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A new look in toothpaste: stripes!

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If toothpaste looks like a delectable peppermint stick, will children brush their teeth more often? That's what American inventor Leo Marraffino hopes when he puts the first stripes in toothpaste. With his invention set to go on sale for the first time in Canada in 1959, Marraffino explains how it works, and why polka dot toothpaste won't be coming along next. As we hear in this interview, CBC Radio host Bill McNeil likes it so much he's promising to brush his teeth 10 times a day.
• Preparations used for freshening breath and cleaning teeth date back to ancient times. Early concoctions included such varied ingredients as crushed bone, burnt eggshells, charcoal, salt and herbal mints. Mixtures came in powered form, and by the mid-1800s most had sodium bicarbonate as their base ingredient. Around 1850, dentists, doctors and chemists began adding glycerine to their powders to form a paste, and sold it under the name crème dentifrice.
 
• Modern toothpaste made its debut in the late 19th century, mass-marketed first by Colgate in 1873 as tooth cream sold in a jar. In 1892, Dr. Washington Sheffield invented the collapsible toothpaste tube in the U.S.

• Beginning in 1914, some manufacturers began adding fluoride to toothpaste, but it was not until the 1950s, when Procter and Gamble introduced Crest toothpaste as "clinically proven to prevent tooth decay" that it became a standard ingredient.

• Leonard Lawrence Marraffino patented his striped toothpaste making device in 1955. He licensed it to Unilever, which sold the world's first striped toothpaste under the name Stripe in the U.S., and Signal in the U.K. At the time when this 1959 clip first aired, an article in the Globe and Mail reported that Marraffino was due to collect somewhere in the vicinity of $250,000 in royalties for his little device (nearly $2 million in 2009 dollars.) He told the Globe he'd probably use some of it to finally buy the "missus" a mink coat.

• In 1990, Colgate-Palmolive was granted a patent for a device for a tube that adds two coloured stripes to toothpaste.
Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Sept. 3, 1959
Guest(s): Leo Marraffino
Interviewer: Bill McNeil
Duration: 4:52

Last updated: April 14, 2014

Page consulted on April 14, 2014

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