Lovely teeth kept lovely because… Kolynos dental cream cleans IN BETWEEN

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Loading up a Pan American World Airways, Incorporated Douglas DC-4. C. Allen Elggren, “What part shall freight forwarders have in the development of the air freight industry, Part IV.” Air Transportation, November 1947, 24.
Loading up a Pan American World Airways, Incorporated Douglas DC-4. C. Allen Elggren, “What part shall freight forwarders have in the development of the air freight industry, Part IV.” Air Transportation, November 1947, 24.

On a few occasions since yours truly joined the National Aviation Museum, today’s Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, an event that took place was around the time Noah and his family built the ark, the odd colleague suggested that I could be quirky or whimsical. If truth be told, I consider myself to be as entertaining as paint drying on a wall. Still, in the interest of quirkiness and whimsicality, I am pleased to offer you this photo, found in the November 1947 issue of the American monthly magazine Air Transportation. What we have here, my reading friend, is an individual loading part of the 6 350 or so kilogrammes (about 14 000 pounds) of toothpaste that a Douglas DC-4 four engined transport plane operated by Pan American World Airways, Incorporated would soon carry to Bogotá, Colombia – 116 000 tubes in all.

Would you believe that I began to work at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum precisely 30 years ago today? Time does fly indeed, but I digress.

A Douglas DC-4 airliner operated by Pan American World Airways, Incorporated. San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, negative number 01_00091389.

Yours truly once thought that an exhibition on the air freight industry would be as interesting as watching paint dry. How wrong I was. Would you believe that the world’s first regular, more or less, service of the kind was apparently put together in 1913 by French and / or Belgian smugglers who flew packages of tobacco and fabric (lace or silk) between the two countries? The air freight industry is a fascinating example of what aviation could, can and will do. Air Transportation contains massive amounts of information on what was taking place during the years that followed the Second World War. Well known airlines, from American Airlines, Incorporated to Trans World Airlines, Incorporated, and from Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij Naamloze Vennootschap to British Overseas Airways Corporation, carried a bewildering variety of products to the far corners of the globe, an odd expression given that a sphere cannot have corners, but I digress.

A company which strongly believed in the power of airplanes was American Home Products Corporation. Acting through its subsidiary, Home Products International Limited, this American pharmaceutical giant shipped 11 350 or so kilogrammes (about 25 000 pounds) of freight a month to South America during much of 1947. To paraphrase the author of a contemporary article, this was no small shakes. And yes, American Home Products produced the toothpaste you read about a few minutes ago.

All but forgotten today, at least in North America, Kolynos toothpaste and toothpowder were very well known and successful products back in the day. Would you believe that Kolynos was mentioned in Québec newspapers no later than 1916? It may very well have been sold in other Canadian provinces. Kolynos was developed by an American dentist who spent more than 30 years in the German Empire. Newell Sill Jenkins (1840-1919) was a pioneer of cosmetic dentistry who developed porcelain inlays, not to mention dental crowns, bridges and diamond tipped drills. This dentist to the stars and royals seemingly counted Wilhelm Richard Wagner and Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, among his friends. For a long time, Jenkins’ contribution to the development of dentistry was sadly, dare one say unfairly, forgotten.

In any event, Jenkins began to work on the recipe of Kolynos toothpaste in the early 1890s. A few people helped him over the years. The first tubes were put on the market in April 1908. Arguably the first product of its type containing disinfectants, Kolynos proved very successful. By the late 1930s, it was produced in more than 20 countries and sold around the globe. Kolynos remained popular in South America as of 2017. It was mentioned by name in one of the great English language novels of the 20th Century, Jerome David “J.D.” Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951. Better yet, a chapter in Ahmed Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel Midnight’s Children was entitled “The Kolynos Kid.”

Where is the Canadian content of this text, you ask, my patriotic reading friend? Well for one, American Home Products took over Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison Limited of Montréal, Québec, in 1943. This large and successful pharmaceutical company was known to a lot of women for its introduction of Premarin, in 1941-42, in Canada, then the United States. This estrogen-based medication was an early example of hormone replacement therapy. Indeed, it was one of the first, if not the first medication of its type. Premarin was extracted from mares’ urine – something its users may, or may not, have known.

Not enough meat in that Canadian content, you say? Sorry, bad pun. Well, please note that the DC-4 we saw in the photo above was delivered during the Second World War to the United States Army Air Forces, the ancestor of today’s United States Air Force, as a Douglas C-54 Skymaster. Like many other airplanes of this type, this military machine was turned into an airliner after the conflict. With the exception of its engines and other (small?) details, the Skymaster, a highly reliable machine, was all but identical to the Canadair North Stars operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force. One of these airplanes, the last North Star on this Earth if you must know, is undergoing restoration at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario. That’s it for now. See ya later.

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Rénald Fortier