What era of Williams...?

Discussion in 'Shaving Soaps' started by Gymea, Mar 15, 2010.

  1. So, I had mentioned in another post that I had ACCIDENTALLY hoarded ~28 or so Williams pucks from the 2000-2002 era (SmithKline-Beecham period). By "accidentally", I mean not having had the intention of doing so at the time. During the 2000-2002 period or so my then-SWMBO and I would do the Wal-Mart thing maybe a few times a month...during those times, it was easy enough to wheel my cart through the shaving aisle and toss that $1.79 (Canadian) puck into the cart with each visit. Little did I know that Combe would come along and change the formulation. At the time, I thought, "hey, if I like it, it will surely disappear".

    I am cursed.

    :laugh: Then again, I know that many of you share that same curse!

    Anyway, I was gifted with a bunch of old shaving paraphernalia a few years ago, and I had only recently pulled everything out to see what I was given. There were a number of old (used?) straight razor blades, a straight razor handle, an Old Spice mug (one more for my collection! Yay!), and a box of Williams Mug Soap. I didn't think much of it at the time, but in reading up on the fact that Combe did the Williams Mug Soap the same thing that Novell did to WordPerfect, I started becoming more interested. Anyway, my 2000-2002 hoard has the SmithKline Beecham label, with UPC 0 60815 08936 2.

    The single soap in question is shown in the attached pick -- box side and soap itself.

    Now, this soap is much more yellowed than my SmithKline-Beecham variety, and seems to have a bit more of a waxier feel rather than "chalky" the way my SK-B varieties are.

    Any idea of this soap's vintage? Can I assume that it's the tallow variety similar to the SK-B ones?

    Thanks all,
  2. Ah! The mystery deepens or unfolds, or whatever. I wasn't even aware that J.B. Williams Co. (although still owned by Smith Kline) had incorporated their Canadian division as a separate company. Whether they actually manufactured the soap in Canada or just packaged it, I have no idea. This is why the code is different than the American UPC code for the same time period.

    Your 0 60815 08936 2 UPC is registered to J. B. Williams Co., a division of GlaxoSmithKline. First registered in 1999 and last changed in 2005 (Combe took over sole North American manufacturing in 2002 and ownership of North American Williams in late 2004). This leads me to believe that there was a Canadian facility until that time. The 2000 - 2002 era was the GlaxoSmithKline era. SmithKline Beecham is 1989 - 1999.

    There is no information that I can find on the 66300 08936 UPC on your single package other than the 08936 part is the Canadian product code for Williams soap. Due to the timeline for the use of UPC codes, I suspect it belongs SmithKline Beckman 1982 - 1989. SmithKline Beckman merged with Beecham PLC in 1989, became SmithKline Beecham, and re-incorporated, thereby necessitating a new manufacturer's code. It might belong to SmithKline Beecham 1989 - 1999 although most of SmithKline Beecham's UPC codes are traceable.

    Do you have any information to add on the formulation? Differences?

    - Peter
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  3. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your post. Are you a fellow Canuck? Noticed "Toronto" listed as your location. :)

    There isn't any additional information in regards to the formulation, I'm afraid. It seems that Williams in Canada didn't put an "ingredients" list until Combe took over. The current-day Williams that we have in our Walmarts and Shoppers, etc., seem to have the same ingredients list as what our American cousins have on theirs, listing Sodium Tallowate as the second ingredient.

    Here are more pics -- the Williams on the left is my 2000-2002 variety and I have hoards of, the one on the right being the mystery Williams. Notice that Mystery Williams has a "Reg. Canadian Pat. Off." on the bottom half of the "front" of the box...

    I also included the French side of the boxes as a novelty for our American friends. :)

  4. Here are pics of the two soaps side by side. Mystery Williams is the amber one on the right. Notice that the "font" of the soaps are different as well?
  5. Lastly, here's a pic of a currenty-day/Combe Williams box side, pic that I covertly snapped with my Blackberry 9700 at a Real Canadian Superstore store. I didn't want to buy the cake for the $1.79 price if the Combe versions are as unimpressive as the versions that I have. Still, it'd be an interesting notion to do a side-by-side test between the Combe and the SmithKline-Beecham Williams...

  6. Yes. Fellow Canuck here.

    Those definitely look like they're different soaps. I wonder if the mystery soap was actually manufactured in Canada. I'm pretty sure that it's one of the "good formulations". It would be interesting to compare them.

    I use the current Williams from time to time and while I defend it, I have to admit that it's not a top shelf soap. The only vintage Williams I've tried is an old shave stick and that was much better.

    - Peter
  7. I have a Williams menthol that is the same color and stamp as your mystery Williams, so if anyone knows the era they sold Menthol in, I'd guess your puck is from that same time.

    It's distro by Beecham Products Division of Beecham Inc Pittsburg, PA 15230
    UPC 53100 23933

    Looks like 70's or 80's from the box imho, but that's just a guess.
  8. Thanks again for your input on this, Peter! Very helpful, even if it means that I'm not the only one perplexed about it

    By "current", do you mean the Combe version, or the one just prior to that (ie, the ones that I'd hoarded, under Smithkine-Beecham)? I've always like Williams, personally -- even though there's much better out there (and a lot of that better being stuff I already have in my shave den).

  9. Hmmm...good to know. Thanks, Ian!

    By the way, I spent a bit of time in State College, PA -- I had a friend who attended Penn State there. She lived in Bellefonte at the time. Speaking of which (and bringing this back on topic), you may want to check out that antique mall in Bellefonte -- on West High Street. It's worth the drive, I think -- it was at that mall back in 2004 or so that I picked up some Palmolive brushless creams (which weren't very usable) *AND* an Old Spice shaving soap cake, pristine and in box. I didn't recognize as many brands at the time, so that was all I picked up.

    Please do report your finds, if you make the drive out there!

  10. I had a thought. That happens sometimes. :D

    When did the provincial abbreviation for Quebec change from "PQ" to the current "QC"? That might provide a few hints as to Mystery Williams' vintage, on account of the "Montreal, P.Q." on the label. Early 90's or so?
  11. 1989 -1999.
    According to the UPC code.

    - Peter
  12. Good detective work. It changed sometime in the late 1980's. So your mystery box probably is 1982 - 1989 era. They weren't using UPC codes prior to 1980 in Canada.

    By current, I mean Combe's hockey puck. I've been wet shaving for over 40 years and never used Williams until last year.:ohmy:

    - Peter
  13. Thanks for the tip. I plan to browse the local Shops once I get my bike up here. But torrential rain last weekend messed up my plans.
  14. My pleasure. I miss Bellefonte/State College. And those grilled stickies! Yum!

  15. Hmmm...that's cool. Good to know. Thanks for the info, Peter!

    Ah, I see. If you're interested in trying one of the Smithkline-Beecham ones, I'll gladly reduce my stash by one and send it your way. Backchannel me your addy if interested. My way of thanks for helping with the Williams mystery.

  16. Just wondering if you ever got around to that side-by-side test.

    Also wanted to add that this has got me wondering whether or not the seemingly two different Williams soaps are the reason why another guy I know says he's never had trouble grating Williams to fit into a container and I on the other hand after grating could not get the stuff to form in the container, it just stayed grated flakes... The Williams that I own was bought in the last six months from a CVS, so I know mine is the newer one.
  17. Not quite yet, but I did go out and buy 2 cakes of the Combe version of the soap tonight, just to run the lather test. First thing I noticed was the fact that the Combe version DOES smell like citronella -- very strongly so. My Smithkline-Beecham versions do not. Granted, my version are approximately 8-10 years old, so the scent might have dissipated by now, but they do still retain the soapy scent I remember them for.

    The second thing I noticed was that the weight marking of the Combe Williams is 49 grams, versus the 42 of both the Smithkline-Beecham and the Mystery Williams. Is there really 16.7% more soap in the Combe version? Well, I do have a postal scale and will do the weight comparison also! :thumbup1:

    More to follow...

    Possibly -- I don't have the heart to grate any of my Williams pucks. The only soap I've tried grating (and with success) is Arko, but it's a soft soap. The Mystery Williams does seem very waxy in texture, so I'd imagine that it would grate the best out of all of the varieties I have. The Smithkline-Beecham version seems to be less likely to flake as compared to the Combe version, just looking at the two cakes side by side...

  18. All the Williams goodness was in that single gram that got taken out from the older stuff to the newer stuff.
  19. :lol:

    No, No. They added 7 grams or more of crap, hid the tallow in the nether regions, mixed in a fragrance that someone got a deal on and bleached poor Williams to look like Ivory.

    But did that break his spirit. No. He lives, battered, but rallying growing legions of supporters to his defense. :a24:

    - Peter
  20. Alacrity59

    Alacrity59 Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    This confirms my memory that Williams back then was more yellow. I think you have already nailed the date down. I was going to add that Canada went metric around 1977. Interesting that today's product is 49 grams an the old ones were 42 and 43 grams.

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