Our story began with a simple handshake between two men: William Procter and James Gamble. As partners, they put their soap and candle business on the map, spawning a period of steady growth. It was during these formative years the Procter & Gamble Company was born.
In the early 1830s, Cincinnati was a lively frontier town. Located at the big bend of the Ohio River, the city was primed for explosive growth having boat transportation to carry commerce up and down the river to other cities such as Pittsburgh, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans. Dubbed “Porkopolis” because of the many meatpacking businesses, the city also offered plenty of fat and oil for soap and candle making.
William Procter, emigrating from England, established himself as a candle maker in Cincinnati. James Gamble, an immigrant from Ireland, apprenticed himself as a soap maker. They might never have met had they not married sisters — Olivia and Elizabeth Norris. It was their father, Alexander Norris that noted his two new sons-in-law were competing for the same raw materials. He suggested they become business partners. What began as a family-run candle and soap business would eventually grow into the largest and most profitable consumer goods company in the world.
Although Cincinnati was a growing marketplace, most of the nation was in financial distress. Hundreds of banks were closing their doors across the country, leading to widespread concern that the United States could go bankrupt. But William and James forged on, pledging $3,596.47 each to start a soap and candle business together called the Procter & Gamble Company. The partnership agreement was signed on October 31, 1837. It was a risky time to start a business, especially since there were 14 other soap and candle makers just in Cincinnati alone. The new business partners open their first office at 6th and Main, two blocks from our current headquarters location.
“The Procter & Gamble Company never has gone in circles, never followed footsteps, but rather has continually broken new trails, entered new fields, set new records, even raised its own high standards." — R. R. Deupree, 1936 "The day we complete any sort of improvement is the day we should start work to improve on the improvement — in product, in operating procedure, in cost reduction, advertising or whatever. Otherwise, our advantage from our improvement will be short lived." — W.R. Chase, 1964
With the age of the newspaper came the evolution of print advertising. Procter & Gamble’s first venture in advertising begins with a print ad for machine and lamp oil. It was printed in the Daily Gazette on June 29, 1838.
In an effort to produce a better quality candle than any produced in Cincinnati at that time, William and James sell some of their personal assets to fund the research and production of a new star candle product. The work takes place at P&G’s first plant on Central Avenue (then called Western Row). The plant offered many advantages, including close proximity to the stockyards where they had easy access to raw materials. Plus, it was adjacent to Cincinnati's canal, offering cheap water transportation to the widening markets of the upper Midwest. The plant would eventually succumb to a devastating fire on January 7, 1884.
James Gamble creates and obtains P&G’s first utility patent for an apparatus that molds candles.
By 1848, Procter & Gamble nets $37,000. However, large and steady growth continues and by 1859 the company has sales exceeding $1,000,000 and employs 80 people. The best selling product was lard oil, followed closely by candles, with soaps accounting for only 1/3 as much as candles, and glycerin only 1/10th.
In 1850, the Moon and Stars image begins to officially appear on Procter & Gamble crates. Wharf hands used the symbol to distinguish boxes of Star Candles. This becomes the company’s first logo, and by the 1860s, it appeared on all company products and correspondence. The logo pictured a man in the moon with 13 stars, representing the original American colonies. This logo is replaced in 1993 with the P&G word mark.
Every boat delivering commerce out of Cincinnati carried its share of crates containing Procter & Gamble soaps and candles. A clerk with artistic aspirations sketched a cluster of stars on a crate of candles. Later, a circle was drawn around the stars with an image of the man-in-the-moon. Soon, this became the unofficial trademark for the products, and customers down the river refused to accept the company's candles without the Moon and Stars on the crate. In 1850, P&G officially adopts the Moon and Stars as the official trademark.
By 1859, twenty-two years after the Procter & Gamble Company is formed, annual business is over the million-dollar mark. The company also employs more than 80 people.