Category Cincinnati

The Magical P&G Heritage and Archives Tour

tumblr_lkonmyIseP1qf0b0cOh the things you will learn in the Proctor and Gamble Archives.  Did you know that Ivory soap originally came with a string around it, to make it easy to split in half as a dual-purpose product for kitchen and bath?  That Vick’s VapoRub began as the catchy “Vick’s Croup and Pneumonia Salve”?  Or that Max Factor, part of whose collection P&G acquired when they bought the cosmetician-to-the-stars’ eponymous brand, invented a kissing machine for testing lipstick?  P&G’s kissing machine is broken, but a working version turned up on the cover of a Red Hot Chili Peppers album.  According to Lisa Mulvany, Beauty Archivist and P&G archives tour-guide extraordinaire, Factor determined the pressure of the ideal kiss to be 10lbs, which seems high for someone sporting a mustache.  The other librarians on my tour, organized by the Special Libraries Association, all women, seemed to agree.

BrandsThe Procter and Gamble archives preserve and display objects representative of the health and beauty behemoth’s history of invention, marketing, and branding genius, from those first humble bars to such  iconic products as Tide, Febreze, Dreft and Dawn.  Everywhere you look, bold new words for products that promise, and sometimes do, change lives.

The second thing you notice when you walk in, after a stunned, Julie Andrews-esque 360 to take in the brilliant displays of colors so bright they might have been alchemically conjured by P&G’s R&D wizards, is the well put-together nature of the place.  Artifacts are associated by brand, and their arrangement tells stories.  As you pass from one room to the next, charts map the evolution of P&G’s brand portfolio, as well as their products, offshoots, and acquisitions. IMG_2171

This is more than a museum.  It’s an in-house resource, because, Lisa says, great new ideas are usually great old ideas rediscovered.  P&G’s smart set draws inspiration from this collection and from company history.  From an archival standpoint, for a collection that serves this purpose, the connections between the objects—their evolution, cross-pollination and origins carry as much information as the objects themselves.  Each connection is a story contributing to a larger story, one that plays out in the bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and shopping carts of millions of consumers word wide.  That the archives are a vital part of P&G’s collective, creative thought process is evidenced by the location of an “Ideation and Brainstorm Space” on the premises.  Two display rooms provide a panorama of P&G’s products, origins, and history.  A surprising number of items have been bought on eBay. tide

From the beginning, P&G’s expertise lay in rendering fats for various products.  Before Ivory, they sold soap and candles to the Union Army.  And where they lacked expertise, they have been smart enough to know where to get it.  In many cases the company bought operations not only for rights, but for the knowledge that came with the purchase–their move into the cosmetics market, for example, which is how a lock of Elizabeth Taylor’s hair, and samples of other stars’ coiffure, for whom Max Factor made wigs, ended up in the archive.  Along the way, Procter and Gamble has gotten good at many other things, including understanding and influencing the psychology behind why and what we buy.  Case in point, the company’s seminal role in the creation and production of what became known, because of its involvement, as soap operas.  They even won this Emmy. IMG_2195

More recently, they’ve mastered the art of creating new needs before we even know we need them—no small feat, as Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, notes here.  Who knew we needed canned potato chips that came perfectly stacked?  P&G did.  Thank you, P&G.IMG_2201

And while the P&G archives might offer insight into the power that brands and images exert over us, they also demonstrate, with all of those intricate logos and smiling faces (for example these creepy babies that were probably once considered adorable, unless they were trying to scare prospective customers into buying, in which case, SOLD!), just how much a part of us they have become.


The P&G archives are usually only open to P&G employees, partners, and stakeholders.  Any Cincinnati history buff should figure out how to become one of these, to gain access to this trove covering a 176-year corporate history that has profoundly shaped our nation and city.  -Ed Scripsi


In Vino Veritas

IMG_3947It’s safe to say that participants in Cork ‘N Bottle and wineCRAFT’s “A Tour of the Old World”  learned a thing or two.  Tastebuds and schnozzes were pushed to the breaking point, made to cry like little babies, then shown that, actually, they had wings and could fly. Sommeliers imparted their secret knowledge.  Notes were taken; bottles bought; lively conversation and laughter had.  Among the French bottles, I found my perfect pairing . . . for a long summer bicycle through the fields of Southern Ohio: a 2012 Domaine du Salvard, Cheverny Rose from the Loire Valley.  What’s yours?  Cheers and thanks, wineCRAFT and Cork ‘N Bottle.

-Ed Scripsi

On the Way to the Peak of Normal talks Preservation


Intrepid radio host Justin Patrick Moore works the mic

Mercantile member Justin Patrick Moore, who recently interviewed past Merc. President and author Dale Patrick Brown has just interviewed Cincinnati Preservation Association director Paul Muller about the challenges of preserving modern architecture.  This week, the CPA is having a symposium on preserving modern architecture in the Midwest.

Check out Justin’s interview with Muller here at and don’t forget to tune in on 88.3, WAIF, every Thursday night from 8-10 EST.

-Ed Scripsi

Books and bloggers and writers, oh my

The 6th annual Cincinnati USA Books by the Banks Book Festival went swimmingly.   Attendance is estimated to have topped 5000 visitors who enjoyed mascot dance parties, cooking demos, kids corners, panel discussions, and some good old face-time with the people who write the books–and blogs–you love to read.   The variety of this festival is staggering:  from headliners with lines of adoring fans to authors with smaller, which is not to say less interested audiences.  The Petersiks of Young House Love fell into the former category, and and Michael Nye, editor of The Missouri Review and author of the short story collection Strategies Against Extinction, reflects on his blog on the meaning of long lines and  different forms in the book festival of today and tomorrow.   The Petersiks also offered their take on, as they put it, “Nerding it Up in the Nasty ‘Nati.”

I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival, with new Executive Director Margaret O’Gorman at a new venue: The Banks.

-Ed Scripsi

History Detective Wes Cowan Visits Merc

Last week’s By the Book lecture featured anthropologist, History Detective and Antiques Roadshowman Wes Cowan speaking on books that have influenced his career.  A consummate showman, Wes was kind enough to permit this recording of his presentation.  Apologies for my less than ideal microphone position–the first minute is somewhat quiet, but gets much louder after that.

To listen, press play on the widget below.

-Ed Scripsi

-Ed Scripsi

Cincinnati Bike Center: Your Fancy New Bat Cave

I was taking this picture of rental bikes when Jared, who describes Chicago’s bike center as his former baby, came out of the uber-spanking-modern bike shop at the front of the Cincinnati Bike Center just to say hello.  I was immediately ushered in for a full tour, of the facilities.  Boy are they swank.  The shop offers bike tuneups and repairs.  Strangest of all, while the staff was obviously hip, they lacked the dour, “you’re not worthy of staring at my tattoos” attitude one comes to expect from bike mechanics these days.  Jared took me back to the lockup room and even let me load my bike onto the second level rack.  It only took me two tries and resembled, on the whole, the bike carriers on the bus, except that instead of a bunch of angry busriders giving me the stink eye as I hold up their commute, I was aided by some friendly bike station staffers who told me they liked the color of my ride.  Secure lockup in a soothing, well-insulated bike-cave is great, but the jewel in the crown of this bike station has got to be the showers, as well as its overall greenness.  Jared explained that the facilities feature geothermal heating, solar panels, and flush-less toilets.  I overcame the insipient creepiness of taking photos in a bathroom to share with the world the niceness that is the Cincinnati Bike Station’s showers.

Look at that hardware!  Is that a detachable spray head?  Gaze upon the future of your de-sweatified, post-mid-summer-cycle-commute, and be amazed.  Jared explained that something called “water” comes shooting out of this thing that helps cyclists arrive at the office looking less like a “greasy messenger”.   I resolved to arrive sometime in my full length Victorian-style bathing attire and give the setup a try.

What’s that you say?  All this must be super expensive?  Crazily enough, an annual pass will get you daily use of this state of the art cycler’s paradise for the low, low price of $12–that’s one twelve pack of beer–a month.  Daily use is $2 and $2 for a towel.  I forgot to ask whether you can bring your own.  Their brochure includes a great cycling map…  studying this, I realized how perfect their location–a hub, if you’ll excuse the term–between the soon-to-be completed lengths of Ohio River Way and Mill Creek Greenspace trails.  -Ed Scripsi


Jeff Suess: Renaissance Man

Jeff  Suess, who helms the Mercantile’s Graphic Novel Reading Group, has published a story in Torn Realities, a  collection of Lovecraftian (Lovecrafty?) stories put out by Cincinnati’s own Post Mortem Press.  Jeff also writes a weekly column, “Our History”for Cincinnati’s own Enquirer.

-Ed Scripsi

A Rare Library on Plum


The Lloyd Library, as it appeared in Cincinnati Magazine, June 1972.
Click photo to travel back in time.

Spring being the season when folk “longen to goon on pilgrimages”, we thought we would make several pilgrimages of a humanist nature to area libraries.  First up: The Lloyd Library and Museum.

It’s easy to pass the Lloyd Library at the corner of Court and Plum without realizing the wealth it contains.  If civilization looks like it’s finally decided to collapse, you’ll find me knocking on this botanical and pharmaceutical library’s front door with freshly baked cookies, canned goods, and all the toothpaste I can find in the hope of bribing my way into its five levels, the lowest of which was once probably outfitted as a fallout shelter by former Lloyd librarian Corinne Miller Simon given her predilection for Civil Defense.  Reinforced concrete ribs stand closely spaced across the ceiling, suggesting Armageddon-proof engineering on the part of the building’s 1970s architects.  It all began as the collection of three pharmacist brothers, John Uri, Nelson Ashley, and Curtis Gates Lloyd.  John Uri might be the most famous, the all-around Renaissance man, renowned in scientific circles and the eccentric author of novels like the fantastic Etidorhpa (Aphrodite, spelled backwards).  Clifton Avenue makes a sudden right-hand turn in the Gaslight District to avoid running straight into his magnificent home.  Nelson Ashley was the “George Bailey” of the three, passing up dreams of piloting a riverboat to become the money-savvy backbone of Lloyd Brothers Pharmacists Inc.  The youngest, Curtis Gates Lloyd, is the favorite of Betsy Kruthoffer, MLS, the Lloyd’s Cataloger, who has agreed to show me around. Read More

Boz on Cincinnati . . . and the BBC

Bleak Expectations Series 2Despite coming to share Mrs. Trollope’s general scorn of the Americans, Dickens said some nice things about Cincinnati.  His accounts in American Notes for General Circulation paint a vivid portrait of a teeming metropolis, albeit one reached by steamboats, the kinks of which, vis a vis personal safety, had yet to be worked out.  Here is a sample etext.  And here.

Speaking of Dickens, if you told me yesterday that a new Dickensian TV Comedy Series was coming to the BBC, I would have slapped the cup of earl grey out of your hand.  But then it turns out the BBC has been poking fun at Dickens all along.

-Ed Scripsi