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The Allure of Pears Soap

Probably the most famous soap in Britain, if not the world, Pears' Soap makes a fascinating subject for ephemera collection. That's not only because its commercial origins go back to the nineteenth century but because the methods used to promote the brand generated so much advertising and promotional material. Here are just a few of the ways in which the brand became a household name:

Advertisements Open virtually any Victorian or Edwardian publication and you'll find a Pears advertisement - many in full colour.

Inserts Many Pears advertising 4-page inserts were produced and inserted in magazines and periodicals. At least 50 different designs were produced and many can still be found for a few pounds each.

Annuals From 1891 to 1925 Pears issued a large format Christmas Annual each year. It not only contained Christmas stories and advertisements but came complete with presentation prints. The annuals themselves are collectable but rare in that they've normally been broken up to yield collectable Pears ads and the cover design for framing.

Presentation Prints These are large reproductions produced in the early years by the chromolithographic process of paintings bought by Pears' for the purpose. They were given away free with the Christmas Annuals (see above) and were intended to be framed and hung on the wall. In some years, four or more different prints were given away with the annual, at other times two or three. Over the period of the annual some 100 prints were issued. These are all highly collectable, particularly those that are complete with the title. The most famous of them all, of course, is Bubbles by Millais, given away with the 1897 annual. Many Pears prints were turned into jigsaws between 1900 and 1920 by the people who had bought them and these can still be found occasionally.

Outdoor signs, counter cards and postcards Becoming increasingly rare are the outdoor metal signs and shop cards for the brand. (Beware, there are many imitations and reproductions of these and advertising mirrors.) Less expensive and more common are postcards of 'Bubbles' from the early 1900s.

Assorted promotional items These include Victorian halfpenny stamps with the word 'Pears' printed on the gum side (these are now quite expensive); French 10 centime pieces stamped with the word 'Pears' (issued around 1880 although the coins can be much older as they were imported into England en masse); china figures most notably of 'Bubbles' and 'You naughty boy'; school rulers; glass miniature tablets of soap; school atlases; paper napkins; and many, many more.

Cyclopaedia Believed still to be issued today, this was a compendium of knowledge.

Miss Pears A competition for young 'princesses' originally held in 1958 of which many pieces of advertising and related material still exist.

Packaging And last but not least, Pears' Soap wrappers, bars and other assorted Pears' products. These include shaving sticks, hair tonic, talcum powder - all of which can still sometimes be found.

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