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Clean Cuts: Procter & Gamble’s Depression‐Era Soap‐Carving Contests

Jennifer Jane Marshall
Winterthur Portfolio
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 51-76
DOI: 10.1086/528905
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/528905
Page Count: 26
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Clean Cuts
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Abstract

In the 1920s and 1930s, Procter & Gamble popularized the art of soap carving through a series of annual competitions, which explicitly promoted handicraft as a therapeutic alternative to the machine age. However, soap sculpture in fact offered a way to accommodate the changes associated with commercial modernization. A do‐it‐yourself hobby that relied on mass production, turned the household chore of shaving soap into an art form, and produced compact works of art that reflected the demands of factory production, soap sculpture is an example “antimodern modernism”—assimilating and aestheticizing the very processes of modernization it otherwise appeared to oppose.

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