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Purifying America

Purifying America

Rites of Salvation in the Soap Campaign

(p.82) 4 Purifying America
Consuming Religion
Kathryn Lofton
University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers whether consumer choice is really that: is it something we select or is it something we are forced to choose. An answer is found in the history of bathing soap promotions. With the development of vegetable oils in the mid-nineteenth century, and the concomitant founding of Proctor and Gamble in 1837, soap emerged as a widely available commodity. Yet it was only through teaching people to use soap ritually that it became requisite for everyone. This chapter analyzes the Protestant prejudices embedded in the sale of soap as well as the ritual strategies deployed to argue that soap was not a mere recommendation but a requirement of modernity.

Keywords:   Cleanliness Institute, Proctor and Gamble, Washington Gladden, missionary, ritual, whiteness, children, homoerotic, Jonathan Z. Smith

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