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By Margaret Gurowitz
Jan 04, 2007

ZONWEISS Ad from Harper's Magazine 

Most people probably think that the desire to have whiter teeth is one of those distinctly modern self-improvement obsessions.  But apparently people wanted whiter teeth 100 years ago too...and Johnson & Johnson made something to fill that need.  In the late 1800s, Johnson & Johnson made a tooth cream called Zonweiss, which means "white teeth" in German.  It was advertised by a poem that began:  "When pearly rows of Teeth are seen/In beauty glistening white and clean..."  Zonweiss was packaged in small jars and sold in drugstores or by mail order.  Consumers applied it to their toothbrushes with a small spoon that came with each jar.  Zonweiss was advertised in major magazines of the day, including Harper's Magazine.  The picture with this post shows a Zonweiss ad -- with hat-wearing bears using the product! -- and the above-mentioned poem about how white it could make teeth.

Unfortunately, despite the catchy ads, and despite the fact that the Company offered druggists a very popular clock as a promotion, the product never quite caught on.  It was eventually repackaged in what was said to be the first squeezable toothpaste tube, but even that couldn't keep it on the market.  Today, this ad is one of the few reminders of the product's existence.

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