He came to America in a hurry, after his father's praise of the American Revolution made the family unwelcome in England. Turning down a cushy assistant clerk's job, he labored in a soap factory so he could learn his father's trade. At 23, he launched his own shop to sell "soap, mould & dipt candles." Seeking to become a familiar name in a new industry -- housewives still made soap themselves, a difficult and smelly task -- he shuffled from door to door delivering every cake of soap himself. He also had an unusual tourist attraction built: a 20-ton soap kettle, the largest of its kind. William Colgate's name remained well known even after his company merged with the makers of best-selling Palmolive toilet soap.
May 1, 1986