Procter Meets Gamble

In 1837, William Procter and James Gamble signed a partnership agreement formalizing The Procter & Gamble Company, with combined total assets of $7,192.24.
Monday, November 19, 2012 4:12 pm EST

William Bell, the man who first taught the young James Gamble how to make soap and candles, owned a soap and candle factory on the corner of Sixth and Sycamore Street—precisely where P&G’s Global Headquarters is located today.

He made his products from tallow, a raw material in plenteous supply in 19th Century Cincinnati due to the city’s prosperous pork industry, for which it had become nationally known.

The meticulous details James N. Gamble recorded in his 1890 Dividend Day speech about the inner workings of Bell’s enterprise—and Gamble’s first months as his apprentice—are extraordinary:

The kettle was a wooden one, with a cast iron bottom extending below the floor (which was of earth), and was heated by a wood fire beneath. A lye tub was placed upon the same floor and the wood ashes were carried up steps in a hand barrow and thrown into the tub, and water poured on. The lye which trickled through into a cast iron pot, set in the floor, was carried in buckets up steps and thrown into the soap kettle. When a few years later a hand pump was used to pump the lyes, it was considered a wonderful improvement. They made three frames of soap a week, rendered tallow and dipped candles; cutting and twisting their own wick. [Gamble’s] wages were for the first six months, his board only; for the next six, his board and $9 a month.

He goes on to tell how his father left Bell’s factory to enter a soap and candle-making partnership with a man named Hiriam Knowlton in 1828. Gamble and Knowlton changed locations around Cincinnati a couple of times over course of their 9-year partnership. In the meantime, James married Elizabeth Ann Norris on March 21, 1833.

Meanwhile, William Procter had been “making candles on the east side of Main street, second door above Sixth”—just one block away from P&G’s present-day headquarters. He married Olivia Norris—Elizabeth's sister—on November 5, 1833, after having lost his first wife to cholera 13 months earlier.

Sometime during their first 4 years as brothers-in-law, William Procter and James Gamble’s mutual father-in-law, Alexander Norris, suggested that they go into business together rather than be in competition with each other. And in 1837, they signed a partnership agreement formalizing The Procter & Gamble Company, with combined total assets of $7,192.24.

So with a few strokes of a pen, the Procter & Gamble Company was officially born—and the Long Blue Line began.


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