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Friday, August 20, 2010

Mr Lister...What did you start?

This is the continuing saga to get to the bottom of the box of Medical equipment I picked up at a sale over a month ago. This is a 3" high sample of tooth powder. I am guessing 20's or 30's.

I could spend your entire allotment of computer time you have afforded yourself with a deep introspective look into the life of Lister, but I defer to Wikipedia here.  This post isn't about the antiseptic mouthwash named for him. Actually, after naming the product for him in 1879 it was mainly sold to the medical profession.  The story of Listerine and the tooth powder (above) is more interesting for its roots in Connecticut history.   The Cheney name is very big in Manchester, CT because it was where the Cheney  brothers decided to open up a silk manufacturing plant in 1838.  The company grew at such a rate that a very large part of the town worked for Cheney as well as lived in Cheney housing and sent their kids Cheney-built schools. There were numerous mansions belonging to the Cheney brothers and and uncles and the whole business boomed for almost 100 years ending mainly due to the invention of man-made thread and the Depression.  Somewhere in there the Cheney Chemical company was formed and among the items they produced was Tooth Powder.  I found an interesting controversy over a simple form spelling regarding Lister's legacy:

 Well, if it's "listerated" then it has to be antiseptic, right?  In trying to find some background for this product I came across a more interesting battle over the use of the word: Listerated."  Guess who had a problem with it?

It seems that Cheney Chemical fought with the Listerated Tooth Powder company for using that word as a trademark and during an injunction applied for the rights and won the "listerated" tag.  The other guy went and found someone who had been using the name before Cheney and bought the name from them, giving him proper claim over the name. He then sells to Lambert, owner of Listerine and that's how it ended.  Lambert sued to get Cheney to stop using that word on their packaging saying it was harming their business by confusing the public. However, at this point Listerine was not being sold to the public, nor had the company even started to put out a toothpaste or powder.  The judge threw the case out because it had no merit. Cheney kept using it anyway. This second lawsuit was fought in a Canadian copyright case, but you get the idea. 

Read about The legal Battle here.

Or squint as best you can and read what really happened below.

None of it really matters, Listerine wanting the term "Listerated" all to themselves is like the Butter churners Union suing to secure the term "Buttery". Kind of unnecessary....like Listerine. But one had to be the better tooth powder....
Or, maybe it was...
Again, I am chronologically challenged in that I can't date either of these exactly. Cheney's empire in Manchester was all but gone by the mid 30's and I can find no good history or images of their product lines.  Their silk was considered the finest in the nation and I can only guess that tooth powder was an obvious choice because many silk manufacturers were also selling floss :
Well, you can blame Lister or you can blame the silk worm, Just don't blame me that this post really went nowhere and ended up here.

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