FACT CHECK: Did Dr. Herbert Smitherman Invent These Common Household Items?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims the late chemist Dr. Herbert Smitherman invented multiple American household items, including Crest toothpaste and Folgers coffee.

Verdict: Misleading
While Smitherman did not invent the products mentioned in the post, he did improve upon them while working at Procter & Gamble, according to the company.
Fact Check: 

An image shared on Facebook shows a photo of Smitherman along with text that claims he invented several Procter & Gamble products, including Safeguard soap and Bounce fabric softener. Smitherman was a chemist who became the first African American with a doctorate degree to be hired by the company, according to his obituary on TriStateObits.

However, Smitherman did not invent any of the aforenoted products. (RELATED: Did McDonald’s and Coca-Cola Announce They Will No Longer Hire White People For Executive Positions?)

Crest toothpaste, for example, was invented in 1950 and publicly released by Procter & Gamble in 1956, ten years before Smitherman was hired by the company in 1966. Safeguard soap launched in 1963, while Folgers Coffee had been founded in the 1850s then sold to Procter & Gamble in 1963. Bounce had been patented by Conrad J. Gaiser in 1969, who later sold the rights to the product to Procter & Gamble, according to Chemical and Engineer News.

While Smitherman did not invent the products outright, he did help improve the formulas each used, according to the website Amplify Africa. Smitherman had two patents issued to him in relation to improvements he made during his tenure at Procter & Gamble. The first patent, titled “combined anticalculus and antiplaque compositions” has to do with dental care products. The second patent, titled “Process for the preparation of sulfonated detergent composition,” involves soap products.

“Dr. Smitherman played key roles over his 29 years at P&G in the invention of technologies that improved all of those brands,” a spokesperson for Procter and Gamble told Check Your Fact in an email. “While he did not invent the technologies that established those brands, during his time at P&G he developed technologies that improved all of those brands for consumers.”

“There are many contributors within P&G to the technology that is developed for our products, and only a few key individuals have their names placed on the patents,” the spokesperson continued. “Dr. Smitherman appeared on at least 6 patents for key technologies to P&G’s Fabric Care and Oral Care brands.”

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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