Soapine and anti-Chinese laundry trade card

In the last part of the 19th century, the Kendall Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island, produced a successful soap with the unimaginative name, “Soapine.”


Trade cards were popular promotional and marketing tools for many businesses during that era and Kendall Company was no exception. In fact, their cards were quite prolific and generally attractive in design. Perhaps the most popular one used humor to show soapine to be effective in changing the dark color of a whale to white (clean).


Nonetheless, Kendall could not resist the social hostility of the times toward Chinese and incorporated a Chinese laundryman with  endorsing soapine with a mocking sing song approval in the trade card.

Soapine.. Boston publ library


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2 responses to “Soapine and anti-Chinese laundry trade card

  1. I grew up in downtown Palo Alto, California and my family lived above the University French Laundry where my mother worked during the early fifties. The adjacent two block area was the laundry district of Palo Alto where the Stanford and Canton Chinese laundries were located as well as the Cardinal, City of Paris and Excelsior French dry cleaners. A Mr. Lee owned the Canton Laundry and our common block was intersected by an alley that provided access to and a rear view of the Canton. As a child I stare in wonders at the stack of fifty pound rice bags that were stored there.

    I attended elementary school with David Loo who’s Great Grand Father; Kum Shu Loo [Loo Kum Shu] opened the Chinese Phone Exchange in San Francisco in 1887. His son, Kern Loo [David’s father] directed the exchange until 1948 when voice spoken/operator access was closed. David’s father was then employed by Pacific Telephone and Telegraph talk about a little corporate gratitude! Anyway their house was just full of Chinese stuff and it was quite an experience when his mom hosted our Cub Scout pack meetings. Hell with the crafts just let me wander and look!
    Any way thanks for your post …

  2. Thanks for sharing your memories about Palo Alto’s Canton laundry… I found your post on Panamanian Chinese very intersting..especially about their grocery stores … (Any laundries or cafés?)
    .there was a book published about them several years ago…

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