Darkie Toothpaste and Other Offensive Products

When I visited Han Chin Pet Soo recently there was a display of a 1960’s room which included a tube of Darkie toothpaste, along with a very unpleasant looking toothbrush.

Darkie ToothpasteI remember this product from my early days in Hong Kong. It was made by Hawley & Hazel and was one of the top-selling toothpaste brands in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. After Hawley & Hazel was acquired by US giant Colgate Palmolive in 1985 the name was changed to Darlie and the character in the top hat was given a makeover.

Darlie toothpaste

Darlie remains a market leader in this region. Interestingly its name in Chinese still translates as Black Man Toothpaste.

This got me to wondering what other brands and products have had to be withdrawn or modified due to changing attitudes.

Golden Shred Golly Advert

Growing up in Britain, our jam and marmalade jars used to be decorated with a gollywog character and if you collected enough labels from these jam jars you could send away for enamelled gollywog badges which were highly collectable. Golliwogs had been used to advertise these products since 1910 but by the 1980’s the ‘wog’ suffix, a racial slur against dark-skinned people, was dropped and the character became just Golly.

Racial minorities and others in Britain continued to regard Golly as a demeaning depiction of blacks and the manufacturers shelved Golly completely in 2001.

KiwiDarkTanPolish

The description of this boot polish seems shocking to modern eyes. It is hardly surprising that Kiwi renamed this colour ‘Dark Tan’.

More recently, in 1999, the crayon manufacturer Crayola dropped the colour Indian Red from its range and renamed it Chestnut. They feared that people would mistakenly associate it with Red Indians (a term now deemed politically incorrect) whereas in fact it referred to a red clay found in India.

Indian Red Chestnut crayons

When I was a kid, a programme that was often on TV in our house and at my Grandma’s was The Black & White Minstrel Show featuring men with blacked-up faces doing corny old song and dance routines.  This show was accused of being racist and was finally axed by the BBC in 1978, after a run of 20 years.

The Black & White Minstrel Show

During the early years the show was broadcast in black and white. The black face make-up was actually red because black did not film well.

Gender equality has made great strides over recent decades. This Delmonte ketchup advert from 1953 would no not go down well in this day and age!

1953 Delmonte Advert

Yet it seems we still have a long way to go in this regard. These washing instructions printed on a sports shirt were reported in the press just this week. They say ‘Give this jersey to your woman – it’s her job’.

sexist washing instructions

 

Smoking is another area where public opinion has shifted (for the better).

Ronald Reagan Endorsing Chesterfield Cigarettes

A youthful Ronald Reagan endorsing cigarettes. When he later became President he banned smoking on aircraft, but only for domestic flights of less than 2 hours.

 

In my youth I was exposed to a lot of cigarette advertising. Marlboro told me their ciggies would make me rugged and tough and a good horseman. Consulate Menthols were apparently like breathing fresh mountain air and Craven A were recommended by doctors to prevent sore throats.

Consulate Cigarettes - Cool as a mountain stream

 

Craven A Cigarette advert

Luckily I could not stand the smell of cigarettes and never took up the vile habit.

Cigarette advertising is no more (in Western countries) and it is only a matter of time before cigarettes are classified as dangerous drugs and banned completely. Tobacco companies won’t mind because they have already shifted their attention to the much larger markets of China, Indonesia, Vietnam and other less developed countries.

I am sure there are many other examples of brands and advertising that have had to be dropped or amended due to shifting public opinions or political correctness. Let me know if you know of any good ones.

 

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One Response to Darkie Toothpaste and Other Offensive Products

  1. john hay says:

    How observant of you! But you have me wondering how UNobservant I am! Having just returned from a nostalgic trip to S.E.Asia, I could swear that I say “Darkie” toothpaste, which struck me forcibly because of its recall of times whose loss is not always to be regretted. Maybe I noticed only the “Heiren Yagao” part of the label — but are you sure it has not crept back in?! Another memory kick was the variety of brands of standard western alcoholic drinks that I never see in the West. Not a pc issue of course — but I still wonder what these seemingly very localised labels signify!

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