The Art Of The Toothpaste Tube

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toothpaste-tubeThe Post-Impressionists of van Gogh and Gauguin have a connection to something as ordinary as a toothpaste tube. It was the metal tubes that they, and other painters, used that served as an inspiration.

Dr. Washington Sheffield was a dentist from Connecticut, and his son had been traveling in Paris in the early 1890′s. It was during these travels that the son noticed the metal tubes that held oil paint for the artists. These collapsible metal tubes seemed like an ideal method to distribute Sheffield’s own toothpaste, called Créme Dentifrice. The son came home and told his father what he had seen and how he thought it would work well for toothpaste. He thought it a better solution than what had been in place — a porcelain jar in which all family members would dip their toothbrush in before brushing. Surely this would be more sanitary!

Sheffield agreed, and began using the new tube. A few years later, Colgate began using the same method, as it had proven to be a hit with consumers. Things progressed well until World War 2.

These first toothpaste tubes were made of tin and lead, both metals that became in short supply and high demand during the war. Manufacturers began making toothpaste tubes out of aluminum and plastic, reserving the tin and lead for the war effort.

All-plastic tubes didn’t become common until the 1990s. Until then, most tubes were a combination of metal and plastic. Now, modern toothpaste tubes come in pumps and squeeze bottles. It all started, however, with the metal paint tubes used by the French artists in the late 1800s.