pears poster
Pears advertising poster

The founder of Pears soap, Andrew Pears, was originally a barber from the Cornish village of Megavissey.

He arrived in London in 1789 and opened a shop in Soho, London, where he made powders, creams and other beauty aids used by the rich to counteract the drying effects of the inferior soaps available at that time.

Visiting wealthy families in their own homes, Pears realised that a pure and gentle soap would be kinder to the skin and he soon perfected a soap for his wealthy clients to use.

The soap was also transparent and it provided for Pears Soap, a uniqueness that set it apart from its competitors.

Pears was far more concerned about the quality of his products than the volume sold, and he sold to an exclusive customer base without extensive advertising.

Some 50 years later, his grandson, Francis Pears joined the business and they moved the business to another shop near Oxford Street.

The business flourished and Andrew retired a few years later, leaving the running of the business to Francis.

Pears won the prize medal for soap at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Francis Pears expanded the business in order to compete with the growing number of rivals, who attracted customers from the increasing number of middle class customers.

Francis opened new offices in Bloomsbury, and a factory in Middlesex in 1862, managed by his young son Andrew.

pears and the advertising industry

Francis' business savvy son in law, Thomas J. Barratt, entered the firm as a partner and improved the firm's bottom line by changing the distribution system and undertaking extensive advertising campaigns.

The advertising industry owes much to Thomas J Barratt, and he became known as the "father of modern advertising".

Francis who was far more conservative, became nervous and left the firm. He withdrew most of the money and left 4,000 pounds as a loan to his son, Andrew, and to Barratt, leaving both of them in charge of the business.

Barratt undertook novel publicity schemes.

One scheme involved importing 250,000 French coins, which were accepted as legal tender in Britain at that time.

He had the 'Pears' brand name imprinted on them and put the coins into circulation.

Pears gained much publicity until Parliament passed an act to declare foreign coins not to be accepted as legal tender.

He also convinced skin specialists, physicians and pharmacists to provide testimonials about Pears soap.

He even persuaded actress, Lillie Langtry, to provide a recommendation.

Babies whose parents placed a birth notice in newspapers were given a bar of soap and an advertising leaflet.

Pears capitalised on the clean, safe and healthy image that was portrayed in its advertising and promotional material, and that appealed to the emotions.

Advertising posters are remembered by many, decades after they first appeared. Barratt used the painting "Bubbles" by Sir John Everett Millais, as a promotional campaign and it became the most famous poster in England.

When Thomas J. Barratt died before World War I, A & F Pears Ltd merged with Lever Brothers.

Redgum Soaps is in no way connected with any of the companies we have featured on these pages. We have included the information for the purposes of soapmaking history only, in an attempt to preserve some of the information that is rapidly being lost.