On March 1, 1994, the president of Procter & Gamble went on the Phil Donahue talk show and told the nation he was associated with the Church of Satan. He said a large portion of the company’s profits were going to support the church.
Donahue asked if this admission would harm business. "There are not enough Christians in the United States to make a difference," the P&G exec replied.
Wow. What a story. Except it’s not true. The president of P&G was never a guest on Donahue, never said those words to anyone. But it was the urban legend that just would not die. Round and round it went on the e-mail mill.
P&G ended up finally winning nearly $20 million in court a few years ago. Several former distributors for Amway – a competitor in the cleaning-products game – were found to have been busy spreading rumours.
What got this started was the old P&G logo, the man in the moon. You won’t find him on your Tide or your Crest anymore. But here in Hamilton, he still shines down on Burlington Street East.
P&G used to be one of Hamilton’s big employers. The U.S. giant set up a branch plant here in 1915, back when much of Burlington Street was still swamp land.
Ivory made here
The P&G operation here grew and grew. It employed hundreds and handled two-dozen products.
Then globalization came along, with bigger plants in cheaper places. Hamilton survived early rounds of cuts. It lost many products, including toothpaste, detergent, Crisco Oil, but managed to hang onto Ivory, Coast, Lava hand soap.
P&G profits were up 12 per cent on worldwide sales of $37 billion, but that was not enough to save Hamilton. In June, 1999, they shut the plant at Burlington and Depew, a loss of nearly 200 jobs.
Four months later, on a Sunday morning, they set off explosives packed into holes in the supporting columns of the old factory. All that history fell in 15 seconds. P&G said they knocked it down to make the land easier to sell.
They did not, however, flatten their brown-brick office building across the street. It’s now owned by ArcelorMittal Dofasco. Thankfully, the steel giant has chosen not to mess with the man in the moon.
P&G adopted that logo in the mid 1800s. It apparently was not uncommon to use an image as a logo then, a time when many couldn’t read.
Horns of the devil
The man in the moon gazes out to 13 stars, which are said to represent the original Thirteen Colonies that became the United States.
In the early 1980s, that talk of Satan began. The whisperers said that if you looked carefully, the tips of the old man’s hair and beard made a pair of devil horns. And some found the "666" mark of the beast, either hidden in the beard or by joining the dots of those 13 stars.
P&G had a hard time making the rumours go away and eventually put the troublesome logo to sleep. The symbol you see today is just a simple P and a G in blue. Boring, but hard to find Satan there.
Hamilton is lucky to have this now-rare trademark on display – not once, but in three places on the same building, now ArcelorMittal University, Hamilton Campus. The firm, with operations around the world, brings key staff here from afar for training.
A company leadership session is held annually in Luxembourg. But this year it comes to the university building on Burlington instead. Participants arrive next month. Surely some will look up and wonder about that man in the moon.
A Sign Past Its Time pops up every now and then on CBC Hamilton. If you’ve spotted an old sign that needs its story told, do let me know.