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"Proportions and Directions for Making Lee's Patent Mineral and Vegetable Soap"
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Most people, by the mid-1800s, purchased locally made soaps rather than made their own: the soap-making process was long, hot and filled with fumes. Soap had been commercially made in the American Colonies beginning in 1608. By the 1860s there were few soap manufacturers able to ship their goods much further than their home cities and few markets for their products, which were considered expensive luxuries. Commercial cakes of soap began to be distributed to wider networks beginning in the 1840s but most local stores continued making their own soap until around 1900. This flyer is for a soap that was made according to a very specific formula and uses the generic phrase "patent soap" to describe itself. Although the formula could have been printed entirely, without any handwritten sections, it provided a greater security for the vendor to give the crucial items at the point of sale. Soap made according to this method was sold at a store. It was stored in a single large block; individual chunks of soap were cut to the customer's order.
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