The history of Sapolio begins in 1809 in New York City, USA, on the corner of West and Banks streets, in the today exclusive Greenwich Village. This is where David Williams successfully developed and marketed a new polishing soap for household cleaning. Subsequently, one of Williams’ daughters married Enoch Morgan, who kept the business and founded the Enoch Morgan Son’s company.
All this happened while the country was torn apart by the American Civil War. However, the same powerful forces that unleashed vast destruction gave way to a later period of huge growth. The surviving men and women had tempered their character in the heat of battle and millions of them left their comfortable homes to conquer the West. As a result, hundreds of new cities were built and there was a high demand for consumer goods, including Morgan’s soap.
When mass production first began, products were marketed under the name of the companies’ owners, making them difficult to recall. This led to the use of fictitious names, today called trade names. Consequently, in the mid-twentieth century, brands were born that in time would become famous, such as Ivory, Palmolive and Sapolio, the latter in 1869.
On the origin of this particular name, legend says that Morgan requested the assistance of his production manager, who explained that the polishing soap was produced by oil saponification. The today famous Sapolio trade name was born by putting together these two words. In the etymology of the word ‘saponify,’ chemical process by which fat with alkali produces soap, we find something interesting as well. It is said that in ancient Rome there was a Mount Sapo, where animal sacrifices were made. Fat mixed with alkaline volcanic ash, producing a foamy substance that helped wash clothes, now called ‘soap’ (or ‘sapone’ in Italian), thanks to the water that flowed from Mount Sapo.
Enoch Morgan Son’s not only pioneered the use of trade brands but also the use of mass advertising to publicize the unique features of the products they represented. In addition, America was the country best suited for the start of this important activity (advertising) as modern science (they say that in ancient times Pausanias publicized the Greek invasion of Persia by putting advertisements in ports). It was a big country with large population and one single language – necessary conditions for the development of mass communication. Finally, fortune allowed the company to recruit great publicist Arthemas Ward, who developed famous advertising campaigns for Sapolio. such as Spotless Town and many more that left a deep impression in the minds of consumers for generations.
Sapolio not only became one of the most famous products in North America, but also reached, through exports to many other countries including Peru, great reputation in all continents. Likewise, mass advertising was used in many languages and in many countries, thus becoming one leading brand worldwide.
Unfortunately, the fourth generation of the Williams Morgan family made the mistake of not accepting the new presentation of powder polishing soap, which offered greater ease of use to consumers. The argument was that powder reduced entry barriers to competitors, but the company forgot that consumers were, are and will always be the center of all considerations in the world of mass consumption products. This poor decision and others made sales decline, as those of competitors rose precipitously. The situation led to the liquidation of the company in 1949, 140 years after it was founded.
However, several years before its liquidation, Enoch Morgan Son’s delivered licenses to produce Sapolio in several countries where, because of tariff barriers, imports had been prevented. One of them was Peru, through British firm Duncan Fox, owner of the San Jacinto soap company (in Brazil was Industrias Reunidas Matarazzo, in Argentina was Jorge Bell e Hijos, etc.). These licenses outlived the liquidation of the matrix, and in Peru, the Sapolio brand was later acquired by Procter & Gamble, which finally sold it to Intradevco Industrial S.A.
Today, Intradevco Industrial S.A. markets in Peru and 25 other countries a wide range of products under the brand Sapolio, among which are the many aerosols that motivated this article.