. Pond dies.
1872Pond’s Extract Company formed in New York.
1876Pond’s Extract trademarks registered in Britain.
1878Pond’s Extract opens a branch in London.
1882New products are developed including a toilet cream, dentifrice, lip salve, ointment, porous plasters, catarrh remedy and toilet soap.
1886Pond’s launches its first national advertising campaign in America using the J. Walter Thompson agency.
1904Pond’s Extract Cold Cream and Pond’s Extract Vanishing Cream introduced.
1905Pond’s Extract Cold Cream introduced into the United Kingdom followed by Pond’s Extract Vanishing Cream in 1906.
1915Pond’s Extract Cold Cream and Pond’s Extract Vanishing Cream introduced into Europe.
1916‘Every skin needs two creams’ advertising campaign begun.
1923Pond’s registers C (cold cream) and V (vanishing cream).
1924Testimonial advertising campaign begins.
1927Pond’s open their first foreign factory in Canada.
1928Pond’s Skin Freshener & Tonic and Pond’s Cleansing Tissues released.
1932Pond’s Face Powder released.
1933Pond’s opens its first overseas factory in Britain.
1934Pond’s Liquefying Cleansing Cream released.
1935Pond’s Cream Lotion for hands introduced.
1937Pond’s adds vitamins to its cosmetics.
Danya, a cream lotion for the hands, released.
Pond’s begins sponsoring radio programs (U.S.).
ndPond’s introduces lipstick and rouge into its range.
1940Pond’s Lips lipsticks launched.
1941Pond’s Dry Skin Cream introduced.
1942Pond’s Cheeks dry rouge released.
Dreamflower powder released.
1943Danya discontinued because of disappointing sales.
1945Make-Up Pat, a cake foundation, introduced.
1946Dreamflower Talc and Dusting Powder released.
Angel Face Powder released. Mirror case compact added in 1950.
1950Pond’s stops distributing its products through Lamont, Corliss & Company and sets up its own selling organisation.
1951Pond’s sponsors its first television show.
1954Angel Lips and Angel Skin Hand Lotion released.
1955Pond’s and the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company combine to form Chesebrough-Pond’s.

Updated: 2nd February 2014

Sources

Jones, G. (2010). Beauty imagined: A history of the global beauty industry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Journal of the American medical association. (1942). Chicago: Author.

Lloyd, J. U., & Lloyd, J. T. (1935). History of Hamamelis (witch hazel) extract and distillate. Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. 24(3).

Peiss, K. (2007). Hope in a jar: The making of America’s beauty culture. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Sutton, D. H. (2009). Globalizing ideal beauty. How female copywriters of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency redefined beauty for the twentieth century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.