Pears soap

Contributed by Cornwall Museums

THIS OBJECT IS PART OF THE PROJECT 'A HISTORY OF CORNWALL IN 100 OBJECTS'.

MEVAGISSEY MUSEUM. Andrew Pears, the son of a Cornish farmer, was born at Mevagissey and was the founder of Pears Soap. Unlike other soaps, Pears soap was transparent and took 3 months to make (it still does!). Prices ranged from 1s.[5p] to 2s.6d.[26p]. Andrew's grandson-in-law, John Barrett, was the marketing genius who made Pears soap a household name. The original soap was dark in colour and sold in paper wrappings until 1968 when cartons came in. The Miss Pears competition began in 1958 with £1,000 prize money, and the soap dish commemorates the competition's first 25 years.

Andrew Pears completed his apprenticeship as a hairdresser in Fowey in 1789 and went to London to seek his fortune. Here in his shop in Soho he made rouges, creams, and powder for the face. Soap then was very basic, being made from animal fats, potash, tallow, lanolin and castor oil. He soon began experimenting with glycerine, oils of cedarwood and thyme, and perfumed his soaps with garden flowers.

Photo: Bernie Pettersen

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